Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I Conquered 1796-ish Hair...After the Jane Austen Festival. Plus a Tutorial

Good evening there, everyone! The cicadas are busy outside, sounding like an ambient orchestra of power saws winding down, but there's something odd about it. Namely that our windows are wide open, so that the insect noise is very loud, and there are cool zephyrs whispering in, trying to raise goosebumps. You read that aright. Cool, as in almost long-sleeve weather, in midsummer Bluegrass Kentucky. It's sheer delight.

Meanwhile, in our upstairs hall, next to the settee from the early 19th century, my boys and I have been playing with the camera and tripod. They've been pirates and I've donned the half dress combination of spencer and matching petticoat, with the muslin wrap-front dress. You see, today at lunch I decided to work on 1790s hair once again, this time sans switches or additions. Today, after all the tries of the past months, Fortune's wheel turned in my favor and it came together fairly well. After the Jane Austen Festival, natch-and-wouldn't-you-know, but still, the effects are rather as hoped.

1790s Hair Effects, Pretty Well Effected
The blog title says "conquered". Well, not entirely. Let's say, pretty well effected, given constraints.

The very long locks of the portraits I so admire turned out to be more than I could manage these days. In 2011, I built a fuller look via a very long, very heavy hair switch plus a few pinned-in curled wefts. Now that this head is plagued with migraines, that's just not smart.

The 2011 hair-do. There's a chignon behind
that's built of a 22-24" switch. Heavy.
A shorter 'do was in order, and I ended up during the afternoon with the below. What were the sources, and what happened to it as it was worn? Let's see.

Day version, curlier: this was before the hair was
squished into a bun for the afternoon.
More of the side curls should have been lifted
and wound into the bandeau.

For hairdressing models I turned to a handsome portrait miniature of an English lady in a gray dress, by Richard Cosway, and offered at Bonhams some time ago, along with a series of other plates (see below), for help.

Our first model sports hair she has dressed above shoulder length. It's softly curled but not intensely curly or frizzy, and dressed fairly close to her head, parted in the middle, and finished with a narrow, thin, bandeau (with bow) and ostrich plume. I am fairly sure it's mostly her natural hair, and there is no visible evidence of a long chignon turned up and caught with a comb, in back, though there likely may be a short one. Usually, when present such chignons show at least a bit.

Whatever the actual date of the miniature, the slightly shorter hair reminds me of the trend in 1796 towards shorter hair that was to lead to the upswept styles of the 1800s.


Note: many miniatures and paintings of the period show women with the hair left loose, but most seem quite young. I would hazard that a married woman would sport a chignon, and usually an older woman covered her head with a larger turban or a cap.

Note the chignon loop to the bottom right of
her hair. Lady Hester Bellingham, Bonham's

Anyhow, this headdress, methought, was more doable, and would require no extra lockage, and thus be cooler and lighter. If it didn't fully take, no matter. Some fashion plates show tresses looser and snakier, some more tightly curled, some even rather smoothly, barely waved. Witness the below!

British Museum, No. C,4.1-468, detail.
British Museum, No. C,4.1-468, detail.

A Lady, by Alexandre Rocher. Dated 1796. French. Bonham's.

Models in hand, it was testing time. During lunch hour I created the curls and tested the headdress. The tools? A regular, small-barreled curling iron and heavy-duty hair goo, pins, silk gauze, and hair comb.

Lunch break over, I stuffed the poor hair back up in a bun, and went back to work. After dinner and cleanup, while the boys played some game with their stuffed animals that involved a party, I unpinned it, and the curls had held decently, if not as tightly as before they were unceremoniously pulled back and squished. Good hair goo, to have held at all.

Then it was dash together the headdress (how-tos below), rush into the ensemble, and take some pictures with the boys, before their bedtime arrived.

Here we are. Goofball smiles? Sure, it was a goofy, fun evening, playtime for all three of us.

Mama and her protecting pirate.



The third image shows the back of the headdress. Note that the back hair is lightly, barely looped at the bottom. That's the chignon. Had I longer hair, the loop would be longer, and the ends would be left a bit longer too, to wave and curl downwards.

Noah and his piggy. She is wearing a coat with a velvet collar: Noah gets concerned
his animals will take a chill, so I've made a few clothes.

I'd like to try this headdress again, with curls made on curlers. Why? Because then I can get smoother curls that will create larger ringlets, and that can poof and frizz a little for a softer effect.

