These days, it feels as though there’s always so much to do to keep your hair in top condition. You need to use the right shampoos and conditioners, the right protective treatments for heat styling, and more. That’s not even mentioning dying and cutting hair too.
Back in the Victorian era though, women were putting just as much effort into their hair, if not more. Over nearly 70 years of Victoria’s reign, there were a lot of changes to hair care and a lot of it is different to how you’d look after your hair today. Let’s take a look at what they did to stay fashionable.
The Longer, The Better
While styles did change over the years, it was seen that the longer your hair was, the better. You’ve probably seen photographs of women with long wavy hair, sometimes even touching the ground. There were even a group of sisters, named the Seven Sutherland Sisters, who were famed for their long hair. In fact, they has around 37 feet of hair between them.
They were a musical act in the 1880’s, wearing their hair down as they performed. They even sold their own range of hair care products, showing that celebrity endorsements were a thing even then. However, the bob came into style in the 1920’s, and they were considered very old fashioned then.
While the Sutherland Sisters wore their hair down on stage, it wasn’t the common thing to do. Little girls would wear their hair down, but women aged 16 and up were expected to put their hair up in up dos. ‘When women were photographed with their hair down, that was often to express intimacy within the photograph’ says journalist Lleyton Ware, from Brit Student and Write My X.
Caring For Victorian Hair
As women were growing their hair long, they of course had to take care of it. There were some modern solutions, such as giving hair trims in order to remove split ends. There were other methods though, that you’ll be glad were kept in the past.
For example, in the 1860’s it was common to boil bran in soft water, rub some white soap into the water, and then rub the mixture into the scalp with the corner of a towel. Women were often recommended to use egg yolk on their scalps too, to protect them.
Hair washing was recommended monthly, with ingredients such as borax, olive oil, and water. After you’d washed your hair, you needed to dry it out as water was thought to allow ‘disagreeable odors’ to arise from the hair. To dry it, you could brush powdered starch through it to remove that water.
With crimped and curled hair, it was important to set them so they wouldn’t come out on hot days. To do this, women would use a mixture of egg yolk and pomade to do so. It’s interesting to note that women’s bonnets were recommended to have oiled silk linings, to protect the bonnet from hair treatments.
Victorian Hair Styles Through The Decades
As the Victorian era was so long, hair styles evolved for women. Here’s a run down of what was popular at the time.
Usually, up dos were used as they were for ‘respectable’ women. The shape of the hair was important, as it would be taken into account with the rest of a woman’s silhouette. If a woman needed more volume, she would add false pieces made from human hair to create the look she needed.
‘Sometimes these hair pieces were known as “rats”, and were created from hair from the woman’s hairbrush’ says writer Samina Coffey, from 1 Day 2 Write and Origin Writings. ‘They would be packed into the hair, to add that volume.’
Hair was usually twisted into intricate styles, and the styles themselves changed over time. The sides of the hair were sometimes curled too. Over time barley curls, or ringlets, came into fashion. Up dos had padded sides, in order to match the width of the skirts that were fashionable.
As you can see, while a lot of Victorian hair care was very different to modern styles, there’s still some aspects that are relevant today. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of having long, wavy locks?
George J. Newton is a content writer, and business development manager for Academic Brits and Thesis writing service. He contributes to sites such as Buy coursework, too. His wife is his biggest supporter when it comes to his writing.