Saturday, February 28, 2009


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 was known as the century's first pin up. First sketched by Charles Dana Gibson in 1902, this imaginary woman was to represent the ideal woman. She became known as the liberated young woman with the characteristic upswept hairdo. Created using a combination of the Marcel wave and postiche, the Gibson Girl look was to last a quarter of a century. The hair style consisted of a soft pompadour, puffed for a cloud effect, rolled from temple to temple over a horsehair rat to give it the width that went well with a tiny waist.

The Gibson Girl look became immortalized by the stage idol, Lillian Russell.


Salzanos said...

What a interesting post! I love to learn things like this. The song playing is one my husband plays a lot! ;-)

Vickie said...

Love the post on hair. It is really interesting to read about the different irons and how hair affects how people look at you.

kimberly said...

i was raised in a religion that did not believe in cutting hair for that very reason....and i grew up wearing the gibson girl look most of my early adulthood! :).....great post, patti.

A Dancing Mango said...

Such and interesting segment you are doing.. I look forward to reading these! thank you..
Hugs, Darlene

A Stitch In Thyme said...

WHAT AN INTERESTING and INFORMATIVE post. THank you for sharing with us. Given that I have a LOT of hair, I should be saving it all eh?

How fun was this reading? THank you for having me.