Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: Hairstyles

~ Hairstyles ~

The real thing: genuine classical statuary.

Classical Greek and Roman statuary was the basic inspiration for all Regency hairstyles, particularly early ones.

Detail of an 1810 fashion plate.

In this 1810 fashion plate, you can clearly see the classical influence. It's also a nice reminder that if a section of your hair isn't long enough to stay up in a bun, you can just curl the short parts.

A miniature by John Wright, c. 1805, from Bonham's.

These swept-forward side-pieces are another way to use what you might have thought was too-short hair. You can also we how fluffy and disordered the back part of her hair is; this was popular in the early part of the Regency. So if your hair won't stay smooth, don't worry.

Mother and Child by A. Buck, 1808 (detail). From the V&A Museum.

For those of you with really short hair, don't despair. Comb it forward a la Titus and be the height of turn-of-the-(nineteenth)-century fashion.

Princess Augusta drawn by H. Edridge, 1802 (detail).

Yet another easy, early style that's great for short hair. Bandeaux of various widths were a hallmark of Regency hairstyling, and can be imitated by simply tying a scarf around your head and tucking in the ends. Curl anything that sticks out, and voila! It's a style.

Detail of Misses Harriet and Elizabeth Burney by John Smart, 1806.

This is an astonishing display of the same aesthetic of carefully planned "casual disorder" that led young ladies of this age to decorate their sitting-rooms with little tables set here and there in slightly unexpected places, accompanied by the oh-so-casually placed book, workbasket, etc.

I don't think it's actually as complicated as it looks. I think you could achieve something similar if you: divided out a small section of hair at the back of your head and braided it; coiled the remaining hair into a high bun; brought the braid around the bun, pinning in place as you went and tucking the end under the bun; and stuck a couple of gold hair-combs in at opposing angles.

Detail of Misses Harriet and Elizabeth Burney by John Smart, 1806.

This reminds me of nothing so much as one of those loaves that are really made of individual rolls of dough pressed together and baked, designed so you can pull a single roll off easily. She even looks as if she's had an egg wash.

I really haven't the faintest idea what she's done here, but the thing that could be easily emulated is the strand of tiny pearls wound through the 'do. They would be equally pretty wound through a regular bun, or incorporated into a braid that's then put up in a bun.

If you don't have an appropriate necklace to press into service, fabric stores sell seed-pearl trim by the yard very cheaply--and since it's lightweight plastic, it would probably be easier to put up and you wouldn't worry about accidental loss, or damage from hairpins.

A miniature, thought to be of Princess Charlotte. From Bonhams.

A rare no-curled-bangs look. This style is also unusual because the bun is so large and high up on her head. The advantage of a higher bun from the portraitist's point of view is that it shows up from the front. Low buns above the nape of the neck are very elegant, but invisible from head-on.

Think about the shape of your face when you decide where to put your hair and whether to do a central part or none at all. This hairstyle is hard to carry off unless you have the very "even features" so admired during the Regency. Bangs soften the face, and they also emphasize the eyes. This style tends to make long faces look very long indeed and short faces like mine look square.

A fashion plate from 1811.

This unusual plate lets you see both the front and back of the hairstyle.

From the front the decoration looks like a U-shaped headband, but at the back you can see that it either goes all the way around or at least goes into the bun. I'm not sure whether it's relatively stiff, like plastic, or a beaded fabric band. One stays put better, and the other is easier on the head. Either way, some sort of headband or scarf is very useful if you have little, wispy, escaping bits of hair around the face.

The back is an amazing sort of basket-weave effect. I don't think her hair is actually very long, because it's impossible to keep it that loose if the strands go on and on, over and under and wind up somewhere else.

I believe she is employing a comb at the top of the bun.

Jessamyn Reeves-Brown.

I actually have much longer hair than was fashionable during the Regency (it's down to my tailbone) so my solution involves a very tight bun. I think the scarf adds a lot to the Regency effect, and it's very easy to do. Probably the use of such bandeux was influenced by the fact that women were growing their hair out and needed to keep the short ends under control--in the previous decade, many had worn it very short indeed under a wig--and were reacting to a "big hair" period.

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