Tuesday, June 2, 2015

1850s-1860s Hair Dressing: Tools & Embellishments

Period-accurate hair styles can really make or break an impression. I'm working on some picture tutorials for making different styles c. 1855-1865; here's my research thus far on accurate accouterments for dressing the hair.

Plain, straight steel pins are one option for holding the hair in place.
19th Century hairpin from Historic New England
Hairpin, 19th century, from Historic New England
Hairpins and other items recovered from the Steamboat Arabia (sunk 1856).
Straight metal hair pins, among other items from the Arabia (1856)
credit: Colette Clark
Similar modern designs: Amish steel hair pins, which most closely follow the shape of period pins, but require some practice to use effectively; Bunheads Hair Pins have a slightly modified shape, but hold really well.

These metal pins can also apparently  be used for decoration:
Decorative (coral?) hairpins, 1850s, from Historic New England.
Hair Pins, c. 1850-1860, from Historic New England
Decorative (pearl) hairpins, 1850s, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Hair ornaments on gilt pins, 1850-1855, VAM
Another option with modern analogue is the tortoise-shell pin; it has the same overall narrow-U shape, but with wavy legs instead of straight ones.
Tortoisesheel wavy hair pins, 1870s or later, Historic New England.
Tortoise Hairpins, c. 1870-1920, from Historic New England
Magic-Grip Pins, in 'faux tortoise' plastic, have the same shape, but with straight bar along the waves. I find them initially easier to use than the Amish Steels, but not as easy as the Bunheads. They are readily available at Sally Beauty Supply and similar stores.

Brass hairpins, 19th century, from The Met.
Spanish brass hairpins, about 4" long, 19th century
I've not found a modern reproduction of these brass hairpins.

And those new helical hairpins may not be completely inappropriate...
Spiral or helix tortoiseshell hairpins, 19th century, Historic New England.
Tortoiseshell spiral pins, c. 1870-1920, from Historic New England
Jumping back to the decorative side of things, ornaments on straight pins are also an option.

19th Century silver hair pin from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Silver Italian hair pin, c. 1835-63, VAM


Some Back Combs:
1851 Vulcanite hair comb, from The Met.
Vulcanite Hair Comb c. 1851
1851 Vulcanite hair comb, from Historic New England.
Vulcanite Hair Comb, c. 1851
1850s Coral hair comb, from Historic New England.
Comb, c. 1850-60
1860s Ivory hair comb, from Historic New England.
Ivory Comb, c. 1860-1870
1820-1850 tortoiseshell hair comb, from Historic New England
Tortoiseshell Comb, c. 1820-1850
1830-1860 tortoiseshell hair comb, from Historic New England
Tortoiseshell Comb c. 1830-1860
1860-1870 hinged hair comb, from Historic New England
Hinged Comb, c. 1860-1870










Back combs are worn tucked into the back hair--they're decorative, rather than functional.  During the late 1850s and early 1860s, this back hair is dressed low on the head/neck, making the back combs primarily visible from behind (they don't stick up over the head as they will earlier and later in the century). Examples:

Dress hair with back comb, 1859, from The Lady's Friend.
The Lady's Friend, 1859
Back comb in hair, 1862, from Peterson's Magazine.
Peterson's, 1862
Hair comb over waterfall, 1865, from Peterson's Magazine.
Peterson's, 1865


Set of tortoiseshell side combs, c. 1860-1880, Historic New England
Set of Three Tortoiseshell Side Combs, c. 1860-1880




















Tiaras, diadems, and wreaths also appear in fancy coiffures, particularly for special evening events like balls and formal dinners.

1850s Coral tiara, Victoria and Albert Museum
Coral Tiara, c. 1850-60, VAM
Diamond tiara c. 1850, from the Victoria and Albert Museum
Diamond tiara, c. 1850

Brushes and combs may also be of interest to those demonstrating hair-dressing, or participating in immersion events.

19th century hairbrush, from the UK National Trust Collections.
Ivory Hairbrush, 19th century, British
19th century hair combs, from the UK National Trust Collections.
Ivory Comb, 19th century
19th century silver and horn hair comb, from the UK National Trust Collections.
Horn/Silver Comb, 19th century

Hardware thus dispensed with, on to the software.  Oils and pomades (for imparting softness and sheen on the hair) are discussed in Perfumery, Its Manufacture and Use (1853); How to Arrange the Hair (1857) recommends that pure vegetable oils be used to keep the hair neat--olive oil is apparently used in Southern Europe, while English hair-dressers favor bear, beef, or pork fat; An Encyclopedia of Domestic Economy (1852) contains the most concise treatment of this subject.

Curls may be effected by the use of curling-paper, curling-fluid, and tongs or irons.  I haven't yet found a period reference to rag-curlers (though the method is nearly identical to period crimping techniques).

"Ladies who curl the hair should use for purpose soft paper or silk, which will prevent the hair cracking, and other injuries that result from hard papillottes. Those who wear the hair in bands or braids, ought to or fold it very loosely at night, when retiring rest. It should then always be liberated forced constraints and plaits. It must be combed and thoroughly brushed every morning, and afterwards nicely smoothed with the palm of the hand, which gives it a high gloss, after oil has been applied. In order to add to its length and strength, the ends should be tipped at least once a month, to prevent the hair splitting. "
-Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine, March 1860

Ad for hair dye and curling fluid, in The Atheneum, 1858
Advertisement for Curling Fluid, from The Atheneum, 1858
It "saves the trouble of using curl papers or irons."
Waves are popular in the early 1860s; commercial crimpers are available, or one may 'make waves' by braiding the hair while wet, or wrapping it through hair pins:
Technique for waving hair, 1864, from The Lady's Friend.
From The Lady's Friend, April 1864
Ad for hair crimpers and curling clasps, 1862, from Godey's
Ad for Hair Crimpers, Godey's, 1862
Braids/plaits for little girls are to be tied with ribbon (in preference to thread).  I have not found a reference to how lady's plaits are fastened, but whatever material is used manages to be concealed in the finished style.

Frizettes or 'rats' are cushions of hair (or, apparently, of silk) that are placed underneath the hair to give it volume and to shape it.  They may be made of 'combings' (gleamed from one's own hair brush), or from cut hair.  "Wigs and frizettes, and bands, and top pieces, and curls" were available for purchase from hair dressers (more detailed description here).
Illustration of waterfall hair piece, 1867, from The Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work.
From the Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work (1867):
a hair cushion (#1), and two elements which may be built over it
Rats or frizzettes, for building 19th century hair styles.
Modern "rats" made of hair encased in invisible nets.
China hair receiver with painted flower design.
Hair Receiver, date unknown, from the author's collection.
Loose hair from brushes and combs are stored in the hair
receiver until needed for 'frizettes'.

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