During the Natural Form era there was a more gradual change in the hairstyles than in clothing styles. Those at the start were much more like the styles of the First Bustle Period and those at the end were more like those of the Last Bustle Period.
When I pitched the idea of this article I never thought I would get so involved in the subject, but I have. I’m even studying how weft was made, I've built a period loom and I’m teaching a class at Lacis in Berkeley CA on hair weaving on October the 9th and 16th 2010. There is information on the Lacis web site.
Evening hairstyles of this period included many of the same elements as daytime styles, but the evening versions were taken to the limits. Everyday hairstyles would most often be simpler than evening styles by having a smaller chignon worn lower on the back of the head, and adult women would not usually wear curls or have hair falling down the back of their necks, but in period photographs I have seen exceptions to both of these norms.
Before we get to the evening hairstyles, there are two more hairpieces that you need to know how to make: faux bangs and a fixed chignon.
Bangs (UK: fringes) were not common before 1860, but they seem to have become increasingly popular from then until the end of the Victorian age. They were usually worn curly or frizzed, but sometimes straight too. They were commonly worn with the rest of the hair parted in the center, although there were other ways of wearing it too.
Victorian bangs were not always real, and because many modern women do not have them, here is a way to create false ones in such a way that most anyone could recreate them for themselves.
Before I started these bangs, I looked over the very helpful website Make-up FX.com. I came up with this simplified method based on how real wigs are made. If you can make a hook rug, you'll have no problems here.
You first need a mesh to add the hair to.
I got this flesh colored stretch mesh at my local beauty supply store (the same place where I get the braiding hair). It came in brown and flesh, but in future I think it might be better to match the hair color. In the end I used a marker to color the mesh.
The first step is to slightly stretch and pin the mesh to a head form or shorter chignon block. If you don’t have one, I have a pattern on my site for them.
Then baste the mesh to the form along the edge line of the final bangs.
|Trim the mesh.||
Cut off a length of hair twice as long as your bangs need to be, plus extra.
I cut mine 12” (30cm) for a finished, uncurled length of 5” (12.5cm).
Use ribbon or a length of bias to bundle the hair at one end.
Use two stiff brushes to hold the hair at the other end. I used two $4 wig combs, which have metal teeth set far apart.
||Continue adding rows but alternate the spacing every other row.|
|At about an inch and a half (4cm) in I decided I had enough hair, so I filled in the spaces until I had a straight line.||
I flipped the head form around and added hair to every other cell to fill in the back row.
Since I was coming from the other side, the hair lays down towards the back.
|Now it’s time for a haircut. I trimmed it to a 5” (12.5cm) length, then I curled the last row (the one I made first).||
I added another row of pin curls along with a row of finger curls (on the pink rollers).
Below that are four parallel lines of plastic tubing being used to set a wave in the hair that will be right over the forehead. The plastic tubing is ½" (13mm) in diameter and the pieces are about 8” (20cm) long.
I covered it all with a hair net, placed it in a steam bath for three minutes, and then in the freezer until it was cool.
|This is how it looks with the curlers taken out.|
|I carefully divided each curl into two.||The extra netting is carefully cut away. After this I used a permanent marker to color the mesh.|
If you have to do you hair by yourself, having a fixed chignon is a great help. If you have something that you can pin the loop end of your switches to, it is fairly simple to do, much like doing a chignon on someone else. I find that a loose twist instead of a braid gives the best looking finished chignon.
|For Amanda’s hairdo I started with one chignon but instead of just wrapping the switch in a spiral, I pulled it through and made a loose knot to start and then finished by wrapping the remainder around that and tucking it in. This is held together with hairpins.||Then I pinned the second two switches just below the first chignon.|
I twisted these and made a knot and wrapped the end in, just as with the first chignon.
The real work of holding everything together is done by adding a hair net. These come in colors. The camera with flash really shows the net but in natural light they are almost invisible.
The chignon is removed from the base and the net is twisted in back until it is tight. Hair pins hold the twist of the net.
You might notice that the two sections are slightly different colors. They were the same color number in different brands of hair. When I noticed this, it was too late to blend the hair. I decided to leave it, as it might look like one was Amanda’s own hair and one was false hair.
Having a wig head gives you a chance to try our your decorations. When I did this I decided that the feathers were too wide so I cut down some of the width and re-curled them. (Photo shows the ostrich plumes before cutting them down.)
I had different goals for each of the hairstyles depicted in this article. Either I wanted to re-create a particular period style, or use a particular piece of false hair, or do a test run of a hairstyle.
I do recommend the process of photographing your test runs (with a high res camera) even if you do it yourself in front of a mirror. You can see so much detail in a photo that you might miss just looking in the mirror in the moment.
The step-by-step instructions are somewhat repetitive because most of the styles begin with almost the same steps. In every case, it is always good to start with a good coating of hairspray, even if I don’t show it on camera.
I’m not a trained hairstylist, but I have picked up what I know by doing up-dos for my mother and her friends, doing hair on porcelain dolls and styling period wigs.
Here are all the items that were used in Amanda's hairdo (right). You can see that we used lots of hairpins, both short and long, along with many large bobby pins. We didn't photograph the hair clips that held things in place temporarily or the hairspray, but you get the idea. I do think with a good set of mirrors (both in front of you and behind) and some practice you could get the time to under a half an hour.
Click on the photos to go to the step-by-step instructions:
I need to thank all my models for giving up their time and/or for letting me into their home: Amanda, Claudine, Feather, Gailynne and Deborah, you are the best!
And a special thanks to Dawn for running over with her camera setup to finish the photo shoot.
Victorian Hair-Do's & Coiffures 1867-1898, Ed. Millicent Rene