Posts Tagged ‘Regency Hairstyle’

Several years ago I wrote a post on Regency Hairstyles and their Accessories. This series of images starts much earlier than the Regency. Jane Austen, who was born in 1775, would have been familiar with the hairstyles depicted here up to 1817, the year of her death. Her mother and aunts would have worn longer curls and powdered hair in her childhood. As teenagers and young women just coming on the marriage mart, she and Cassandra would have worn their hair much like the women in the 1790s.

Jane Austen's World image

1780s, 1781, 1790

As can be seen from the paintings, hairdos were elaborate in the 1780s and 1790s. Wigs made from real human hair were often used to build up elaborate hair structures. These confections took so many hours to create that a woman would wear them for days on end, protecting the hairdo at night.

Wigs and hair were covered with hair powder made of starch (potato or rice flour, not wheat flour). Oily pomades applied to the hair allowed the powder to stick and fragrant oils masked odors.

Jane Austen's World image

1790, 1792, 1795

Jane Austen's World image

1795, 1796, 1797

Hairdos became increasingly less elaborate and by the end of the 18th century women began to look to antiquity for role models.  (Regency Hairstyles and their Accessories.) A woman’s natural hair color was allowed to shine. More often than not, women tied back their hair in chignons that exposed the neck. In some instances, hairdos were cut boyishly short. Lady Caroline Lamb cut her hair short, as did the two girls shown in 1810.

Jane Austen's World image

1797, 1800, 18001801, 1801, 1802 1801, 1801, 1802

I cannot anyhow continue to find people agreeable; I respect Mrs. Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment – Jane Austen, 1801

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1806, 1906, 1807

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Even when wearing hats, curls were coaxed out to frame the face. The woman below right with straight hair pulled back into a severe chignon wears curls in front of her ears. Curling tongs were very much in use during this era, as were paper and cloth curlers worn at night.

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She looks very well, and her hair is done up with an elegance to do credit to any education.” – Jane Austen, 1813

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Jane Austen wore caps over her light brown hair, but allowed curls to peep out from under them. I imagine that her nieces at a ball looked much like the young miss at top left in 1813. Hairdos became slowly more elaborate as dresses as dresses were embellished with frills, lace, and other furbelows. Jane would not have recognized the more elaborately decorated dresses and stylized hairstyles of the mid-1820s and 1830s, in which natural flowing lines were taken over by elaborately ruffled collars and skirt hems. Had she lived, she might even have made a joke at the expense of ladies who wore  the popular but elaborately built-up hairstyles at the crown, with ringlets cascading down the sides, and flowers and feathers arranged artfully into the curls. (Modes des Paris image.)

1818, 1819, 1820

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1828, 1828-1833, 1830

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Modes des Paris image, 1832

Modes des Paris image, 1832

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To see a Regency timeline of headresses and hairstyles for Regency evenings and their descriptions, click here.

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Men of fashion began to wear short and more natural hair at the end of the 18th century, sporting cropped curls and long sideburns in a classical manner much like  Grecian warriors and Roman senators. Before this period, a balding Louis XIII had made powdered wigs popular at the French court and consequently throughout Europe. The often elaborate and expensive gray wigs lent an air of wisdom and authority to their wearers.

William Pitt the Younger – Attributed to Thomas Gainsborough (c. 1804)
Prime Minister 1783 – 1801; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1804 – 1806

A scarcity of flour in 1795, combined with William Pitt’s attempt to raise revenue through a hair powder tax, brought the fashion for wigs and powder to a screeching halt. Men protested and a new more natural hair style became fashionable.

