This is the first of a planned four-part series where I give tutorials on how to execute period hairstyles. I'm not going in chronological order, so the first one I'm covering is the iconic Gibson Girl style. Stay tuned for future tutorials on Civil War Era Hair, 1870's-1880's Styles, and Edwardian (Titanic Era) Hair.
To start with, the first thing you need to understand about Victorian and Edwardian hair is that a lot of the elaborate styles you see in fashion plates and illustrations are exaggerations of what women actually wore (the same goes for dresses!). The best source for real Victorian hair is CDV's (carte des visites) which show how real women of the period looked and dressed.
The second thing you need to understand is that while women in this time period usually kept their hair pretty long, they still routinely used falls and hair pieces to acheive the styles they wore, especially for formal occasions. Falls did not come into existence in the '60's; Victorians used them all the time! So, if your hair is short or fine, think about investing in a decent 3/4 wig or hairpiece to match your hair. If it's really short, get a good wig!
Now, on to the tutorial part:
1. Start with hair down and section hair at about the center of the scalp, horizontally from ear to ear, so you have a front curtain and a back section. Pull the back into a high ponytail and secure with a band, reserving for a bun later.
2. Next, section the front part once again, and begin to tease the middle section of hair; this is the support for the style. Don't be afraid to really tease like a maniac; the higher you can get your hair, the better and more dramatic the style will look when finished! Once teased, take your comb and very gently drag it just over the top of the teased hair, smoothing only the surface. Then, pin the ends under in the back, comme ca:
* If your hair is thin or fine, you probably won't be able to get much of a rat going! This is where making or buying a rat will help you out. To make a rat, take hair from a hair piece (or, do as the Victorians did, and save your own fallen hair in a hair receiver!) and tease into a ball, pinning in place in the same way I pinned my own hair. You'll want to choose hair the same color as yours, because it may not all be covered, and make sure to smooth just the surface of the rat as shown. Best part? You get to save it to use again and again, whereas I have to redo mine each time!
3. Next, take the last front sections of hair and separate into two parts, pinning one side up, and then the other, and securing over the pins you used to put the rat into place. Here's the fun extra-credit part: a lot of pictures of Gibson Girls show a little dippy bend in the hair that gave the top a swirled appearance. If you want to try for that, simply take the last section and roll it a bit as you pin it. Experiment with this for the best result!
4. Finally, take the ponytail you reserved and wrap it loosely into a bun, pinning into place. If you have any bone, horn, or celluloid combs, stick them in too!
5. Finally, if you have fine hair, now is the time to lacquer it with your very non-period hairspray! You're finished!
Stay tuned for the other tutorials, coming soon!