Thursday, July 11, 2013

Papillote Curls Trial Run Number One

Practically sans makeup, and sunburned, to boot.
Forty-five minutes, a cut-up sheet of bright green tissue paper, a flat-iron, my turban silk and a few pins, and I have this very simple hairdo, or headdress, as it was known, to show you.

The spiral curls are made in the papillote, or butterfly fashion. It's a little tricky to learn, and this is only a first effort, but it's the method used in the 18th and early 19th centuries to create both spiral curls and frizzed curls, and I am surprised, but it's working for me :}

As a test, I made tiny spirals and big, fat spirals, to see how they would compare. Check. Tiny and big resulting curls. Well, at least I got what I expected! That doesn't always happen when it comes to my hair. The June picnic is a good example of a hair experiment that decidedly failed to produce the effect aimed for.

The curl-winding needs to be a little neater, so that the curls are more even, but still, the effect is pretty. The curls should sit and cool a bit longer, too.

Excepting one curl, there's no setting lotion, goo, or pomade, or spray in my hair. Am sure I'll have to use at least one of them for the real curling process next Friday evening. That and a night-cap (ye gods), to protect the hair until Saturday's Jane Austen Festival.

Because I have shoulder-length hair and these spirals don't easily go right to the scalp, there are pins shortening the curls in front. The back hair is straight and is turned up plain for the "chignon", as was often done. I'll need a bit of added hair for the chignon: that's the next trial, along with playing with the front curls to make them tighter, shorter, and more regular, and adding fat long curls on the sides and top. Once those lessons are learned, add hair décor appropriate to the occasion, and we have a usable headdress.

Of course, if these curls fall out overnight, Isis' standing pin curls are my backup. Thank you, Isis, for your research and tutorial!

This is what we're aiming for: a mix of Hortense de Beauharnais' style (I even have the cross-front dress!) on Pinterest, and the second young lady's fluffier 'do (Circle of Jean-Baptiste Soyer, circa 1790/1795, at Christie's).

Gee, the more I look at Madame de Beauharnais' portrait, the more I like it. Sensitive, well painted, calm, atmospheric.

This young lady looks fun, doesn't she? Her smile is real, and I can imagine that she was a treat to be around.

You know what's ironic? I have curly hair. It ringlets on its own, once washed. The issue is that the ringlets won't stay more than a few minutes before they fall out and frizz starts to take over. The amount of curly-hair goo added makes no difference. Hence all this craziness, getting 1790s curls that will hold up.

On to the next trial...

Addendum, two mornings later: yesterday, I just bunched it all in a ponytail bun, without brushing, and they held. No ponytail the second night, just plain hair. This morning, the curls are holding together -- still. I brushed my hair at last, and now I have fluff. Not frizzy, just fluffy waves. Interesting.


Time Traveling in Costume said...

Looks very pretty. I have very short hair, so I just plop a cluster of fake curls on my head and let them hang out of a wrapped turban.

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Woohoo, go Natalie! Love the curlies! I have found that flat pin curling i.e. pinning the made curls flat against the scalp once formed, results in far better old than standing curls do. If you pin your carefully flat-ironed curls, they will probably "sleep" better. And I suspect that there is some kind of historical precedent for it too :) Mx

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Val,

Sure wish I could plop a switch or two on and go, too, you lucky duck...however, this mat 'o hair is too hot: it has to be spread out. I'm like a Husky dog in summertime Texas: pant, pant, pant, flop!

Dear Mrs. C,
Thank you!! Aha, pin them down at night, eh? Brilliant plan. Then on with the hair net night cap, enduring of the jokes of little sons and husband, and off to bed, curls well protected.

The curls did last 'til this morning in pretty decent shape. The little ones, that is. The bigs ones, which I spent less time on, stretched out.

Very best to you both,


Kleidung um 1800 said...

Dear Natalie,

I always find the period 'hair do' the most challenging part in dressing...and I guess I have failed many times - sigh!!!
I'm looking forward to hearing wether your curls will keep their shape the whole day through. Yes, pins are a good option.
I've recently found a book about such things, maybe I find a good advice on treating unruly hair.
Again I wish I could hop on a plane, cross the pond and exchange 'hair-do' advice...sewing


Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Sabine,

You and me both. I've always procrastinated with hair, until this summer. Forced myself to test ahead of time.

