Friday, August 21, 2009

Hairstyle Tutorial: A 1909 Edwardian Coiffure

At long last, a tutorial showing you how to create a popular 1909 hairstyle, a sort of modified "Grecian" look.

As always, please click on the images for larger-size versions

This coiffure's front silhouette is wide, with large-ish puffs to each side, rather flat on top. From the side it looks large too, because the back hair is gathered into a big coiled bun. The style came into being, so newspapers of the day reported, in response to the ever-increasing dimensions of fashionable hats. The wide, flat coiffure was necessary to balance the contraption on the top of one's head. The Pompadour hairstyle of the earlier Edwardian era simply didn't have the width needed, and the high top would be squashed by the hat.

Photo: the circa 1909 coiffure I wore to this summer's Edwardian picnic; focus on the hair, not my silly expression.

Below I offer both a tutorial for creating the hairstyle on your own, and afterwards some historical background on Edwardian hair trends, and leads to period articles that describe how to put this sort of coiffure-- and other popular styles -- together!

A Tutorial: Creating the Coiffure

I have bobbed hair with a bit of a shag cut and a few bangs on one side, so this tutorial assumes that you do not have lots of hair to work with. If you do, you can make your own coil of hair for the back section of the coiffure rather than use a hairpiece, and if you do not want too much puffiness at the sides, you will have enough hair to create the look without resorting to hair rats to hold out the sides. If you want a fuller style, long hair or not, you will need a pair of rats. Details on those below.

Photo: my model style, a very restrained version of the popular coiffure. From the Photo Detective site.

  • Your hair, preferably at least a day after its last wash
  • 25+ hairpins of the loose type, not the tightly closed type
  • a pair of hair rats (how to make covered below)
  • a clip-on ponytail (about a foot long) hairpiece in as close to your hair color as you can get
  • 1-2 hair bands to hold a ponytail
  • Tight-hold hairspray
  • comb
  • brush
Make the Hair Rats

Hair rats are pads over which the hair is smoothed and which give it a puffed-out silhouette. Rats have been used for ages; and were very popular during the Edwardian period, having been extensively used to make variations of the Pompadour coiffure.

Rats seem to look, typically, like a long sausage or a slightly flattened sausage.

You can make a rat with a hairnet into which you stuff pieces of stockings, but the more accurate method is to stuff the hairnet with well-washed combings from your own hair. Victorian and Edwardian women kept hair-receiver containers just for this purpose. It took me several months to get past the (to me, considerable) ick factor, until I realized that many hairpieces are made with real hair, and that this hair is mine, and well washed. After that, it took me about 4 months to save enough hair from my brush to make the ratts.

When you have collected three good hanks of hair the size of your fist or so, divide the amount in half, wash it very well, and dry it.

Then wad one half up and stuff it into a hairnet, wrapping the hairnet opening around it until it's all held tightly and won't fall out. Shape it into a slightly flattened sausage; mine came out about 6 inches long. Do the same with the other half of the hair. Voila: a pair of rats.

Assembling the Coiffure

Here below is an overview of the steps you will take to create the look:

So, here we go.

First, comb out your hair.

Then, pin one rat to the side of your head as in the image above. You will need five to eight pins: pin through the rat and deep into your hair, pinning all four sides of the rat with at least one pin each. Pin well, because you do not want the rat to slip.

Above is the rat pinned in place.

Pin your bangs or front-most hair towards the other side of your head to keep it out of the way.

You will next smooth sections of your side hair up and over the rat, tucking the ends into the top back of the rat. Take a section, as in the image above, and smooth it around and over the rat. Tuck the ends under the rat as well as you are above. Pin right there at the tuck to hold it; you may need more than one pin if your hair is slippery.

The image above shows two sections of hair that have been smoothed and pinned into place. You can see that the back of the rat has yet to be covered.

Spray a little hairspray on the results if you are happy with them, and if your hair seems to need it.

The image above shows one rat completely covered; over my forehead is the front hair pinned out of the way.

The image above shows the side hair tucked under the rat. You may have to look closely to see some of the pins.

Next, take the front hair that has been pinned out of the way, and coil it or tuck it as best you can into a sort of smooth puff that integrates with the rat. This is not necessarily easy on first try.

Now, place the second rat on the other side of your head, and repeat the process.

