The expression, "a woman’s crowning glory" had its origins dating back to the Victorian Period. But ironically, women's hair during this era of romance and feminine mystery was often severely damaged from the relentless use of hot irons. Hair became scorched and often had an unpleasant odour that had to be masked with heavy perfumes.
It was not uncommon to have ones hair reduced to a wool-like texture. Hair was never cut except in cases of serious illness. The simplicity of the smooth, center-parted styles worn by women in the Victorian era lasted until the 1870s, when the Parisian hairdresser M. Marcel Grateau created a new, natural-looking wave by turning a curling iron upside down.
In 1872, Marcel had introduced his famous Marcel wave using a heated iron that imitated the natural curl of the hair. Hot tongs were applied to produce a curl rather than a crimp. Done at intervals over the head, the hair would assume the look of moiré. It revolutionized the art of hairdressing all over the world. 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.
Curly hair was meant to indicate a sweeter temperament, while straight-haired girls were considered reserved or even awkward. A woman's hair was profoundly important to the overall effect she was able to make. Reaching the age when the hair could be put up was a rite of passage in her life, and often there were several interim stages, where a plait would be loosely put up with a ribbon, to signify the coming event.
The Gibson Girl look became immortalized by the stage idol, Lillian Russell.