Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gibson Girl Hair: A Tutorial

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:

For most period styles, I recommend starting with some wave or curl in your hair. Mine is stick-straight, so I set it on foam rollers the night before for tighter curls, or several nights before for soft waves like this. You want to start with slightly dirty hair too, because hair that is too clean tends to not hold style as well, and can be fly-away. My hair is naturally pretty thick, so I won't be using a rat or fall for this style, but I'll go over what to do if you need one in a moment.

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!


Anonymous said...

Your blog is absolutely amazing!!! I am humbled and so proud that you are my daughter and have created this wonderful place.

Bravisimo, my child...the world is yours; and you shall make your mark....BIG TIME!

Love you

Ginger said...

Thank you! Don't forget to check back, to see my mad ideas and such;)

Kimba said...

Great blog, Heather! I'll make it a daily read! I love your tutorial & you inspire me to want to throw MORE parties...damn you! LOL

Ginger said...

tee, hee;)

Sally said...

Really lovely. I'm going to start saving my fallen hair to make a rat. Very good tutorial (there are so many lousy ones out there!!). Thanks!

justine312 said...

I love your Gibson Girl tutorial!

justine312 said...

I love your Gibson Girl tutorial!

NobodySpecial said...

Hello, my name is Haley and I'm in a high school production of Our Town. My drama instructor has told me to do a Gibson Girl hairdo, and I have medium long hair which is extremely curly. Should I curl my hair into soft waves before doing this, or just use my hair as is? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, and I can be contacted at Thank you for your time.

S.L. Gabriel said...

Very nice. I will have to try it myself one of these days. I have been able to make a similar pompadour hairstyle, but not nearly as big as yours. See this--> Thank you for the tutorial. Will have a look at the rest of your blog now.

Sandra said...

That looks wonderful! Can you make a video, so one can really see how you make it like that?

Celi said...

Great tutorial!! Thank you so much!