The 5th Duke of Bedford. Image @ Wikipedia

The Bedford Crop was a style of hair favored by the Duke of Bedford, who, in protest to the tax, abandoned his wigs in favor of a short cropped and unpowdered hairstyle. He challenged his friends to do the same.  His natural looking crop was parted on the side with a dab of hair wax.Wikipedia)

Pitt eventually reduced this unpopular tax on hair powder, which never quite generated the revenue he predicted, but by then it was too late. Gentlemen had discovered the comforts of going au naturel, and by 1812, few men still wore wigs. There were some holdovers – older men, military officers, and those in conservative professions such as lawyers, judges, physicians, and some servants for the very rich (footmen and coachmen) retained their wigs and powder. Formal court dress also still required powdered hair.

Beau Brummel’s Brutus hair style in 1805. Notice how it is brushed forward and volumized on top of his head.

By and large men took their cue from classical Greek and Roman art. The romantic movement also influenced a natural, unpretentious aesthetic. A dry disordered look that used very few artificial products began to rule.  Beau Brummel’s influence cannot be discounted. His own grooming included shorter hair and a clean-shaven face. Every morning he examined his face in a dentist mirror and plucked any remaining stray hairs with tweezers. By 1813, almost all Regency men sported both long or short sideburns; they rarely wore mustaches or beards.

In Pride and Prejudice 1995, Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy wore his hair somewhat longer than the Bedford Crop and affected a slightly unruly hairdo, probably known as the Brutus.  (I confess I never liked Firth’s hairstyle for Mr. Darcy.)

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. His rather long, wild hairstyle now makes sense to me.

Upon seeing the following images, I can now see why the film’s hair stylist settled on this slightly wild do for Mr. Darcy, which seems to be a compromise between a severe clipped hair style and the stylish “frightened owl” hairdo below.

Young man by an unknown artist, c. 1800, from the book The Tie. Image @Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion

The  “frightened owl” hairstyle was achieved through infrequent hair washing (as infrequently as every few months) and the use of hair wax, which helped to create the wild and unruly volume.

The models for Regency men’s hairstyles: Caesar, Titus, and Brutus

Popular styles in the late 18th century were the Caesar, Titus, and Brutus. The Coup au Vent was short at the back and worn long over the eyes at the front.

Caesar cut. You can almost see the laurel leaves on his head with this brushed forward Caesar cut. Portrait of an unnamed man, ca. 1810-20

The Cherubin, like the Bedford Crop, sported short curls all over (the Caesar was clipped even closer.)

Bernier by Ingres, 1800. You can see the all over cropped unruly look. The sideburns in all these images are long, but the men are clean shaven.

The Classically influenced Titus was cropped short everywhere but at the front with curls combed forward onto the forehead to resemble the Roman Emperor Titus.

Balding men benefited from the close cropped, forward brushed styles. c.1815. Louis Francois Aubry. Monsieur Rivio Baritone in Paris Opera. Image courtesy of A Private Portrait Miniature Collection. (Update:) Mr. Phillips, who oversees the blog, lists the date of the portrait as 1840.

The more severe Brutus was even more clopped than the Titus. One of the most popular hair styles of the day, though, was the Brutus, a disheveled style that Beau Brummell and his followers wore.

John Opie’s 1802 portrait of Edmund Lenthal Swifte shows a few artfully arranged locks over the forehead.

These hairstyles  took a great deal of time and patience to achieve. Men used an oil or pomade made of bear fat to achieve a natural “tamed” wildness. (Scented pomades were called Pomade de Nerole and Pomade de Graffa.)  Since hair was rarely washed, night caps were worn to prevent soiling pillows and doilies protected the backs of chairs.

The height on top with the artfully arranged curls take precedence in this hairstyle. Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling, 1801.

Napoloeon Bonaparte’s classic Caesar cut sported  longer locks down the forehead.

This dandy sports a Titus.

Arnauld de Beaufort ca 1818 (by Pierre Paul pPrud’hon). His hair is noticeably brushed forward, lending his features a saturnine look.

Regency hairstyles gave men a natural, romanticized look. (Portrait of an Artist by Unknown Artist) is part of the collection of the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts.

Gericault’s 1816 self-portrait shows a wildly romantic and unruly hairstyle.

