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
Feather was my first subject. The goal with her style was to come close to the styles shown in Harper’s Bazar on February 12th 1876. (If you have a copy of the Dover book it is on pg 81.)
The creation of the curly hairpiece (from part 1) was very important. Feather has very long hair and it would be impossible to get those top curls with long hair.
(To view the slideshow, click on the first picture, then hover the mouse pointer over the top right of the photo and click "next".)
|Feather has no bangs and fairly long hair, but before this I never knew how long.||This is how long. It has some natural curl.||The first step after the addition of hairspray is to make a center part.|
|The front hair is separated from the back with a part that runs from the end of the center part down to the ear.||The front hair is divided a part about half way up. This is repeated on both sides.||The sections are clipped to keep them separate and out of the way.|
|The hairpiece is unpinned from base.||The hairpiece is examined for the best position. This information is important for future steps.||Most of the remaining hair is pulled into a ponytail.|
|This ponytail is braided.||The braiding is stopped and banded with a color match rubber band about 9” from the end.||The front sections are wetted with a spray bottle.|
|Setting gel is added to the hair.||It is added at the ends and the base.||Using Duck Bill Hair Clips first the side hair is clipped into a wave to dry.|
|Then the top hair is clipped into a wave. Feather let me pull out and cut a small amount of hair for front curls.||The end of the braid is also wetted, gelled and set into a wave. It is held in place over a piece of cardboard cut to the right size and covered with cardboard.||This is what it looked like after clipping.|
|The new bangs were set in pin curls.||After the hair was dry and un-clipped, it was pulled back with the extra hair pinned into large curls and held with large crossing bobby pins. The lower sections were done first, then the top sections. The large bobby pins will not show because they will be covered with the hairpiece.||The back was smoothed and re-sprayed and held back with color match clips.|
|Feather’s braid was twisted and the unbraided end brought out the bottom. This was held in place with just a few hairpins.||A switch of synthetic hair was pinned into place.||The switch was added in the middle of the existing chignon.|
|The switch was wrapped around and held in place with long hairpins.||The hairpiece was added and pinned into place with hairpins as well.||This is the finished hairstyle before the decorations, makeup and jewelry.|
|The finished hairstyle shown from the side opposite the decorations.||The hairstyle shown from both sides with head tilted back.||Feather shown from the side front and the side.|
The goal was to make a style with switches looped to form a chignon in place and also to use an s-wave curling iron to wave her front parted hair.
Gailynne had braiding hair that was already two colors and we tried to blend it so that the streaks were smaller. We succeeded in doing this, but in the end we decided it would have been better to get a package of her base color and one or two shades lighter and mix those. Many of the final photos in this slideshow where taken by Dawn Neuhart.
|Gailynne has no real bangs and a little longer than shoulder length hair, with lots of layers and some highlights.||Gail seen from the back.||The first step after the addition of hairspray is to make a center part.|
|The front hair is separated from the back with a part that runs from the end of the center part down to the ear.||The front hair is divided with a part about half way up. This is repeated on both sides. The sections are clipped to keep them separate and out of the way.||The back hair is divided in half across the head and the top section is clipped up.|
|The bottom half is twisted into a French twist.||The twist is pinned in with four or five decorative tortoiseshell pins.||The top half is un-clipped and pulled together.|
|It is pulled into a ponytail and held with a color match rubber band.||This ponytail is braided and banded with a color match rubber band.||The lower front sections are re-sprayed, pulled back, wrapped around the base of the top braid and pinned there.|
|Some of her shorter hairs in front are separated out to make curls later.||The lower half of the top front sections are curled with the wave iron, first close to the head and then farther out, each time matching the curve of the wave.||This process is repeated with the upper half of the section.|
|The waved hair is pulled back near the braid and pinned.||Gailynne’s own braid is twisted and pinned in place and two switches are added, one on each side of the braid base.||The switches are twisted and rubber banded at the ends.|
|While one twist is being held out of the way, the other is wrapped to form a long loop.||The end of that twist is wrapped and the ends tucked in and the second twist is looped around and through the first in a loose figure 8 to fill in.||The end is tucked under.|
|The whole thing is pinned with hairpins until secure.||
A little more spray on them and the wisps of hair in the front are set into tight pin curls.
