Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Paisley Pixie: The Hair

The Hair

Several weeks ago I did an informal hairstyle survey for my own benefit. I need to write up the results, similarly to the posing article, but most of my analysis is already on Pinterest: Hairstyles 1800-1810, and Hairstyles 1810-1820.  I stuck mostly to portraits for this analysis, attempting to see what Real Women Wore.  Fashion plates have very clear diagrams, but the styles tend to the extreme.  They also presuppose things like a very low hairline/forehead, super thick front hair, or very precise curls, which isn't helpful for everyone.

Preliminary conclusions of the most common style:
* Hair pulled back straight and up high in back (showing for 1-2" above the crown of the head), in curls, soft loops, and/or braid.
* Crosswise part, sometimes ear-to-ear, often further forward (some less than 1" deep).
* Front hair parted center, side, or diagonally.
* Front hair in short curls, usually tight and defined, sometimes loose and fluffy, and (in this survey) never longer than the lobes of the ears/corner of the jaw.  (Only exceptions were the "extreme Classical" style with lots of loose, stringy curls, or the soft, longer hair of the late 1790s. I didn't find any examples of long "sausage" curls in front of the ears.)
* Often the center hair, or "bangs," is shorter than the rest of the front hair, and curled inward like spit curls instead of in ringlets.

This is a very limited survey, but it really helped me to focus on what I wanted. Instead of throwing my hair in hot sticks, trying to pin the messy curls up in "artless disorder," and doing something random with my bangs. ;)

I started with day-old hair that had already been set in pincurls. I re-set the very front, but I had some excellent tight curls that made the back hair a snap to arrange and keep up.

I did a crosswise part that framed my face and ended at the hairline in front of the ears.

Then I set pincurls, using setting lotion and making them quite small. The longer side curls I curled forward and down. My shorter bangs I curled forward and up, to get a spit curl shape.

I brushed the rest of my hair straight back and put it in a fairly high ponytail. My head is somewhat sloping and flat right there, so I need to work extra hard to get the proper height.

I wrapped my long braid hairpiece in a wide, loose loop around the ponytail.

I pinned the loop forward to make sure it stayed high enough. I could have pulled it even further forward. Plan for gravity!

As best I could, I separated my ponytail into big ringlets, fluffed them, and pulled them around the braid.

I pinned them here and there.

I tried to pull some forward, too, so they were visible from the front.

Then I brushed out the pincurls. The magic about pincurls is that they can be brushed into a particular shape. On this side, I brushed them over my fingers into a soft but still tight sort of ringlet-roll.

On the other side, I ended up with some better ringlets and fluff. The bangs I didn't brush much; they curled nicely.

Ta-da! Pre humidity and wind!

Wet and wind are enemies of curl, but wet sets and setting lotion go a long way. No hairspray!

I really like the style.  Even with the extreme humidity, my curls relaxed only slightly. (Wet sets all the way!) Wind would have blown them out, but that's something they would have dealt with back then, too.


I actually kept the hairstyle for that evening (without the bandeau!), when I sang in a choir concert.  Even with the front curls it wasn't too far from a modern formal updo.

What I would do differently:

1. Pull the ponytail even further forward; maybe an inch. Gravity pulls it back, but it could have started higher.

2. For the side front curls, use tiny rollers instead of pincurls. Flat pincurls are best for waves, but they're not so good at ringlets. Rollers or standing pincurls are how to make ringlets. I can't sleep on standing pincurls at the side of my head, so I'll use either small foam rollers (1/2") or, more likely, the smaller vintage metal ones.

Even with pincurls, though, the look is pretty good and it stays. Yay!


  1. Hi there, I'm a new reader of your blog and very much enjoying it. You might like Janet Stephens' hair tutorials on YouTube. Mostly she does Roman/Greek hairstyles, but she also has a great tutorial on Papillote curls.

  2. This is *adorable* and I might need to try that pincurl thing. Where do you find setting lotion? I went to a beauty supply shop and looked once, but when I asked about it the shop girl looked totally lost and was no help.