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Covered porcelain pomade pot. Mid 18th Century. Image@Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Bandeau: in clothing and fashion, the term means a narrow band of ribbon, velvet, etc., worn round the head. A wide range of materials make up a hair bandeau, including jewels, ribbons, cloth, and flowers. In some cases, a tiara can be said to be an elaborate form of the bandeau. This head band has been popular since the beginning of recorded history, for the decoration is flattering for almost any hair style. The bandeau provides an instant frame for curls, adds color, and can hold unruly hair in place. Bandeaux were quite popular during the Regency era as both formal and informal head wear.

Structured bandeau with feathers. Northanger Abbey (Cassie Stuart and Greg Hicks) 1986

In the image above, Isabella Thorpe’s bandeau resembles an open turban. It play an integral part in the hair design.

Court gown, 1799. This bandeau, worn for a formal event, also holds feathers, as in the above photo.

Bandeau made of ribbon, similar to the illustration below, but with the bow to the side. This is an informal use of a bandeau, which carries enough "weight" to serve as a headcover. Emma (Gwynneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) 1996

1812 La Belle Assemblee, evening dress and bandeau, which frames the curls beautifully.

Felicity as Catherine Morland (2007) wears a thin bandeau. This image is inaccurate in that ladies in those days did not venture outdoors without a head cover. We can tell that Isabella (Carey Mulligan) is “fast” for she reveals more of her bosom during the day than is ladylike and wears no hat while strolling through Bath.

Woman wearing a chemise dress (1799) and thin bandeau, and contemplating a hat.

The Countess of Oxford wears a thin ribbon bandeau. Painted by John Hoppner, 1797.

Rolinda Sharples painted a flower bandeau for the lady at front and center of this detail.

Thin satin or silk ribbon bandeau woven into the hair on the righ;, bandeaux made with pearls in the center two images; and gold ornamental combs in the hairstyle on the left.

Bandeau with long lace streamers. 1818 French court dress, La Belle Assemblee.

Bandeaux have been popular throughout the ages, and continue to be so.

Pompeii couple. The woman at left wears a thin bandeau.

Beaded bandeau from the Edwardian Era

Haley Steinfeld, 2011 Oscars

Gallery of Fashion – Women’s bandeaux

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Everything we now use is made [in] imitation of those models lately discovered in Italy. – Observation by an Englishman

diana sackville detail 1777

Diana Sackville, 1777

In the late 18th century, hairstyles for women took a dramatic turn from the pouffed-up and constructed hairdos of the earlier Georgian age to the simple hair styles inspired by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Curls now framed the face and chignons replaced the complicated, almost architectural concoctions that took hairdressers hours to create. Ancient statues and works of art brought back as spoils of war or as souvenirs from grand tours revealed classical hairstyles. Women began to wear simpler hairdos with long hair pulled back in chignons or simple pony tails, long curls trailing over the shoulder, and short ringlets framing the face. Hair ornaments consisted of flower wreaths, ribbons, jewelry, tiaras, and combs.

greek and roman influences

Hairstyles on statues from antiquity

Lady Caroline Lamb (lower left) sported a saucy short bob, whose influence can be seen from the portrait in the Roman mural at the Metropolitan Museum. Madame Recamier, whose hair is longer, achieves a similar effect with ringlets around her face. Her curly hair, gathered in back, allowed the ringlets to fall. At right, the Marchioness of Queenston achieved a very similar style to Madame Recamier’s, but her bandeau sat further back on her head and the ringlets framing her face were thicker.

