This information was gathered for our talk at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY July 9 and 10, 2011. It is meant to serve as a brief overview of the hairstyles in the Regency and is by no means a definitive guide.
Ladies’ Regency Hair – A Brief Guide to Characteristics and Techniques
prepared by Heather Fleming of the Custom Wig Company
Regency hairstyles were very simple and natural – arguably the most “Down-to-Earth” style of hairdressing from the earliest days of hairstyling to the 20th Century. The century leading up to the Regency era was marked by increasingly extreme hair styles for both men and women, resulting in complicated, exaggerated and unnatural hair and wigs.
After decades of growing artificiality, it is hardly surprising that women would be quick to adopt the new, simple hair and clothes – within the space of a decade, hair went from massive to minimal – the inspiration for this style has its roots in the Neo-Classic movement of the late 18th/early 19th century which looked to ancient Greece for its philosophy, culture and aesthetic. These Neoclassic lines are clearly visible in ladies coiffures.
Typical Characteristics of Women’s Hairstyles
Suggestions for Recreating Regency Hairstyles with Your Own Hair
Regency hair is an almost universally flattering style that is simple to adopt. Begin with a soft but defined part at the center of the head Sweep the bulk of the hair into a bun on the back crown of the head. Secure the bun loosely with large bobby pins. For maximum security, criss-cross bobby pins in pairs to lock the pins together. Pull loose waves or strands of hair around the face – these can be left as they are or curled using a very small barreled curling iron. To help shape the curls around the face, discreet bobby pins can be used to hold tendrils in place.
For a more complex style, you can use rollers to set your hair. Hair will need to be fully dried, so ensure you have plenty of time. You’ll need small foam curlers or bendable foam rods, a spray bottle of water and a can of mousse. The smaller the roller, the smaller and tighter the curl will be, likewise, the larger the roller, the looser the curl – if you prefer waves to curls, use fewer, larger curlers.
Begin by parting hair in the center. Make another part from ear to ear (front to back). Sweep the back portion of the hair up into a ponytail and secure with an elastic. Once the hair is secured into the pony tail, dampen the ponytail with water and work a small amount of mouse into it. You can also make a simple setting gel by combining water, rubbing alcohol and hair gel (the proportion is ⅔ water with the other ⅓ being equal parts gel and alcohol). You need the hair to be damp but not wet – hair requires minimal moisture to achieve a set and using a “damp set” will allow hair to dry more quickly. Roll the tail onto the curlers – use more curlers if you desire a large number of tiny curls – use fewer curlers if you prefer a smaller number of curls.
Once the ponytail is rolled , mist the front hair and work mousse or setting gel in – again, it is not necessary for the hair to be very wet. Beginning at the top of the part, roll a piece of hair onto the curler – take a section of hair no wider than the curler and not more than ¼” thick. You will roll the hair so that the roller is under the piece of hair when it reaches the scalp. Continue rolling the hair in this manner until all of the hair is rolled. Repeat on the other side. If you want a large amount of curls, use more rollers with smaller pieces of hair – for smoother waves, use fewer, larger rollers.
Your hair will need to dry completely before being removed from rollers – because you are only dampening the hair rather than working with saturated hair, the drying time will be greatly shortened and the curl will set better. You can also use a blow dryer to speed up the drying time.
Once the hair is dry, remove the pony tail curlers and arrange the curls in whatever shape you like – secure the curls with bobby pins. Then remove the curlers from the front of the head – use your fingers to smooth and arrange the waves and curls to your liking. Combing the hair will result in waves, while leaving it mostly untouched from the curlers will produce a fuller, curlier style. You can arrange the front hair to your liking, pulling some forward to arrange around the face and pulling some back and pinning into the bun.
If your hair is short, or you wish to simplify your styling, you can also use wigs or hairpieces which are pre-styled and need only to be pinned onto your head. These are available from wig shops or can be custom made to match your hair color and texture. Pieces can be a quick and effective way to enhance your Regency hairstyle. The Custom Wig Company produces a variety of add-ons, from small clumps of curls to buns to full wigs.
Appropriate ornaments include ribbons, bandeaux, feathers, caps and turbans.
Lucy Barton – Historic Costume for the Stage
Francois Boucher – 200000 Years of Fashion
Katell Le Bourhis – The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815
The Custom Wig Company has a facebook page where we showcase current projects, post hair and wig trivia, and generally try to interact with people interested in hair and wigs. The CWC also has a Twitter account where we share links to articles on hair, wigs, history, literature and more, as well as sharing other updates and information with followers.
The text is copyrighted to Heather Fleming
A fitting quote from Lucy Barton on Regency clothing and hair from her book Historic Costume for the Stage
“The girls in “Pride and Prejudice” followed one of the prettiest, most maidenly fashions ever arrived at by the often absurdly clad feminine portion of mankind. “
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