Here you can see half of the pin curls removed and the other half still up.
|Jewelry and hair decorations are shown in a close up on the left and a side front shot on the right.||The hair decorations are made up of silk flowers, a rhinestone clip and some beads on ribbon that dangle down the side.|
With Deborah the goal was to use one of her hairpieces in a manner other that it was intended for, and to use a crimping iron for her front-parted hair. The latter two-thirds of the photos in this slideshow were taken by Dawn Neuhart.
|Deborah has layered hair and no bangs; it is a little shorter, thicker and straighter than Gailynne’s.||The first step after the addition of hairspray is to make a center part.||The front hair is separated from the back with a part that runs from the end of the center part down to the ear.|
|The front hair is divided with a part about half way up. The sections are clipped to keep them separate and out of the way.||The last two steps are repeated on the left.||The back hair was divided in half across the head and the top section pulled into a ponytail. The lower front sections are re-sprayed, pulled back, wrapped around the base of the ponytail and pinned there.|
|The lower half of the top front sections are crimped with an iron, first close to the head and then farther out, each time matching the peaks and valleys.||This is pulled back softly and pinned near the ponytail.||The same steps are repeated on the top layer.|
|The top layer is then pulled back and pinned.||The same steps are repeated on the left side.||Deborah after the crimped hair was pinned back.|
|Deborah used a regular curling iron to curl sections of her ponytail so that they could be pinned in front of the hairpiece to make horizontal curls.||The hairpiece gets pinned into place right up against the second row of horizontal curls, where they will be pinned to fill in the space.||
The last curl gets rolled up and pinned, and a comb is added for decoration on each side of her head.
Now it is off the mirror so Deborah can use a curling iron to curl the bottom section of her hair in finger curls.
I pinned the synthetic curls out of the way.
|A back view, with jewelry and costume.||Deborah from the side, with silk flowers at the top of her hair and a matching one on her costume.||
Deborah from the side front.
Amanda’s hairstyle has two goals: first to illustrate how the decorations I showed in past sections could be worn, and second, to make sure that a large fixed chignon could be added over a medium amount of hair.
|Amanda has layered hair and no bangs.||The first step after the addition of hairspray is to make a center part.|
|The front hair is divided with a part about half way up.||The sections are clipped to keep them separate and out of the way, first the top section.||Then the bottom section.|
|The back hair was divided in half across the head and the top sections were pulled into a ponytail.||This ponytail is braided.||The braid is twisted to form a bun and this is pinned.|
|Amanda is using small needle nose pliers to bend one end of each hairpin up, like a fishhook. This helps to anchor the pins.||The bottom section of hair is twisted into a French twist and the hair is wrapped around the existing bun and anchored with hairpins.||The French twist shown from the back.|
|The bangs being added with hairpins.||The lower side sections being pulled back and pinned in place.||Amanda is un-pinning the fixed chignon from the wig block.|
|She is using hairpins to anchor the chignon from the center front first.||Working around the outside edge she adds more pins. Usually very few or none are needed along the bottom edge.||The hairstyle without decorations from the front.|
|Two small double ostrich plumes and a spray of vintage silk roses are added with more hairpins.||Decorated hairstyle from side.||Decorated hairstyle from back.|
|An alternate set of ostrich plumes and a gem with drop pearl are added in the same way. This time we pinned in two long finger curls.||A front on view of the ostrich plumes and the faux curls.||This is a better view of the pearl pins that hold the finger curls.|
Claudine’s hairstyle was a trial run to go with the gown she was making for the Costume College Gala. I wanted to try out my first set of bangs. I learned from the trial that the flowers needed to be smaller and the bangs wider and deeper. (Gail Nichols took the next to last photo.)
Claudine’s gown was inspired by an 1884 fashion plate from La Mode Illustrée. This hairstyle would work for either late Natural Form or early Second Bustle period.
|Claudine has shoulder length hair, all the same length with no bangs; it is thick and straight.||The first step, after the addition of hairspray, was to part out a center section and pin it out of the way.||A section of hair is separated from the back with a part that runs from the center section down to the ear. These sections were clipped out of the way.|
|This is repeated on the other side.||The top front section and the remainder of the hair is combed and gathered up.||This hair is pulled into a ponytail fairly high on the head.|
|This hair is twisted and pinned into a bun.||Bun shown from side.||The curls are pinned in place with hairpins.|
|Claudine makes a twist for one of her switches.||The second one is finished with a color match rubberband.||The twisted switches are pinned in place one on each side of her bun.|
|Claudine using small needle nose pliers to bend one end of each hairpin up, like a fish hook. This helps to anchor the pins.||First one, then the other twist gets wrapped and pinned in place.||The last end of the switch gets tucked under and pinned.|
|Almost finished hairdo, from the front.||A few more small hairpins being added to help stretch out the curls. This is the point when we figured the curls needed to be wider.||Hairdo with flower decoration, from the front.|
|Hairdo from the back: this is when I figured that the flowers needed to be smaller.||Pictured from the side front.||Hairstyle with added long finger curls, shown from the back and side front.|
I superimposed a picture taken by Deborah (same Deborah as above) of Claudine in her gown onto the original fashion plate, because it was just too much fun not to attempt!
|Claudine with larger bangs, smaller flowers in her hair, and her bustle flowers in hand, ready for them to be pinned in place.||Claudine in place at the 1884 Christmas Party.|