Curly styles

Longer hair, while not as prevalent as the up-do’s, usually took the form of a long curl draped over the shoulder. At second to right, Mrs. Henry Baring wore a more casual “do”, with her locks streaming around her neck and shoulders.

long hair

The long curl

Straight, simple hairstyles with few ringlets and ordinary bangs, or a style simply parted in the middle were worn, but were not drawn or painted by artists or depicted in fashion plates as often as the curlier styles.

plain ringlet free

Fashion plates of the time show how these hairstyles looked with bonnets and hair ornaments with a (l – r) walking dress, ball gown, afternoon dress, or morning dress.

fashion plate

The hairstyles that Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson wore in Sense and Sensibility seemed to be particularly true to the period (in my opinion). Some of you may have noticed that I use Kate Winslet’s image of Marianne as my avatar.

hair styles

This image of a Roman statue (a copy of an earlier Greek statue) shows the hairstyle that would become prevalent in the later Regency/early Victorian era (1820’s to 1830’s).

marble head of a woman roman copy of greek statue

1st C. AD Roman bust

“We wore white crepe dresses trimmed with satin ribbon & the bodices & sleeves spotted with white beads. . . Thursday night, Pearl combs, necklaces, earrings, & brooches. . . Tuesday evening we had sprigged muslin. . . gold ornaments & flowers in our heads & Friday we wore yellow gauze dresses over satin, beads in our heads & pearl ornaments” – Fanny Knight Austen

Evening dresses, fronticepiece, The Mirror of Graces,, 1811

Fanny Knight wrote a vivid description of how women dressed and what sort of accessories were popular when she was a young woman. The 1811 fronticepiece to The Mirror of Graces (above) shows how simple and elegant the combination of Neoclassical hair, dress, and accessories looked.  Jewelry styles favored smaller, lighter forms of draped chains and classical motifs, which were reflected in hair ornaments. These days jewelry from the Georgian era is difficult to find, for many of the pieces were refitted or redesigned to reflect motifs of the neoclassical period. (Neoclassical Jewellery ). Ebay Guides can be extremely useful in researching information about this era, such as this one entitled,  Georgian and Regency Combs and Hair Accessories – 1800-1814. (Click here for the PDF document.)

tiaras and combs

Georgian tiara and combs, early 19th c.

In addition to gold and silver hair ornaments, such as tiaras and diadems, young women wore silk ribbons, strands of pearls, feathers and other fancy hair ornaments in their hair, most notably for balls and formal occasions. These hair jewels were a visible sign of a family’s or husband’s wealth. Bonnets, hats, or turbans were also worn on social outings. The second image from the right (above) is of a George III silver comb, 1807.  “Silver combs of this type appear to have been a speciality of Birmingham, where they were produced in a small quantity and in a collectable variety of forms.” (Cinoa)

As the Regency era progressed long hair became increasingly popular and full ringlets began to appear near the side of the face. Hair ornaments for balls included jewellery, bandeaux, turbans and wreaths of grapes and towards the latter end of the Regency era flowers, turbans and ostrich feathers were seen to adorn the hair. (Overseale House)


These days we achieve curls and ringlets with a hot curling iron. The use of hot irons in the 19th century was tricky, for hair could easily be singed. Back then, curls were made with pomade, a hair gel, and curling papers. The lost art of the paper curl describes how a person today can make a similar curl using old-fashioned techniques.

Lydia is exposed to an unregency like cut

Perdita Weeks as Lydia Bennet in Lost in Austen

The transition from the structured hairstyles of the mid-18th Century to the Regency period was not achieved without its own set of complications, as this James Gillray cartoon shows. The cartoon was drawn in the earlier Neoclassical period, when round gowns were still worn.

gillray fashion cartoon

A lady putting on her cap, Gillray, 1795

The fashion plate below shows how charming and uncomplicated, yet classic, the combination of the 1802 hairstyles and afternoon dresses are together, whereas the 1811 fronticepiece showed how rich both hair and fabric can be made to look using similar principles of fashion design.

1802 Lady's Monthly Museum afternoon dress june Payne Milliner Old Bond Street

Afternoon Dress 1802 Lady's Monthly Museum

More links on this topic:

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veritysdressThe author of this recent post writes about the unfaithfully depicted hairstyles in recent period film adaptations. Her rant is similar to the one I wrote about inaccurate costumes in period films, especially in terms of showing or covering the bosom.

Read more about these topics in the following links:

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