The above shows the resulting effect. Depending on how you set the rats, you can get a much wider effect. Here, I set them fairly far back, so the side puffs are quite restrained. For the picnic, I set them closer to the front and so had a much wider effect.

Now for the back hair. You may not have much left. I did not. I combed it and gathered it into a small ponytail on the back of my head and secured it with a hairband. This little lump will hold the ponytail hairpiece.

Comb out your ponytail hairpiece.

Open the jaw clip and clip it to your own ponytail. The hairpieces I have seen have great big, long jaws, so they create quite a large lump. This is good.

Then, coil the hairpiece ponytail around the jaw into a large bun, and pin. It may take five plus pins to do this, and that is fine. You want a good hold.

Next time I make this hairstyle, I will pin create my own ponytail farther up the back of the head and set the hairpiece farther up too, since most Grecian coiffures featured the bun set almost parallel with the back crown of the head...a better hat support.

Above you see the bun pinned in place.

Spray with hairspray to hold the coiffure in place.

Above you see the final coiffure from the side. Again, I would have set the bun up quite a bit higher, and on the day I went to the picnic, it WAS up higher. The image below shows how the more correct coiffure looked after a day at the picnic. A little messy, but intact!

1909 Coiffures: Some Historical Background and Leads to Period Styling Articles

"New Coiffure Is Flatter", read a Sunday headline in the New York Sun, in December, 1909. "The Exaggerated Pompadour No Longer Modish". This and similar headlines all year long all announced a great change in ladies hairstyles after the relatively long reign of the tall, poufy Gibson Girl pompadour with which we nowadays often associate most of the era. That coiffure and its variations were created by smoothing the hair over sausage-like rolls, rats or specialized supports made of wire or other materials.

Photo: The offending early Edwardian pompadour could actually be a sweet hairstyle, as this happy young lady shows. Do click the source link to see the full set of portraits of this delightful young person. (Hugh Mangum photographs: N489.)

Here is how the Sun put it in that somewhat snarkily penned article:

"[T]he average having much to try her patience, for a coiffure revolution has been sweeping over fashion's world, and last year's false hair is languishing in the bureau drawer or being made over at the hairdressers. For one blessing women may give thanks. The exaggerated pompadour and the innumerable boldly false puffs which have distorted the feminine head in recent seasons and have been raised to the nth degree by the type of girl or woman prone to extremes are likely to disappear from the horizon." The article goes on, "The sides are flattened, the top is flattened, and any protuberance that asserts itself is at the back..." ("New Coiffure is Flatter". The Sun, December 12, 1909.)

Newspapers agreed that new hats revolutionized -- and that is the term that was thrown about -- revolutionized the hair landscape.

"The new fashions are partly the result of the semiclassic influences in the present modes and partly a response to the demands of the new millinery. The mass of hair extending out from the back of the head above the neck is to fill in that great cavern which exists under the brims of many of the new hats.

The pompadour in a modified form still holds its popularity. It is much lower now in front than of old and very broad from side to side. The hats are also responsible for this development.

For faces of a certain type the hair is parted in the middle and brought back in a softly waving mass on each side to the heavy puffed rolls behind. The style is new and very popular..." (
"Fashion's Commands in Coiffures"; San Francisco Sunday Call, 1909.)

In general, it appears most 1909 styles (other than the modified pompadour, seem based on a pompadour that has been squashed and split. The hair is now parted, as described above, in the middle, "Madonna" style, and sometimes the side, and is waved out from the sides of the head, while the back hair is arranged in a large mass or masses, nearly parallel with the crown of the head.

Photo: a typical sample of the middle-parted style, which the site Photo Dectective, out of Britain, calls the "Hatpin hairstyle".

Some newspaper articles averred that rats or hair cushions to hold out the sides were quite out, replaced by freshly washed, fuzzy, hair backcombed to give the width, and wisps smoothed over for a finished look. Other articles suggested the familiar rats.

As one might expect, within the broad outlines of this silhouette, there were lots of variations. Articles commonly noted that ancient Greece provided the ultimate fashion source, and at this time high waists, slimming lines, and Greek decorative patterns were indeed high fashion. Styles with names like the Psyche knot featured bandeaux wrapped around the head and Grecian-styled combs and hair jewelry seemed quite popular.

Photo: "Greek Coiffure in Vogue", published in The Sun, describes modish new styles.

There were coiffures described as a "turban", constructed usually of long hairpiece switches that were wound round and round the head and in and out of combs, for a sleek wrapped result.

