During the time that Queen Victoria ruled England–from 1837 to 1901– the period was referred to as the Victorian Age, mainly due to several unique and prominent elements of both fashion and morals of those days. There was a surge of economic growth, much due to an industrial expansion during that period. In observing the hairstyle protocol of the times, there were progressive changes that occurred during this expanse of time, although, throughout the era, only the more solid, straight-laced values were practiced and tolerated by society.
Men’s Victorian Hairstyles
Generally at the start of the Victorian era and lasting until around 1865, men wore their hair relatively long, while sporting massive moustaches that were carefully formed with waxes, or, conversely, men would sometimes forego the moustache altogether, but wore thick sideburns attached to short beards (think Abraham Lincoln.) This was more of a “puritan” image, well suited for the era.
Cosmetic Instruction of the Day
The then Countess of Landsfeld, Eliza Rosanna Gilbert was a famous dancer who went by the stage name of “Lola Montez.” In 1858, she published a book, “The arts of beauty; or secrets of a lady’s toilet, with hints to gentlemen, on the art of fascinating.” This publication shared various recipes and instruction for beautification, for both women and men–or, “ladies and gentlemen,” as it were. In reading this book, one discovers that the practice of dying hair by women was established at the time, and especially for dyeing gray hair. She includes a detailed recipe for the procedure, which called for components like tincture of sesquichloride of iron, acetic acid and gallic acid, for dying the hair either black or brown. The color variations were achieved by minute changes in the process. It wraps up with advising the woman to finish with oil and brushing.
The Period Coifs of Victorian Women
A most romantic hair effect became the trend during the period from 1840 to at least 1860, where women’s hair would often be gathered at the top of their heads in a chignon, but with hair remaining out of the chignon that would be formed into separate curled locks that fell at either side of the face. Hair would be adorned with all sorts of poetic embellishments, from ribbons, flowers, beautiful ornate hair combs of the day and jewels. The hair was mostly parted in the middle. Toward the latter part of this time, the once top chignons had migrated down to the nape of the neck. Loose curls framing the face continued throughout this time as a very popular effect.
The Marcel Wave
No, this was not a form of greeting that was practiced by Victorians. After 1860, “handmade” curls were quite popular, and were produced by using rags to wrap, wind and tie the hair, and some used metallic hair curlers to “keep” the curls intact during the night while they would sleep, so their hairdo would be good for several days. A French hairdresser named Marcel Grateau invented what was a crude form of the curling iron we now have today. It consisted of heavy tongs that had rounded inside surfaces, and involved one convex side that would be met by a concave side, and when heated by the fire or on the stove and then closed upon a strand of hair, the strand would be waved or would receive the Marcel wave, which was the predecessor of today’s curling iron.