Hair and Makeup - Part 4 Period Descriptions of Hairstyles
Today, I will be going into what the hairdressers and wigmakers of the time had to say about what styles of hair suit which face shape. As well as different tips that they gave to help dress the hair, and finally some images of period hair styles and how they would have decorated them.
David Ritchie has descriptions of various hairstyles to suit different face types: Plain front with one curl will suit a “regular” face, having multiple curls are good for thin faces. He describes scalloped or shell curls as suitable to any face (I am assuming that this style if referring to a ringlet style ponytail – if you have seen this phrase used elsewhere, please comment below and let us know), and curls all over the head is best for young women and not those advanced in years.
Peter Gilchrist describes which hairstyle is appropriate for different face shapes as well, “Where the face is large in diameter, it ought to be dressed high and forward, of equal height, which takes off the masculine look. For the small oval face, it ought to be close at the edge, and rise gradually. But if the lady of low in stature, it should be high at the top, and terminate in a point. For a long visage it ought to be dressed rather flat at the top, and low at the ears, to swell suddenly at the temples; and if the curls are placed promiscuously, the better, as that and the scope of the hair will make the features seem more round and proportionable.” (p. 14-15, A treatise on the hair)
Diderot describes women’s wigs as being modern because they had only been done for 10 years (when he wrote in 1776). This is because women needed false hair to accommodate the tall styles of the 1770s. Interestingly, it was common knowledge that men wore wigs and therefore it was acceptable to see the gap at the hairline of a man’s wig. Whereas it wasn’t acceptable for women to wear wigs so the false hair had to be blended in. This is probably related to the fact that men had been wearing wigs for decades but women had only recently started using wigs and false hair.
David Ritchie talks about using false hair for women and he describes artificial curls for ladies as being a single curls or multiple curls attached together and even describes having them attached to a type of comb to fix it to the head. He says these particular curls are “very useful to wear behind a small cap.” (p 70, A treatise on the hair).
Diderot describes making a grey wig by using grey hair mixed with white and black hairs to give it a good shade of grey. He also describes various shades of white hair based on the person’s previous hair colour. Agate white comes from someone who previously had black hair, pearl white is from chestnut hair, and milk white was from blond or red hair (and might even have yellow tips). He goes further to say that the most valuable hair is the white hair that comes from someone who had red hair previously. This shows how popular grey and white hair was at the time, when the most valuable hair you can get in the world is white hair.
When styling the hair here are some tips from various hairdressers of the time. Alexander Stewart says to use pomatum and powder on the roots of the hair to create volume. David Ritchie talks about redressing the hair once a week to keep it fresh and recommends using “a little pomatum and powder everyday, top give it a new gloss.” (p. 50, A treatise on the hair). Peter Gilchrist warns that you should test your curling irons on paper before using them on your hair so you don’t scorch your hair.
Many different decorations can be used once the hair is dressed, Here are a few examples of popular hair decorations in the period:
For a full bibliography, see my first post of this series here.