Will keep careful notes and share whatever lessons are learned...

Frankly, I think your hair is often pretty much on the spot: a high chignon or bun, side curls, hat or cap, you pretty much have it, or fake it convincingly :}

Really, we will find a way to visit, somehow. We'll make it happen!

Very best,


Lady D said...

I used this technique last year for the jane austen festival. Used baking paper instead of tissue paper and had mousse in my hair. i did it on 2nd day hair and left in overnight.
It was super. My hair is stright as a poker and doesn't hold curls without industrial strength product and then only for a couple of hours at most. So I was delighted my papilote curls lasted several days!!!! and would have lasted longer but I had to wash them out.

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Lady D,

That's SO good to hear. Mine are still lasting too, even stuck in a ponytail. Never expected that to happen.

Will we see you at this year's festival? I hope so!

Very best,


Cassidy said...

I have that same problem - curly(/frizzy) hair that refuses to hold curls. Nut yours looks good in the picture, and you're giving me hope that I can manage something better than a plain bun before the next Regency tea party I attend.

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Cassidy,

It's two mornings later and holy hair dryer, the curls are still there, and still together! Granted, low humidity days, but still. Verrry impressive.

Give it a whirl; I suspect it will work for you.

Very best,


Isis said...

I think your trial run turned out great! And I think I need to get me a flat iron so I can try it!

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Isis,

Oh do, do try it! Seems other people have had success, and the curls stay and stay. We'll see this weekend, for sure, though, since, egad, it may be rainy. Sigh.

Today I make and curl some hair switches and a chignon. Should be fun.

Very best,


Anonymous said...

Hi! Came here via Isis, hope you don't mind. I was thinking about your natural curls, have you read Lorraine Massey's book Curly Girl? It has some great tips for bringing out your natural curls and making them both stay and look good. I follow a similar practice -- I have forsworn most modern hair products with silicones and stuff, and set my natural waves with dirt cheap homemade flaxseed gel. Best 'hair product' I've ever tried.

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear therru,

Good morning! You know, I've heard all about the book but have never read it. It might be time at last. I'd rather have waves than lots of curls, but those never stay, either, so if there's some way to achieve that, I'm for it. Flaxseed gel sounds interesting, too. No odd chemicals.

Very best, and thank you,


Anonymous said...

This is how I make the flaxseed gel: 30 ml (2 tsp) flax seeds to 250 ml water, bring to the boil and let it simmer for about ten minutes. This will make a runny, slightly brownish mucus. Filter off the mucus from the seeds in a sieve, or most easily with a French coffee press, while it's still hot. Pour it into a small plastic bottle (preferably squeezy) and let it cool. Keep in the fridge, will keep for about a week, I think, unless you add some kind of preservative. The consistency is pretty slimy. :) When I've washed my hair, I towel dry it very gently by squeezing the 'curls' from below, with a smooth towel, until it's no longer dripping wet. Then I add the gel by rubbing it between my palms and stroking/squeezing it into my hair. (Not too much, depending on your amount of hair the batch should be good for several instances of application.) I have very fine, limp hair so I need to towel squeeze my locks again at this point. Then I let it air dry, and after it's completely dry I gently scrunch the stiffness out. The hold is not very great, but it adds shine to your hair and helps your curls hold together and greatly reduces frizz. Don't brush your hair after it's dry! Also, if the gel/mucus gets too stiff, it's hard to spread evenly into your hair. It should be a bit runny. Psyllium seeds work too, possibly even better, and require a smaller amount of seeds to water, but they are much harder to filter out of the gel (and are more expensive). I haven't tried quince seeds, which are supposedly a period equivalent for making a hair setting gel, but I'm assuming the product and effect would be very similar.

If your were not interested in this information, just ignore it. :)

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Therru,

These are great directions! Thank you kindly for them. Something I can do, too, since we have flax seed at the local co-op.

Thank you again for the details,