Monday, July 14, 2014

Life, Papillottes, and a Video

Life seems to be sneaking off with a lot of my time lately. Between library remodel, three master's courses, and an emergency trip to South Carolina to be with family (my grandmother passed away last month) things have been a little more hectic for me than usual. Needless to say, I am about five blog posts behind (I've yet to post on my early 19th c. gown workshop, my recently completed Italian gown workshop, two new "All's Fair" product reviews, and my recent girls trip to Williamsburg! EEk) but I am determined to catch up.

To hold you over until I get the other posts finished, I bring you a post on my most recent hairsperiment: 18th/19th century curling implements. Get ready for some photo madness brought to you by Catalyst Design and Photography (check them out on facebook)!*

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Years of Napoleon at the Macktown Living History Center. It was a lovely event, apart from some wardrobe malfunctions on my part- pretty much ignore my bodice front as the gathering strings broke (pins to the rescue!) and my workshop gown was attacked by my English Mastiff and has to be mended.

But, as always, good overshadowed bad and we were very happy when our friend Alicia from LBCC joined us for the day. To make things even better, she brought along one of her stellar finds. An iron for making curls. The process and equipment are described in Diderot's Arts de L'Habillement.

Left  Image from Diderot showing two styles of irons for curling.
Right The original iron used on my hair. (photo courtesy of LBCC)
Always up for some historical experimentation, Alicia decided to test it out on my more than willing head.
Okay- so maybe I was a little nervous...
The process: We decided to try a bit in the back first, just to make sure it didn't burn my hair off or something. Better safe than sorry, right? We took a small chunk of my hair near my nape, pomaded it, papered it up, and then the heat was on! Luckily, my hair did not go up in a blaze of glory (although, even if it had I feel it would have been worth it... for science!)

In fact, once Alicia got the hang of it, we were able to make some pretty stellar curls. Granted, we were kind of slow to start (I think if you got really good at this technique, it could go a lot faster) but overall not bad.

If you want to see the whole process live, check out the video via the LBCC youtube channel.
Test curl in the back. Mistress Titter
is holding the rest of my mane to keep it
out of the way. 

Pomading and prepping the curl.

Rolling, rolling, rolling the curl. 

She only burnt my head once! But
really, it was no worse than any
iron today (and we had burn salve!)

Test curls done, technique improved,
and ready for the next set. 

The results: We ended up with a fabulous end product. They were maybe a little long for this period, but since I typically do 18th c. I keep my hair on the longer side to make those hairstyles easier.

By the time we were finished and I got to see myself in a mirror, I felt...well... pretty. The curls were very bouncy and made me feel like I had a little more pep. I don't know about you, but I think there's something to be said for having someone doll you up every once in awhile.

In all my curly glory. Special thanks to
Tonya Staggs for the mini turban
workshop and Turbanspiration.
Check out her PREZI if you'd like more
info regarding turbans during the regency.
The aftermath: Mind you, my hair doesn't typically take curl very well, but these curls lasted for three days with very little relaxing before I had to wash them out for a 21st century function. This was with no care to prevent them from relaxing, either. I just slept on them like normal. I think if you actually tried to preserve them they could easily last much longer.
Morning of day 2 curls. Relaxed a bit, but
I didn't take any preventative measures.
(Photo credit: me)

Day 3. I pulled one out of my messy
bun so you could see it. A lot looser
now but still pretty curly. =)
(Photo credit: me)

It's always fun experimenting with history and finding things that just work really well. I think I would definitely use a modern flat iron to recreate this process for whenever I want really curly hair. It worked so well and it was nice to have some curls for a change. It could also be really good for special occasion hairstyles and up-dos.

I will leave you with probably my favorite curl inspired picture of the weekend, taken when we were getting ready to pack out Sunday evening and I needed to tame the curls.

Because we can do it!

*Thanks again to Catalyst Design and Photography for consistently taking such great photos of us. They make us look fab!  All photos are credited to Catalyst unless otherwise noted. Check them out. =)


  1. I was so pleased to have viewed your magnificent curls in person and they were quite fetching! Sometimes I think about chopping my hair a la Austen so I can have fun curls framing my face, but I too need my hair long for 18th cent styles. Alas. Keep experimenting and posting more hair styles!

  2. Love the curls! Isn't it nice to get dolled up every once in a while? You look absolutely lovely.


I would sincerely love to hear your thoughts on all this, so please feel welcome to comment here :-)