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18th century, 18th Century Hairdressing Book, 18th century wigs, publications

18th C. Hairstyling Book – Houston we are GO!

Thanks SO much to everyone who gave me your feedback on the idea of an 18th century hair/wig-styling book!  I got a TON of positive, useful feedback and I really think it’s viable, so I am going to go for it!

I’m still crunching the data I gathered on the survey, and exploring options for images.  I’ve ordered myself a practice mannequin so I can work out the specific styles I want to do.
And there are some things I want to do a bit more research on, like caps — how ubiquitous were they?  Etc.

I even appreciate those who said they WOULDN’T buy the book, because that’s helpful to know!  It seems like those few are more interested in a book on 18th century techniques, which I agree are interesting, but I just don’t see myself (or the bulk of costumers/theater people) wanting to make pomade out of beef tallow and setting curls by baking hair on clay curlers in ovens.  It just doesn’t sound viable.  I’ll certainly be researching how they did it, and including information about that in the book.


My goal is to have the book ready to go for Costume College 2013!

And — what I’m going to do is use Kickstarter, which is a site that allows people to fund a project.  You can donate $1 or $500, depending on the various levels that I set it at.  Obviously I will have the basic “donation” be a discounted price on the book, and you’ll get a copy of the book at this discounted rate for pre-funding the project.  This way I can figure out the cost of the book and essentially pre-sell it… And the way Kickstarter works is that you figure out what your funding goal is, and if you don’t make that goal, nobody’s credit cards get charged — so basically you’d be buying the book, but if for any reason I can’t get enough people to buy a copy and the project falls through, you wouldn’t be out a cent.

So my plan is do more research and figure out hairstyles over the next couple of months, and hopefully do the real work with photography and writing over winter/spring.  I won’t start the Kickstarter pre-sale until I have things pretty firmly lined up with a finish date — so when a lot of the writing is done and I’m starting to work with models, and have a firm end date in site.  So, watch this space for lots more updates!

18th century, 18th Century Hairdressing Book, 18th century wigs, books, publications, research

18th Century Hairstyling Book?

So, a potentially crazy idea… A conversation at Costume College got me thinking about the possibility of writing a book on 18th century hairstyling (and makeup?) — using modern techniques to achieve a historically accurate look, working with your own hair, adding false hair, and wigs.  Now, this could be a lot of work, so it wouldn’t really be worth the time unless people would buy it.

Here’s what I picture:

  • Something along the line of Lauren Rennells’ fabulous book on vintage hairstyling
  • Start with some history, include lots of pictures and source material (if possible?  gotta look into that whole public domain images thing)
  • Go over some basic your-hair styling techniques, like ways to curl your hair, tease, etc.
  • Go over some semi-advanced wig/false hair styling techniques, like different ways to curl/straighten synthetic hair, ways to create volume, ways to create rolls, how to attach wigs/false hair to your head, how to match colors, how to not look like you’re wearing a Wig, how to adapt a wig for different hairlines, etc.
  • Step by step instructions that walk you through hairstyle for different eras — I picture 1-2 styles for each decade, with some info on variations
  • Hairstyles would be those worn in France and England (there’s some differences b/t the two, and lots of similarities) — the English stuff could be extrapolated to those doing American
  • Possibly 1-2 styles that are appropriate for lower/middle classes, but most would be upper class styles — I would talk about ways to tone things down if you’re doing middle class
  • Mostly I’m picturing this focusing on women, but it could also talk about men’s styles
  • Possibly including some brief info on creating an 18th c. makeup look using modern products
So, crazy idea or good one?  I’ve created a survey that I’d love if you would fill out so I can try to figure out 1) if there’s a market for such a thing, and 2) what specifics people would want.  Please feel free to share any thoughts in the survey or by commenting here — I wonder if people are concerned about geography, class, etc…. And my forte is NOT “here’s how this recipe from this 1764 beauty manual makes up,” so again, we’d be talking modern/theatrical techniques — would that work for you?
Please feel free to forward this survey around!  The more input I get, the clearer an idea I’ll have as to whether or not this is a viable idea.

