Looking for One Big Heap O’ Hair

Bad hair days - they're historically correct!

Extreme hair: good news – it’s historically correct!

hair style à la victime

hair style à la victime

As the early bustle dress is coming together, it’s time to consider my hair or, more appropriately, the lack of it. I cut my hair short a few months ago and I absolutely love. But it makes for some difficulties when it comes to historically correct hairstyles. Outside of an à la victime (“like the victim”) cut that became popular in post-revolutionary, guillotine-crazed France from around 1789–99,  I pretty much need to add hair of some sort or another.

And in the early bustle era, that means adding a LOT of hair. The basic guideline is simple: more is better. Just like the ruffles and bows and pleats and layers of lace on the dresses of the time, piling up and on the hair and then adding more is the only way to go.

Wonder why women wore those early bustle era hats so far forward? There really weren’t many other options, because early 1870’s hair looked like this…

And just how did these intricately styled masses of hair come about? They used fake hair – LOTS of it. Styles became so extreme that the practice of adding gigantic hairpieces was lampooned in Punch:

Punch - March 25, 1871

Punch – March 25, 1871 (I love the teeny, tiny hat perched at the very front.)

Knowing I needed to acquire a few hairpieces led to another fact: my hair has changed. As I’ve aged it’s gone from board-straight to wavy. It’s a dream come true for me, since I’ve wanted wavy hair for just about ever. It’s also changed color through the years: strawberry blonde as a kid, then into blonde with red highlights, then into ash blonde, then dark ash blonde, then light ash brown, then light ash brown with ever-increasing amounts of grey.

I don’t mind the grey – I figure I’ve earned it. The color wasn’t my favorite, but so it goes. I would have lived with it. Except it was impossible to find hairpieces that “went” with my natural color. I didn’t mind that I couldn’t get a perfect match. I doubt many women of the 1870’s could, either. But I definitely didn’t want to look like I’d taken someone else’s hair and put it on my head. And that was where I was headed…no pun intended.

So, after lengthy consideration, I colored my hair today. I bought the box of magic over a year ago, so it was a lengthy consideration indeed. I now sport a cool medium brown which just happens to match my natural eyebrows perfectly, makes my eyes look super-blue and is compatible with a number of commercial, historically correct hairpieces.

Now the questions is: braids or curls? The answer? Why both, of course!


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