What fun this was! The boys took the pictures, and did they like working the camera. Operating a real camera was almost a first for them, and it was heady, heady stuff. On a tripod, too. Noah insisted on holding the tripod aiming handle, or whatever you call it, while operating the camera with his other hand, his stuffed piggy sitting underneath, offering advice. Christopher put on his pirate hat and his weskit, and protected his mama with his wooden sword.

The twinkle in the twins' eyes means "Okay, our turn with that camera!"
After the photo taking, we ran into the guest room and uploaded them, critiqued the results, and then wandered to another folder on the computer to look at live-action shots of them jumping into the Spindletop pool yesterday: the pencil leap, the cannonball, all the jump-in-the-pool tricks. I have the distinct feeling that now they know how to press a shutter button, we've opened a Pandora's box :}

1790s Shorter Locks: A Tutorial

Those of you who have 1790s outfits and don't want to don a wig or wiglet to get the curls of a latter-day follower of Bacchus, here's how I did it. I have hair just about shoulder length, but bobbed hair at chin length, I suspect, will also work. Much shorter and you'll have a late 1790s or 1800s cropped look.

Curl Hair into Ringlets

First, curl your entire head into ringlets. How you do this is up to you: pin curls, papillote curls, curlers-and-setting-lotion, or curling iron. The key is to curl your hair as close to your head around your face as possible, but start the ringlets a little lower down the hair shaft on the rest of your head. Since I wasn't able to get really tight curls at my face, I employed a trick, which I'll show you.

Tools used to create the curls. What's missing: the big
curved bridal comb to hold the chignon.

I used a small-barreled curling iron. I curled the hair dry. I separated the hair into sections, holding the rest out of the way with hair-dresser's clips while I worked with each section. I'd take a small hank of hair, enough to heat all the way through on a small iron, rub a wee bit of hair goo in it, and use the iron. I'd unwind it carefully and move to the next one.

Create High, Curly Crown

After all the hair was curled, I parted the hair, and then gathered a sizeable hank off the top back, plus some from the sides, into a group. I tucked a hair rat under it, right at the back of the crown of the head, to lift the curls I was going to put on top, so they'd look more abundant. Note that there was still plenty of back hair left hanging down.

Individual hanks of hair off the top and sides curled over a hair rat at the back of the crown of the head.
Each curl gets a pin. You can see one in front. It will be covered by a bandeau.

Note the ringlets: they are all one length, because my hair is. The curls start about halfway
down the hair shafts. You will wrap the bandeau around your head just in front of the crown.

Then I split out a hank from this group, looped it to the back of the head and then forward again, creating a fold with curly ends facing forward. I bobby pinned it in place. I did this over and over with the rest, placing each bit so that it built out a bit of a crown. I took a few extra pieces from the sides, pulled them up and wrapped them around the base to hide any rat that might be showing, and to add some top-side curls. Each hank got one pin.

Next I shifted the front hair forwards. I took a yard or so of silk gauze, laid it flat, and rolled it corner to corner to create a long bandeau shape, which I twisted to give some texture. I pinned one end to the side of my head in front of the crown, tucking the end underneath, and wrapped the rest around the back of my head, underneath the back hair, up over the top of my head again, and then wrapped the free end under what was already there, and tried to pin that without the pin showing. I wove the side hair in and out and let some ringlets hang as love locks, more so in the evening's version of the hairdo than the day version, which lets more locks hang.

The bandeau, added. This was at lunchtime. The curls were fuller and rounder, and I had not
fluffed them out at all.
Ta-da: narrow bandeau. It worked out to two trips around my head: if you like, you can divide it into two wraps, one set behind the other, for a very Classical look. If you had longer fabric, you could go for three wraps. In any case, notice the bandeau, or turban, is narrow, and rather scant. Most portrait miniatures seem to show this, perhaps because it was easy to wind and didn't look over-big on the head. As you will see in the Festival pictures below, my original turban was quite large, and, having no super-big hair, it overwhelmed my head and face in what is to my mind a less attractive way.

Now, to deal with the long curls of front hair. Take a ringlet, and a few inches out from the scalp, run it between the tines of a bobby pin. Then pull the curl back under the bandeau and pin it to the hair under there. Arrange the curly hair at the hairline. Still too long? Loop it back a second time with another bobby pin. Use the loops of hair as extra curls at the hairline, but make sure the ends hang and can be seen. Do this with all of the front hair.

Last step: take the back hair and hold it in a ponytail, but kind of flattened, very low on the head, and leaving a bit of a loop of hair beneath. Plaster the tail up against the top of the ponytail, against your head, leaving some curly tips in your hand hanging downwards. This is your small chignon, the traditional finish at the back of women's heads since the 1770s or perhaps even the late 1760s.

Here's an example of a short chignon, from 1796.