Other modish, fancy styles required the "flat as a pancake" top and wide sides, with a fall of puffs at the back, achieved sometimes with small pre-puffed hairpieces, sometimes with a woman's own hair waved using the Marcel process or "water-waved". Read about the latter, uncomfortable-sounding process on in the very fine article "The New 'Unstudied' Coiffure", from the The Morning Examiner, Utah, Sunday, April 4, 1909. Yet other styles, like the Billie Burke, were named for celebrities.

Particularly style-conscious writers tended to deride the old fashion, as fashionistas so often tend to do, while articles tuned more, dare I say, to reality, suggested modified styles. These articles are particularly fascinating as they address the needs of readers of all ages and features, suggesting options and using ordinary-looking women as models, something we rarely see today in the popular press, except in Good Housekeeping type magazines, perhaps, or articles specially self-consciously focusing on real women.

Photo: An illustrated article from The San Francisco Sunday Call showing modified styles for all kinds of women.


For this article I have focused mainly on two resources: daily newspapers and portraits. The articles in particular are lots of fun to read and some are tutorials for making particular styles! I also referred to a costume text for some sense of trends.

"Arranging the Hair: Widely Different Effects Produced by Different Coiffures"
New York Tribune (New York, NY), April 25, 1909.
Terrific article showing how different styles affect the look of the same model.

"Coiffure Styles Show Great Changes".
The Paducah Evening Sun, march 17, 1909.
Good overview.

Costume in Detail: 1730-1930. By Nancy Bradfield. Great Britain, Eric Dobby Pulishing, 1968.
In this book Nancy includes sketches from photos and newspapers and you can watch trends in clothing and hairstyles go by.

"Fashion's Commands in Coiffures".
The San Francisco Call, March 28, 1909.
Excellent article describes modified styles for all ages and features, with tips on achieving them.

"Greek Coiffure in Vogue"
The Sun. (New York, NY), February 21, 1909

Hugh Mangum Photographs, (ca. 1890)-1922.
Duke University.
Portrait proofs, group portraits, and a few landscapes. Terrific resource for understanding small-town America as represented in North Carolina. However, the photos aren't dated, so you have to work with the costume details and hairstyle details to get a good sense.

"New Coiffure is Flatter"
The Sun (New York, NY), December 12, 1909.
A treat to read, if snarky.

"The New 'Unstudied' Coiffure", from the The Morning Examiner, Utah, Sunday, April 4, 1909.
The Morning Examiner (Ogden, UT), April 4, 1909.
Unstudied? It takes trip to the hairdresser to do most of this work...

"A Plain Coiffure"
The Citizen, (Berea, KY), December 2, 1909
A tutorial for a coiffure thatis quite doable!

Photo Detective: Facts from British family Photographs, 1901 to 1953.
British website. Helpful for photo dating. It is unclear whether the names the author gave the hairstyles are his own names or were current in Britain at the time.

"Psyche Coiffure"
The Citizen (Berea, KY), October 28, 1909.
A tutorial! You will need hair rats and so on, but what a nice effect!

Edited to add, 01/20/2014
From a year earlier, and a French magazine, but clearly showing the trends to come Stateside:
"Nouveau Genres de Coiffure". Le Miroir des Modes, 1908.  Translated from French. English title New Types of Coiffures for Ladies and Young Girls. On the blog A Most Beguiling Accomplishment, by Cassidy.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Midsummer Scenes

Midsummer sings the song of water, filling wheelbarrows, falling from watering cans, falling in sheets from the sky, falling into the sink to clean dirty faces.

We explore the water in a wheelbarrow Mama has filled for us.

We fill our watering cans, and empty them on thirsty plants, in buckets, on the cement, anywhere that seems to need it. Mama tied the hose to the wheelbarrow to discourage disputes over who gets to control it, and encouraged sharing and taking turns. It worked pretty well for us: sharing is not always easy but we like to take care of each other.

Mamaw lets us water her flowers with big watering cans out at the farm. We go back and forth to the pump with Mama. The flowers look thirsty even though we hear Mama and Mamaw compare notes on rainfall...over four inches in a week and a half!

On days that threaten rain we draw shapes in pudding and Brittany teaches us alphabet letters in it. Who knew you could eat what you learn? Then it's off to the sink to de-stick-ify...

So that is a taste of midsummer. Watery or pudding-y, it's a good time to be two.