I made these wigs a year or two ago for Mary & Chris, two East Coast reenactors. Mary’s dress was made by Hallie of At the Sign of the Golden Scissors by the way — isn’t it beautiful?
18th century wigs
I still have at least two more posts to write about France, so I really should get busy! And speaking of wigs, I wanted to post about the wig I made for France.
Luckily, somehow, all of the projects to which I was drawn were right around 1780, so that made it easy — one wig to rule them all! I did contemplate making a grey wig for a more historically accurate look, but realized that a big trip like this wasn’t the time to take a risk — if I was going to have only one wig, I wanted to know the color would work on me.
Here’s my inspiration board, which I had up while I was making the wig:
My first try needed rework, which seems to always happen (yes, that advice is going in the book!), as it was TWICE as high as the final version. I almost went with it, then reminded myself that that wasn’t the era I was going for. Here’s how the wig turned out:
I have a vintage 1960s hatbox that I use for my wigs when I travel. The wig block never fits, so I stuff the head portion of the wig with plastic bags or newspaper or whatever is on hand, and if the wig isn’t as tall as the box, I do the same with any empty space. This wig was wide enough that I had to take off the rolls to pack it, but part of my plan was that I could move the rolls around for different looks, so that was fine. The other thing I planned was different ways to style the chignon (the back hair) and various hair accessories, to mix things up… didn’t want to get bored of wearing the same wig over and over!
Here’s the many ways I wore it:
First day with redingote, no hair accessories finished so nada, cadogan in back:
Evening look, with fake flowers pilfered from my room at the château (and returned), chignon looped up:
With purple ribbon and feather:
With ridiculous hat — I love the “floating hat” you get in this era!
With an organdy pouf, feather spray, and brooch for redingote rewears:
The rolls were looking a little shabby by the end of the trip (note to self, fix those up before CoCo!) but otherwise the thing made it through the whole trip!
It’s really really happening — the 18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step-by-Step Techniques book project is really starting to take shape! About half of the text is written, all of the historical images have been sourced, and I’m starting to line up models and buy supplies.
Here’s the blurb I’ve written up that summarizes the project:
18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step-by-Step Techniques is a book that combines meticulous research with easy to follow instructions that will help you create historically accurate hairstyles of the 18th century. The book includes a detailed history of men’s and women’s hair from 1700 to 1799: which styles were worn when, as well as how hair and wigs were styled. It provides practical techniques for styling hair and wigs that will be useful to anyone who wants to learn more about historical hairstyling, from beginners to advanced users. Step-by-step instructions show how to create 25 individual hairstyles — 22 for women, and 3 for men — that span the century, and suggestions are included for ways to vary the different styles.
The historical overview provides equal, in-depth coverage of men’s and women’s hairstyles and wigs from 1700 to 1799, focusing on France, Great Britain, and the American colonies/United States. The techniques will similarly be useful for both men’s and women’s styles. While a good deal of historical styling information is included, the emphasis is on modern methods and products that will achieve a historically accurate look.
This book is perfect for historical costumers and theater/film designers and craftspeople who want to create authentic-looking 18th century hairstyles and wigs. It will also provide a solid foundation and fun jumping-off point for anyone who wants to create historically-influenced fantasy styles!
I’ll be posting lots of info here, but the best way to keep up to date on the project is to follow the Facebook page and website:
Please help me get the word out about the project and share these links!
Okay, so finding the time to post is a lot harder than it looks. Not only are we playing dress up right and left, there’s all that relaxing to get to! So instead, here’s a few pics, with more content coming later:
(Yes, I am shamelessly stealing that post title from the talented Cathy Hay!)
Aiee, we’re here! In France! In an ancient chateau, originally 16th century but restored in the 19th century, and very appropriately eighteenth-century themed inside!
Here is the lovely Chateau de Pys, in the southeast of France near Toulouse:
And we’re having a blast. So far there have been sewing circles, cocktails, Eurovision final watching parties, yummy dinners…. and costumes! Most of us are here for two weeks, so we’re spacing out the costume events to basically every other day, so nobody hits the wall. It’s so lovely to BE in the place you’re going to be playing dress up — no hassle to get dressed and pop over — plus to then be able to put your pj’s on and have a late night, post-corset snack in the kitchen with everyone else! I could SO get used to this…
Our first costume event was a picnic lunch on the terrace/outside. It’s been drizzling on and off, so we set up the lunch buffet-style on an outdoor table. After food, we took TONS of photos, rambled about the grounds to see the nearby pond, woods, and lawns, played some ninepins, and lounged about on the steps. As I keep repeating, This Does Not Suck.
Tomorrow: details on my redingote and wig!
On Saturday, Lumieres (our 18th century role-playing group, for lack of a better description) held a dinner at the court of Catherine the Great of Russia… or Babushka restaurant in Concord! It’s a small restaurant out in the burbs, but perfect because the food was great, the staff were super accomodating (they even dressed up in loaner costumes!), and the decor (if you ignored the disco elements) was oldey-timey enough to look great by candlelight!
It was an absolute blast — everyone was literally resplendent in gorgeous gowns, fabulous wigs, and sparkling jewels. There was lots of in-character banter (my favorite), nice champagne, and flirting. Francis and I got together ahead of time and practiced the minuet, which we learned a few months back, and we performed it for the guests with only one false start!
I wore my this-old-thing black francaise. I was itching to do a c. 1780 super powdered wig like one of these Roslin portraits, so I set to work with a blond wig I had bought a while back, hoping powdering over blond would maintain some warmth and work better on my skin tone. Well, I can report that powdered blond hair is still blond — duller, yes, but still blond — which totally doesn’t work on me. So that wig will get finished and sold on Etsy! Instead I pulled out the 1760s tete de mouton wig I styled for the Vampire Ball, which actually fits the era of the dress better, and powdered that. So nothing new, just a slight tweak. In the candlelight, it ended up looking like this:
Although here’s a flash photo that shows the warts & all — I’m posing with Trystan’s fabulous husband Thomas:
We were welcomed by Catherine the Great herself:
And there was a LOT of scrummy scrummy costumes:
You can see the rest of my photos on Flickr!
In doing research for my 18th century hair/wig-styling book, I’m coming across a lot of weird and/or hilarious bits of info that aren’t going to fit into the book. So this is just a random accumulation of bits and bobs that are making me laugh!
Did you know…
- “Dildo” was a 17th century term for the sausage corkscrew curl of a man’s wig
- In the 1860s there was an attempt to scare women off of wearing their hair in chignons by claiming there was a particular “chignon fungus” you could catch by wearing that hairstyle
- There was a Russian hairdresser working in London in the 18th century named Ivan Peter Alexis Knoutscheffschlerwitz
- There were dog wigs marketed in the 1960s
- Mono-brows were fashionable in classical Roman times as well as in the Arab world (not sure exactly which periods, but I know it was fashionable in the Ottoman Empire in the 17th-18th century)