Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Late-Victorian Hair Tutorial

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to the fourth and final installment in my four-part series on Victorian Hairstyles. I have saved my favorite for last, of course: Late Victorian Evening Style.

The high Victorian period was all about excess: bustles were big, ruffles were everywhere, patterns warred on walls and couches and dresses. There was definitely a belief that more was better; if you've ever seen photographs of high Victorian interiors, they are crammed with ornate furniture, chotchkes, and everything that would stand still is decorated.

It should be no surprise then that Victorian women of this period felt the same way about their hair, especially when affecting formal, evening styles. This is the period where a woman might have three of four different hair pieces woven into her real hair (which was often more than 24" long itself). Pins, sticks, and flowers were added into loops and braids and curls, until a lady could conceivably have several pounds of hairstyle on her head. Not surprisingly, this period also saw a resurgence in interest in fashion of the Roccoco period, popularized by Marie Antoinette. There were pseudo-sacque-back morning gowns and fancy dress affectations of the beheaded queen popping up everywhere, and certainly the tiny hats perched in mounds of hair was reminiscent of the kinds of styles she made so popular and hundred years earlier.

This is not an easy style; this is pretty advanced. Be warned up front!

1. Yep; this is one of those styles you'll need a fall for. Unless you have ridiculously thick, long hair, you just can't get the look we're going for without at least a 3/4 wig. This is a wig that has two combs, at the center front and center back, to secure the piece in place but still reveal your own hair in the front. Mine is fairly long and has loose curls, which are invaluable when doing this period style. Remember that you can't curl a straight synthetic wig very easily if at all (keep that curling iron away unless you like the smell of burning plastic!), so start with a curly one, and you should be fine;)

2. As for your own hair, as you can see, I set mine on small to medium rollers overnight to make it pretty curly. It isn't really necessary for you to do anything to the back of your hair; you're only going to see the front. However, since I had to wear my own hair to work yesterday, I wisely decided to curl my whole head;) The curls should be fairly tight and rather small; if you have bangs, ladies, this is the time to flaunt them! Fringe, as the Victorians called it, was definitely in, with waves or tight curls in front being very popular. You almost never saw a lady without some kind of wave or curl in her hair, especially for evening.

3. Here comes the advanced part of today's tutorial.
To get the high curls and loops seen so often in period photographs, you will need:
-at least 10 large bobby pins
-at least 10 small (or regular) bobby pins
-some time
-a lot of patience
I've been dressing wigs and hairpieces for many years, and if there's one lesson I've learned, it's that a wig does not behave like your own hair. You must be gentle and take your time; never brush it forcefully or pull it too tightly. Remember that the tighter you try to pull a wig against it's natural grain (ie: up instead of down), the more it will fight you and show bald spots and stitching lines. Slow and steady wins the race here.
Start by taking some of the longest hair on one side of the wig and make a medium-sized braid, wrapping the braid around the front edge of the wig to hide the seam where it will join to your hair. Pin the braid in place and hide the bobby pins as best you can, securing them into the lace cap of the wig for the best stability wherever possible. Then, go to work on the rest. Working methodically and starting in the center front (which is best for acheiving a symmetrical style), take sections of hair and loop them into large curls, pinning them into place. You may have to unpin and redo sections when trying to find balance; that's okay! Remember, I said you needed patience for this one! Keep looping and pinning until you have secured most of the hair, concentrating the most height and volume at the top, and tapering it down. I have left several long trailing curls in the back, which is appropriate for a younger woman, but more mature ladies might want to pin all the hair up into a more controlled style.

4. Now, prepare your own hair for the wig. As the wig is now pretty top/front heavy, I have pinned a braid in place at the top of my head to provide it with a place to secure the comb into. The rest is pinned back; you can twist it into a french twist or a high, tight bun. Leave a few curls out in front; this is when to showcase your fringe, if you have it!

5. Finally, you're ready to put the wig on! Take your looped
and pinned monster off the styrofoam head and carefully place it on yours, sliding the comb securely into the braid in front, and pulling the bottom comb into place as close to the nape of your neck as you can get it. The wig may need some adjusting at this point; it will always look slightly different sitting on your head than it does on the mannequin (I don't know too many people with heads shaped just like those styrofoam dummies). Adjust, fluff, and spray everything into place, et voila! You're done! If you have jeweled combs or hair sticks, place them in your hair now, and break out that bustled ball gown; you're ready for the biggest event of the Season!

I hope you've enjoyed my Victorian Hair Tutorials. Remember: looking fabulous starts on the inside, but having fabulous hair definitely helps;) If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment here, or contact me through my website. Now, go forth and be fierce, Victorian-style!


Gina said...

This was a great tutorial. I've been trying to figure out how to do a victorian updo with my short, fine hair. I am curious as to where I can find a half wig like the one you have.

Thanks for your wonderful posts!


Christine Bedard said...

Thanks for posting this, I can't wait to try this out! :)