Thursday, September 14, 2006

Civil War Ladies' Hairstyles and Hair Accessories

When I first became a Civil War reenactor, I had a lot of misconceptions about how women wore their hair back then. Most of this misinformation, I have to admit, came from Hollywood's inaccurate portrayals of women of the period.
Just don't get me started on blue eyeshadow!
One of the biggest mistakes I myself made as a newbie reenactor, was to buy a snood for my hair. I found out later that snoods didn't exist at the time of the Civil War even though these items are sold by Civil War period sutlers. The snood came into fashion around the 1940s.
What was worn during the Civil War was a hairnet. And not all women wore these. There were two types--one was made of very fine netting that matched a woman's haircolor. The other type was a decorative net composed of strips of ribbon, velvet or other braided material with beading woven in. This second type of hairnet was worn, as a bonnet was, to conceal the hair.
For an everyday look, women of the period wore their hair neatly confined. Not one strand was to be out of place. During the 1860s, people didn't wash their hair as often as we do today. Women also used sweet scented oils or pomades to slick their hair down. Then they wound it into a bun and pinned the hair in place.
A round, wide face was the ideal during this time period. Women tried to achieve this look by parting their hair down the center, slicking it flat on top, pulling it to the back and securing it with pins into a bun at the back of the head. Older women wore their buns higher on the back of the head, while young women wore theirs low on the nape of the neck. Women of this period never wore bangs.
At balls and formal affairs, other styles commonly worn were elaborate braids arranged around the head, sausage curls or ringlets. The key was to keep the ends of the hair out of sight. Meaning a woman in period attire with her long hair hanging down her back would be very inappropriate. This look was for the bedroom only. Little girls wore their hair in braids.
Women also rolled their hair on the sides to create more width. Another trick to achieve width was to collect hair from brushes, roll it into a potato-shape and pin it to the sides of the head.
For more information on women's hairstyles:


Alena said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Nina said...

Your blog is very informative, keep up the good work!

Danielle said...

I have also been a Civil War reenactor since childhood,and though I agree with many things you stated about how hair was worn, I humbly beg to differ about the ever so infamous "snood". If you would like to learn more, a friend of mine has a very extensive CDV collection, and has a wonderful website displaying some. Perhaps you would be interested? You may have ordered from her in the past. :)

Grandma Retch said...

I have to disagree with your statement about snoods. I teach women's history, and my studies have included fashions over the centuries. Snoods have been used by women since before the Renaissance period, and certainly were used in the Civil War era. You can call them hairnets if you wish, but the patterns and uses were the same. Yes, they became quite popular during the 1940s, but they've been around for a very, very long time.

Anonymous said...

It is good but Wikipedia is a no no. It is not a reliable source as anyone can go and edit it and put whatever they want. As a historian I do not recognize wiki in any form. Good blog!

Anonymous said...

I agree! Many women of the Renaussance wore them and can recognizable by many royals n upper to middle classes