"Mr and Mrs Charles Henry Carter" Attributed to Nicholas Biddle Kittle, ca. 1840. Here is domestic bliss, the husband quiet and studious, his wife gentle and devoted. Parlor has the intensity of a dollhouse. Nothing is done in this house without deliberation; when there is a child, its doll will be chosen with the same care. (Museum City of New York)... John Noble
From the late 1830s to the mid 1860s women commonly wore their hair parted in the center, looped or draped in front of the ears and neatly bunned into a low chignon at the nape. This style was modest and neat, emphasising the width rather than height of the face, and was often worn with a lace cap. Queen Victoria and Melanie Wilkes (in the 1939 Gone With the Wind film adaptation) both wore this iconically demure hairstyle.
A variation on the theme was to add a real or false braid across the top of the head, just visible in front of the cap or hat brim.
In the 1870s women wore ringlets at a ball. The hair was curled and arranged at the crown, with longer ringlets falling down the nape of the neck; often false curls would be added to the updo to increase its bulk. The front hair could be pulled straight back, parted in the center or worn as short curled bangs.
Conta & Boehme shoulder heads showing elaborate styles and hair ornament similar to plate below ca. 1860's
First Century Roman Woman statue shows ringlet's popularity even thousands of years ago.
“Pride and Prejudice” Curls
Although Jane Austen’s novel was set very late in the 1700s, the hairstyles from the BBC adaptation are appropriate for the early 19th century as well. A variation on the Queen Victoria look, this style emphasises the width of the face. The hair is center-parted and worn in bunches of ringlets at the temples, while the back hair is worn in some kind of chignon at the crown of the head.
In the Mirror of Graces, a Lady of Distinction writes….Now, easy tresses, the shining braid, the flowing ringlet confined by the antique comb, or bodkin, give graceful specimens of the simple taste of modern beauty. Nothing can correspond more elegantly with the untrammeled drapery of our newly-adopted classic raiment than this undecorated coiffure of nature.
During this period, the classical influence extended to hairstyles. Often masses of curls were worn over the forehead and ears, with the longer back hair drawn up into loose buns or Psyche knots influenced by Greek and Roman styles. By the later 1810s, front hair was parted in the center and worn in tight ringlets over the ears.
Ringlets have been popular for thousands of years, since some woman first realized that by gently heating a rod with a candle's flame and wrapping hair around it, she might not burn her hair off, and she just might get a gentle feminine curly ringlet. Then, of course, she realized that she'd need a maid or two to maneuver around her entire head and keep a series of rods warming and at-the-ready to create a head full of ringlets.
Artist Rolinda Sharples wears her hair in a mass of curls; her mother wears a sheer indoor cap,
The most widely used hair preparations of the century were Macassar oil and brilliantine, whose functions were to give hair shine. In general, hair fashions changed faster as news traveled faster from one country, and even continent, to another. The simplicity of the smooth, center-parted styles worn by women in the Victorian era lasted until the 1870s, when the Parisian hairdresser Marcel Grateau created a new, natural-looking wave by turning a curling iron upside down. The Marcel wave remained popular for almost half a century and helped usher in a new era of women's waved and curled hairpieces, which were mixed with the natural hair. Another major innovation at the end of the 19th century was the invention in 1895 of the safety razor by an American, William Gillette. Barbers now concentrated on cutting hair and trimming beards and mustaches, and a new age of at-home grooming practices began.