Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dressing the Part, Post One: Hair

With my Civil War passion-flame burning quite brightly and steadily as of late (how long it will last, no one knows) I pulled out my corset that I made a few months ago and actually fixed and finished it. I had been wearing it with no binding on the top or bottom edge and the last time I wore it I experienced horrible pinching pains at the waist on the sides but I think I have that fixed now. It's done! Now I can go on and make my sheer dress.

I decided to do a post, or rather, a series of posts, on the layers that go into an 1860's impression. Since I like to do my hair before I put any of my repro clothes on (its difficult to do your hair once you are fully dressed) I figured I'd start with that.

1860's hairstyles can be quite elaborate, requiring skill and knowledge in the area of Ratts and Fake Hair. However it can also be simple and this is perhaps the simplest adult hairstyle you can do. It works for hair as short as shoulder length if you use a hairpiece and for hair any length longer than that. It is also very quick to put up, no more than 5 minutes.
Step 1: Brush or comb out your hair. Yes. I am a Freaky Poufy Hair Monster. If I put styling gel in my har while it's still damp it curls up nicely with low frizz factor but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do for a good 1860's look. For me that means leaving out the styling gel and brushing my Freaky Poufy Hair so it is manageable.
Step 2: Part your hair down the middle. I always have trouble with this. My hair almost always parts slightly to the side instead of exactly in the middle. To make a straight part use a sharp pointy object and run it down your scalp. I used some old bandage scissors since they were in the drawer I opened but a knitting needle is ideal. Or just eyeball it and part. This is easier for some than for others. Step 3: Now part you hair again from ear to ear, across the top of your head. Make sure this part is pretty straight, too. I've done my hair at an event and due to seeing pictures after the event realized this part was NOT straight and it looked awful. So make it straight! :)Step 4: Grasp you back hair in a medium high ponytail and wind it into a bun. I usually just twist this length of hair and roll it up like a cinnamon bun. You could also braid this part and wind it into a bun but my hair isn't long enough for that yet. If your bun is really small you can do what I did when my hair was shorter. Get a fake shank of cheap hair at Sally's Beauty Supply in a color that matches your own. Braid a length of it and wind it around your small, real bun. It looks fantastic. Nothing makes you feel like a gorgeous, real 186o's lady than a beautiful hairstyle!Step 5: Return to your front hair. Grasp one section on one side of your head and twist it, starting at about ear level. Wind this twisted shank around your back bun and pin into place. Repeat for the other side. My twists are pretty pathetic looking because my hair is not very long or thick in the front (my bangs have never grown all the way out to meet the rest of my hair) but there are some period solutions for making this section appear thicker by utilizing fake hair. I just go with the pathetic looking twists. It's easier and more comfortable (fake hair is scratchy).
There you go!

Front View:
Side View:
If you have little wispies that fly away no matter how much you smooth and comb your hair then you can use pomade to keep your hair nicely in place. It also gives your hair a shiny look that you often see in period photographs. There are places online you can get pomade but for now I just use a jar I got at the empire of Wal Mart for a few dollars. It works really well. This is the kind I use:
Now that your hair is nicely done up you can top it off with a lovely pleated ribbon hairnet or you can leave it perfectly plain. On to the underclothes in the next post!



  1. You have beautiful hair! And though I don't have any reason to dress like an 1860's lady, I'm sure I'll try this hairstyle just for the fun of it. It looks so easy!

  2. Dear Sarah,

    Isn't it wonderful when the creative bug bites? I am glad that you are sharing with us the steps to dressing the part...I am looking forward to the rest ;)

    In His Peace,

    lady m

  3. Beautiful! Thank you for the tutorial, I will give it a try, I'm always up for new (or in this case old) hairstyles. :)

  4. Thank you for posting this when you did! I haven't reenacted in years and was just starting to edge my way back into it when I got my old job at a living history museum back. Now it's more like throwing myself back into it. I was concerned about what to do with my hair, and the style you demonstrated seems doable if I go out and get a fake bun to pin in the back. I would feel even better if I could get one of the decorative hairnets to go over the top, but it may have to wait for now. (This is what I get for selling all my reenacting stuff after having not used it for years just to decide to start up again once it's gone!)

  5. this is so neat!
    Very, very interesting.
    So glad you did this post,

  6. Very cool! I love learning about historical hairstyls. You look gorgeous in it :-)

  7. Wow!! It looks so easy and wonderful hair style!! I will try this!! Sally Beauty provides best hair accessories!!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!