Musings of a Lady

Monday, September 21, 2015

La Coiffeur: Can a modern easy hair cut work for The Regency Era?

Unlike my friends back east and in Europe, California does not have an abundance of Regency era events or venues.  However, we do our best creating ways to exercise our love and interest in the Regency Era.  Recently, a few friends and I went to the coast and had a walk on the beach after a lovely meal at the Pelican Inn, in Muir Beach, California.  The Inn is a replica of a 18th century coaching inn and is a good setting for many eras of dining.

Creating Regency Era fashions has become an passion for me.  My trip to Bath, England for the Jane Austen Festival in 2014 was a brilliant and special trip for me.  In fact, I plan to return and attend the festival in 2016!  The biggest challenge I have had in dressing like a Regency lady, is my hair - what to do with it?  I have very fine, frizzy, curly hair, if left to its natural state.  I have, like many women of color, flat ironed and used chemicals to straighten and then curl my hair order for it to look like my sisters of European decent. As I have gotten older, I have gotten really lazy about my hair.  I want to wake up and or little to no fiddling with it but look good!   I have also learned to embrace my hair as naturally beautiful and that it doesn't need to be 'changed'.  Yet, as a historical costumer I want to 'look' period appropriate for my class and station to be depicted and yet, I need a hair style to wear day-to-day that is manageable and looks nice.  What to do?

In my recent research on the internet I found one solution.  A hair style that in the Regency Era was call the 'Titus cut'.   Look at a page from the Wilcox Hats and Headdress book - one of the first costume books I owned way back....well, way back.  The hair style on the upper right corner is called 'a la Titus'.

Wilcox's Hats and Headdress - Chapter 12 - Directoire 1795-1799
I looked for portraits to confirm that this was a style that was done and not an isolated image.  Lo and behold I found a gold-mine of images, these are my favorite:

Madame Arnault de Gorse Author : Boilly Louis Léopold (1761-1845) 

 Sophie Cahou - Constance Charpentier - 1801

Lady with short cropped hair and coral necklace, French, 1820

Carl Hummel de Bourdon, Princess Carolath-Beuthen, 1809
Portrait of a Woman 1807-10 by Gioacchino Giuseppe Serangeli

The last 3 portraits I love and have become my 'ideal' for short locks.  Although, the portrait below is one, I would dearly like to achieve!  Madame looks amazingly elegant and sophisticated!  
Jean-Laurent Mosnier. Portrait of Countess Sophia Stroganoff. 1808

I have a year to play with the possibilities in short hair styles before JAF 2016. This summer, I started playing with my hair to create a manageable style that would work for my Regency persona.   On the first attempt, a bob was the result.

This style actually looked great but was a lot of work to get the curls right and all not frizz up when there was moisture in the air.  If I slept on it I looked like a wild woman from Bedlam...Uh, no thank you.

For the jaunt to the Muir Beach, I flat ironed the front and pinned curled my fringe.  Lots of bobby pins were used to get it to stay, ouch!  It looked okay but the styling looked a bit 'wiggy' to me and a also, too matronly.  Well, I am close to 60 years old...but not going there if I an help it!  

This past weekend, I took the plunge and now I am shorn for sure!  A la Titus happened!  The late summer heat makes this style very nice.  It is easy to maintain for my mundane, non-historical lifestyle and if I work with it, I can achieve the pretty, pixie look of the Regency Era, right?

This selfie was done right after I got the cut done.  I was feeling pretty good.  Then it was, what of my head-gear that I have already would work?  So, home I went and tried on bonnets, turbans and caps.

Trial with the turban you saw in the above pictures when my hair was longer in front.

With a cap.  Mmmmm...I think I need a different style cap or just not go with caps?

Cap and bonnet.  That bonnet needs some work, too.

Indeed, I will need to work on this little project over the coming months.  I want to let it grow out a bit on the sides and front...just a bit. What do you think?  That way I can match my 'ideal' looks above.  I will also look into turbans and head-wraps which I also found in fashion illustrations of the period.  Some inspirations are: 

Guillermo Ducker. 1804 70 mm Museo del Prado

Portrait of Ekaterina Andréievna Karamzin (1780-1851) Will definitely
have to grow the front a bit.

Phew!  That was a long post, but I was too excited about my care-free cut and the challenge to make it work for my favorite historical clothing era.  My hair cut will work for the 1920's, early 30's and then in the early 1950's but for other eras, I will need to figure out appropriate wigs.  I am not a great lover of wearing wigs but wigs are so much more realistic now and manageable.  As I play and figure this hair-styling out I will share in future posts.  Feedback and support is always welcome.  Cheers.

Up next: (and not necessarily in this order)
Regency accessories - reticule, work bag, ladies cap
Surplice front Spencer
Two piece Regency gown (petticoat and long skirt caraco)