Monday, January 4, 2016

Hair-dressing: 1865-1866 braided waterfall

On the eleventh day of Christmas...
"Another favorite mode of arranging the hair is a torsade, or species of waterfall, formed of four heavy plaits united and caught up with a fancy comb." -Godey's, 1866
Three pendant braids from 1865, "New Fashion of Dressing the Hair" in Peterson's Magazine.
"In the front of the number, we give three illustrations: a new fashion for dressing the hair.  Three pins, similar to crimping pins, made of pliable wire.  The hair is braided in and out, as shown in the diagrams. The trimming is a box-plaiting of ribbon, with a cord and tassel to correspond in color. One advantage in wearing the hair in this way is, that the second day the waterfall will be waved by the use of the pins the day before." -Peterson's, July 1865. Description on page 70, illustrations page 16.
Wrapping hair around a U-shaped pin to simulate a braid. Peterson's, 1865.
Surprisingly clear instructions for a change, at least to a point.  In the picture, the side hair is parted and rolled/folded back, apparently with the ends tucked under the waterfall. From the depth, I suspect rats are being used under the side rolls. The braids seem to be bent in half, though I can't tell whether the free ends are tucked under, or tucked up: either way, they are concealed by the pleated ribbon. For that matter, is the decoration a complete band of fabric wrapped around the hair, or is it just lying on top, with the edges turned under? Time to experiment!

1. Cut three pieces of wire; I made them the length of my hair, which worked fairly well.  Bend the wire in half, as in the picture.  I used an approximately-19-gauge copper wire that I found lying around; something stiffer would probably be good (sometimes the wire bent around my hair rather than the hair around the wire).
Wrapping hair around a U-shaped pin to simulate a braid. Peterson's, 1865.

2. Part the hair Y-style (three sections: side, back, and other side).

3. Divide the back hair into three sections, and wind each around a bent wire, as shown: starting at the bend, bring the hair up through the center of the wire, over the left-side and back up the center, then over the right and back up. 
Positioning the wires over the back hair.

4. When the hair is all wrapped around the wire, twist the wire ends together to secure the hair. Repeat with the other two sections of hair, so you have three "braids" at the back.
Front and side views of "braids" made by wrapping the hair around a bent wire.

5. Tuck the wire and loose hair up behind the "braids".  Then position the braids as desired, bending the bottom of each braid up under the top.
Pendant braids moved into position.

 6. Arrange the side hair as desired.  Since my rolls weren't look very neat, I just did some quick twists.  I then took the long ends of my twists and wrapped each around the trio of braids, tucking the ends in.  This replaced the ribbon header or the original illustration--something really is needed around the top of the braids to hide the transition as well as all the hair and wire ends that are tucked up there.
Braided waterfall with side-hair wrapped around braid headers.

This is an interesting hairstyle, and I'll definitely revisit it for mid-1860s use.  For this first attempt, the lack of neatness is a real problem.  Lack of experience, lack of pomade, and a "bad hair day" all worked against it, but I liked how the wires made the braids secure and easy to position.  I would definitely make up the ribbon decoration before attempting this style at an event--something is needed to cover the 'rough edges' for this to be successful.  I'd also be careful about which pins I use: wires can get stuck through the tortoiseshell pins (see above), making it impossible to remove or push in the pin without taking down the hair.  A second mirror, to organize the back braids, is also crucial.

Thanks to Mom for taking the pictures!

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