Here’s the survey:

And, in case you aren’t a regular reader of this blog, here’s some examples of hairstyles and wigs that I’ve done:

18th century, publications

Late 18th C. Skirt Supports – Article on Foundations Revealed

I’ve been researching late 18th c. skirt supports — what were called in the period “bums” or “rumps,” and what many costumers call “bumrolls” — for a long time now.  I finally managed to write up my research and to create a bunch of prototype shapes to experiment with the shapes I’ve seen in the era and see how they look on real bodies.  I put this all together into an article for Foundations Revealed, the sister site to Your Wardrobe Unlock’d.  The article just went live this evening — check it out, if you’re a subscriber!

publications, research

I’m a Published Author: pt. 2

In my professional role I’m an academic librarian with faculty status, which means I get/have to do research. Luckily, I get to do it in an area I’m interested in (fashion in social history)! I’ve just had a scholarly article published, the second one to look at the role of fashion among the elite women who went to Smith College in the 1920s (you can read about the first article here).

This one is called “Fashioning the College Woman: Dress, Gender, and Sexuality at Smith College in the 1920s” and is in the most recent (March 2009) issue of the Journal of American Culture. Basically, it looks at the discussion/debates around the “meanings” of women’s fashion in the 1920s and how Smith students interpreted those meanings — looking at issues like the “New Woman” (fashion as progress) and sexuality (the eroticization of fashion in this era). Good times!

publications, research

Your Wardrobe Unlock’d – New Online Costuming Magazine

So I’m sorry to have gone totally AWOL around here! There’s been a death in my husband’s family, and during the last few weeks I have had to totally focus on that. It’s been exhausting and sad, but things are getting back to normal… only now I have only TWO WEEKENDS before Costume Con. I HAVE A LOT TO DO. I will stop yelling now. Maybe.

But I did want to give a shout out to a new project that I’ve been excited to participate in – Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, a new online magazine for costumers. It’s a subscription site that’s aimed at all of us costumers who want to improve our skills. I’ve been very impressed with it so far, enough so that I’ve contributed both by answering questions in the “Ask the Experts” column a few months ago, and now writing a series of articles on historical research. Right now, the first of these articles is posted, but there will be probably about three more, and I have to admit that I’m pretty pleased with how they are turning out. One of the things I don’t talk so much about on this site is all of the research I do, both for academic purposes but even more so for costuming purposes. I feel like I’m really distilling what I’ve learned over many years and degrees, so while I don’t mean to toot my own horn, I do think it’s a strong contribution and will be of interest to (hopefully?) many. Anyway, check out the site and see whatcha think.

Now I will go back to panicking about Costume Con sewing!


I’m a Published Author!

In my other life I’m an academic librarian with faculty status, which means I get/have to do research in order to get tenure. I’ve published a few fashion-related things (encyclopedia essays, book reviews) but I’ve just finally published my first REAL publication, a research journal article! So if you’re into what I’m into (the history of fashion from a social/cultural studies perspective), and you want to wander by a local library or randomly buy a copy from the Costume Society of America’s website, check out my article: “A Style All Her Own”: Fashion, Clothing Practices, and Female Community at Smith College, 1920-1929 in the 2005 (yes, just published) issue of Dress.

This article looks at fashion in the 1920s among women’s college students (at Smith College), looking both at how they acquired fashion (clothing and hair services) and the role that fashion played in the campus community. In case you’re interested, here’s the abstract: “An examination of the clothing practices and the role of fashion in the lives of Smith College students illustrates that despite cultural and conceptual changes, these women had more in common with prior generations than may have been previously assumed. While students did avail themselves of the new widespread accessibility of mass-produced fashion goods and spent time and money on hair services, professionally sewn and home-sewn garments still made up a large portion of their wardrobes. Although acquiring fashionable dress served as a tool with which Smith women competed with their peers, it also continued to be one means through which they preserved a supportive female community. As students shopped, sewed and dressed together with their classmates and their mothers, they forged female friendships, sustained family relationships, and created an identity as college women and, more specifically, Smith College women.”

I am working on another article based on the same research, but looking at how Smith College students interpreted the “meanings” of fashion (was it progressive? sexual?) and how that related to their conceptions of their personal and gender identity… but that one is still in peer-review land and will probably take me another three years to publish. I’ll let you know how that one works out!