Detail from an album of largely
fashion prints. Fashion headdresses,
1796. British Museum, No. C, 4.1-468.

Now take a large hair comb (I have a large metal curved one for bridal use), and plunge it down into where the ponytail and the loop are held together. This holds the loop in place and allows the ends to fall over the top. This loop is what The Gallery of Fashion terms "the chignon turned up plain". Surprisingly, the hair holds well this way.

The chignon at the low back, held by a large, wide, bridal comb. Note that the chignon is supposed to be wide and flattened, nota narrow tube like a ponytail. Also note the curls at the back of the crown, dangling. This was at lunchtime, and in that
test I was able to create a fuller effect there than later that evening, after the curls had been squashed in a bun for hours.
Pull a few ringlets from the side back of the head down, as love locks, and you are done. You have a shortish 1790s hairdo.

To follow the picture a bit more exactly, take a curled ostrich plume (a doubled-and-sewn plume looks better), and spear it straight into the mass of hair at the side of your head, and underneath the bandeau. Pin it with a lightweight brooch to the bandeau. Lacking the brooch, pin the plume to the bandeau with a bobby pin, then add two wide-ended pins, one sunk horizontally into the hair pointing to the front of the head, and the other sunk horizontally into the hair but pointing towards the back of the head. The rounded end of each pin should encase the plume.

To be really en point, you should lightly powder your hair. In England, anyhow, this was common among a certain gentle set. I was going to, but realized it was 7:30 and I was out of time...the boys needed to get to bed!

About the Ensemble

The ensemble is half dress, for afternoon. I am wearing the "muslin" (Indian cotton voile) cross-front dress, to which I added a gathered and whipped neckline frill a few weeks ago to soften the neckline. The sleeves are also gathered in four places with thread to create a group of narrow puffs. This is seen occasionally around 1794-1796. I should have used doubled buttonhole twist for the gathering. Plain thread cannot take the strain and broke in a few spots. The sleeve ends were supposed to be lightly tied with yellow ribbon to leave small cuffs, but I cannot tie them myself, so I left them plain this time.

Under the dress is the lilac silk petticoat: it tints the dress skirt lightly.

Above the dress is the embroidered and spangled sleeveless spencer, which matches the petticoat. The two could be worn as a pair by themselves, if sleeves are added to the spencer.

Jewelry: a partial coral parure: necklace with yellow ties and coral hoop earrings.

The shawl is a matching red silk antique obi. Gloves are vintage tan kid and are the requisite elbow length.

The mix of lilac, red, and yellow accents would have been seen at that period: a coordinating mix of colors was appreciated.

The ensemble is fun to wear: it's full of life and color and sparkle. Worth the two-three years needed to bring it all together.

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.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Wafers, Oblaten, Oublies: Whatever Their Name, They're Delicious

A just-finished wafer.
It has been raining, and raining, and raining. It will continue to rain, rain, rain, for the largest part of another week. The last time I knew that the sun had shone brightly here was June 21, the day we left to visit family at the beach. By the morning of June 22, the thunder was crashing and water coming in torrents, and for all that trip, we made our beach outings and excursions between rains, and one time during a rain. That outing was spent entirely in the surf, where you could forget that anything was falling from the sky, since you were well and continuously splashed already.

It poured, on and off, the entire trip home to Kentucky. At one point, in North Carolina, bless their drenched hearts, my husband's phone made a series of high-pitched beeps, and it took us awhile to understand that it was his phone that was making the noise. He picked it up, to find a flash flood warning spread across the screen. He'd never seen one of those come in before. I've learned in the days since that NC has had more than its share of mudslides, pitched-over trees, washed-out roads, and floods.

Our state, so far, has just had plain, solid rain and a few downpours, and it has soaked into the soil, although a cast-iron manhole cover on Fontaine Road did burst up and wash down the street a few days ago, through the force of storm water trying to find a way out. It left a satisfactory pond with onlookers for about half an hour. I drove up to it, decided not to risk flooding my car, and took another route.

The ground is saturated now, and there is standing water in every low spot. This makes small boys happy, so we have two pairs of shoes under a fan in the basement, post-pond sloshing. If we get any more rain, we will join the misery of our neighboring states.

Where Are the Wafers?

You didn't read this far without wondering where in the Sam Hill the wafers come in. If you're a parent and suspecting, you're right, they came out of my need to occupy those two small boys. They've played reasonably happily for days, and every time there's been a glimmer of pale sun, or the rain isn't that wet, out we go, parents and children alike, to run and release pent-up energy. Hence the soaked shoes...

