Manual of Ladies Hairdressing

It’s interesting reviewing a piece of history such as this. Manuals can tell a lot about the time period they were written in. Not only does one get a glimpse of what constituted the standard craft of the time, but the style of a manual can give you a greater sense of what the expectations and assumptions the writer of the time made on his or her audience. Such is the case with this particular manual.

Stating that the contents of this manual are a little out of date would be a supreme understatement. Hailing from 1899, the styles detailed in this manual are far from in vogue. I doubt very many hair dressers would find clients interested in these elaborate hair styles.

Yet, there is something very interesting in how the manual is presented and an inherent, anachronistic charm, to hair styling instructions such as:
“To make the Virgin bandeau, divide the hair, by a front parting, in two equal portions; make a plait on each side, well smoothing down the hair from the temples to the ears. The plaits may either fall down over the shoulders, or be pinned up at the neck, chignon shape. Another way is to make a front-parting, and cross-parting, and a fastening. It is sufficient to smooth the front hair down; bring up the ends as high as the ears and pin on to the fastening, and arrange a chignon.”

Despite the lack of helpful illustrations, some styles being illustrated while other, inexplicably, are illustration free, this passage says a lot about the audience. There is no step by step layout akin to contemporary how-to books. Instead, the diction is authoritative and conversational, as if one was watching a mother in action or a television show.

Again, one shouldn’t expect to come away from reading this manual with an arsenal of new hair styling tricks. Instead, some to this antique manual for an appreciation of the evolution of the craft and a look back in time to some of the Victorians cosmetic norms.

Author: Maegen

My name is Maegen and I work in the Customer Service department for Frankel's Costumes. Most of my knowledge for costumes comes from anything ranging from movies, video games and cartoons to period studies and literature. Oh, and I am a nerd.

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