Anywhoo, I bethought myself of English biscuits, the barely sweetened, stamped type. If you keep up with Ivan Day's Food History Jottings, or the Ship's Bisket video from the 18th century bread series, courtesy Jas Townsend (such fun!), you'll have read about them. Have been wanting to try them out, and have some German gingerbread stamps, a gift from my sister in Wien, just begging to be used. Out came the computer to look up a useful recipe.

Selection of biscuits and wafers, from "Some
Regency Biscuits", in
Ivan Day's blog, Food History Jottings.
My boys saw the picture here, commented on the rolled wafers, and whoops! We took a sudden detour. Bye-bye biscuits, I have a wafer iron I've never used and those wafers sure look good. Today's the day! Now, off to find a recipe again.

After another short detour to watch (twice) a video about how Pirouline wafers are made in the factory, which the boys loved but made those wafers forever taste of factory to me -- a 100,000 made in an hour! -- we found the perfect recipe in Victoria Rumble's The Historic Foodie, another favorite blog of mine.

Wafers: Not Quite a Waffle offers us their history -- ladies in wimples and knights in armor munched them! -- and a solid, usable-sans-research-and-testing recipe.

Ivan Day offers recipes too, but he never "redacts" them to 21st century terms, saying in one post that the original recipes therein are quite clear. Sad to say, where I will search out filament silk and good linen thread for a garment, and spend hours handsewing a hem, and can fit in odd moments, cooking falls under the tyranny of tummies, tempers, and time, and in the company of family and their needs.

Therefore, thank you and bless you, practical Mrs. Rumble, because you have provided me with a recipe we can use right off the block, with joy and excitement. The tastes of centuries past were in our mouths today, and my my, were they delicious.  (Yes, yes, wafers are still made in small pockets here, and in Europe, but they're not everyday sorts of things for most of us anymore.)

Wafer-Making: Right on the Gas Flames!

Joy and excitement? But of course: these used to be cooked over embers, and today they were cooked over a bright-blue gas flame. Any small child is going to be excited about that, you know. Parents may gulp -- I did -- but we practice safety, and they followed the rules, and no accidents occurred, thank Heaven.



Victoria Rumble's recipe is not for a batter, but a dough. Better and better, no splats and splots, or dashes to the sink after being splashed with hot batter.

It mixes up easily, this dough, rests and gets chilly for 30 minutes, and is ready to go.

It's also easy to modify: the original was flavored with orange water and the zests of two oranges. Neither on hand, I used rosewater, a common flavoring in the past, and fresh-ground coriander, which is citrusy. It smelled realllly good. Rosy, said Christopher.

My iron dates, I guess, to the 1920s or 30s. I base this only on the brightly painted red wooden grips on the handles, the very classicizing Greek lyre pattern in the stamp (so 20s -- they did classical as well as Deco), and the aluminum of the iron itself. If I'm wrong, please let me know.

All we did was to grease it well, heat it a few minutes on top of the stove's gas flame, open it, and put in a roll of dough. A roll, because this is not a round iron, as so many are. Then, let it toast inside the iron.

A roll of wafer dough on the iron, ready to toast.

At first, it took about two minutes to toast a wafer, with a flip about halfway through, but as the iron heated up, it toasted wafers in about a minute.
Boys just love to squish the dough flat in the iron, and hold it over the heat. It's very elemental. I love to carry the iron to the cooling rack, flip the iron open and upside down, and watch the wafer slide out, pale fawn colored and oh! so fragrant. For awhile afterwards, the entire house, upstairs and downstairs, was just barely scented with the delicate odor of baked butter and flour, vanilla and rose. Entrancing, elegant, hunger-making!

Wafers, ready to nibble. The wafer's color on each side depends on how long it's toasted.
And beautiful. Try one of these, crisp, not heavily sweet, fragrant, with tea, coffee, whipped cream, or a glass of wine.

If you have or can find a wafer iron, do try making them. If it will sit flat, an iron could be used on an electric stove, and if it's steel, even a magnetic stove, and of course, there's the grill or hibachi or open fire. I suspect you could even use a tortilla press, although that might be a bit bulky, and there are no crispy ups-and-downs from the stamped pattern on a wafer made that way.

By the way, if you're planning an historically inspired tea, dinner or collation, variations of these little treats are appropriate from the Middle Ages right on through the present. I just may serve these at our next Georgian or Regency tea.

Before I Leave You...

Proof that it didn't rain at the beach the entire time, anyway. Here we all are on the Southport Ferry, heading in a stiff breeze towards that little town and some good homemade ice cream. Note the sunshine!



Happy munching!