V12: Introduction to Hairstyles in 1912

As you all know, a historical costume is more than just the dress you wear.  It is the accessories – shoes, purses, jewelry, etc. – makeup (if applicable), and hair you pair with your gown that makes for a complete look.

Accessories are fun.  Makeup is usually pretty simple.

But then there’s hair.


It’s always my problem, and probably yours too, especially if you have short hair.  I’ve come to the conclusion that most historical hairstyles can be fenagled so long as you can get your hair into a french twist or pony tail.  Unfortunately, that’s just not an option for many of us who have bobs or pixie cuts.  We have to be more creative and use more tools.

All this being said, future Titanic-era hair how-to posts are in the works, but we need to start with an overview.  Here are some contemporary images of various coiffures and styles, and my feeble commentary as to how I think they were done:

This page was intended to show bandeau decorations – and what a great idea! – but it’s also helpful with the hair styles.  The three we can see show what appear to be high buns or knots in back, and quite a lot of hair up front that hangs around the face and is then swept loosely to the back.  All of these styles have started with being waved/curled, to add pliability to the hair.
For those of us needing the full-coverage evening option, something like this beaded and be-tulled cap might work.   Not much going on here, but you can see there is still a little hair sticking out the front of the cap, to frame the face
This style starts with hair that has been or is curly.  You can wet set your hair in rollers to get maximum spring, and brush out vigorously, smoothing with your hands, to get the soft waves.  The back is twisted into a bun, the hair at the sides is loosely pulled back over the ears.
This is a tiny picture, but if you click it you will be taken to a site detailing how to create three hairstyle from 1911.  Here’s the link: http://frazzledfrau.tripod.com/titanic/hair.htm .  It involves making puffs, rolls, and twists.
The other three hairstyles shown for the above link, 1911
Here is another illustration how-to, if any of this makes sense.  It appears to be twisted ponytails, with the front and back sections that pulled back loosely.
Regency ladies will find this familiar, but the bandeau here is actually hair.  Very creative 🙂
Another illustration showing a bandeau decoration.  The hair here has all been curled prior and worked into rolls high on the head.
These are styles for teenagers, but the updo styles would work for ladies as well.    Most of these are loose twists on already wavey or curled hair

Before we get into the tutorials (later), here are some tips:

  • Waved or curled hair, to begin with, is your friend.  If you have straight hair, wet-set your hair on rollers before you do your styling.
  • If curled hair is the bane of your existence, braiding is your new best friend.
  • Switches will save you – switches are lengths of false hair that ladies used to achieve these bigger, fuller styles.  If you are a short-haired lady, switches are the key.
  • Bandeaus and hair decorations are an excellent way to blend between switches and your real hair
  • So long as you can get your real hair into an french twist, you’re all good.
  • So long as you can get your hair into a ponytail, you’re all good.
  • If wigs are your way, try these styles on a long, wavy or curly one.
  • If all else fails, you can acceptably cover all of your hair with a bejeweled cap.


  • Stephanie Lynn

    January 12, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    What a lovely post. I too have short hair and have been trying to figure out what I can do with it. Now I have loads of ideas. 🙂

  • Jill

    January 12, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Stephanie, Get a fall. Match it to your hair, and it only covers "part of the head", so you comb your natural hair into it and it looks like you have a ton of hair. I sometimes go up to Grand hotel for the Somewhere in Time weekend, and I always do this. Also, if you wash the wig in downy, it takes the "shine' if its a synthetic wig away so it looks more natural.

    Somewhere in Time weekend is based on the film from the 80's with Chris Reeve and Jane Seymour. For a week, everyone dresses in 1912 and parades aroudn the island. There are no cars, so you get around on foot, carriage, or by bike. The house is full of victorian houses, and you basically feel like you stepped back in time. Mackinac Island is in Michigan.

    A few videos:

  • Nuranar

    January 12, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    I love these images! These are great. A really key element of getting the "look" right (in my humble opinion, of course), is the extremely low hairline. In nearly every picture, the woman's hair is waved or curled or arranged down over her forehead, nearly to or actually touching her eyebrows. Along with the puffs and general wavy abundance of hair, having the illusion of the low forehead is critical for 1910s hair. A good way to get the illusion is a longish fringe hairpiece, curled or waved, and covering the join with a bandeau above the fringe at the actual hairline.

  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    January 12, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    It's easy to see how the styles were a reaction to the high Edwardian updos in these pictures. And then 10 yers on it was all on the hairdresser's floor! We are so fey as a gender, but hair is great as it grows back hehehe.

  • Aija

    January 12, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    I'm so looking forward your Titanic hairstyle tutorials! I've experimented with some of 1910's hair-does, especially the ones in fifth and sixth picture. My problem is that even though I have long hair that comes below my shoulder blades, its really thin so I have maybe one fifth of the thickness in those pictures. I clearly need to try with some hair extensions next time.

  • Lauren R

    January 12, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    They did have thick long hair, but it was because of the way they treated it. Hair wasn't washed regularly, and was kept in braid at night, which added waves. The natural "build up" in the hair, from infrequent washing, was brushed through each night, dispersed along the entire length, and this added quite a lot of pliability and volume. It's the kind of thing we go for when we add product to our hair to make it fuller, but in the Edwardian's case, they already had it built up on their hair over periods of time.

    • Aija

      January 22, 2012 at 7:53 AM

      That's something I've never really understood. How can hair being "dirty" or not-washed add volume? When my hair gets dirty, it gets only flatter and it's harder to make look puffy than newly washed hair. I've tried braids at night, but it doesn't help if hair starts to be greasy.

  • Debbie

    January 12, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    They also used hair padding if you had thin hair and needed to have more volume. Usually ladies saved thier hair from combs and matted it up into loose rats nest looking wads to act as a base under thier real hair. It does work although seems a litle "gross" today.

    Lauren- if you need a long/thick/curley hair model for tutorials- you know where to find me 🙂

  • Anonymous

    January 12, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    The long hair also comes from the fact that it wasn't in style to cut it, even to bra strap or shoulder length.

    I have hair to my hips myself, and I have trouble with period hair as well– partially because I'm hopeless at doing my own hair, and partially because I have trouble getting it all to fit under my hats! I'll definitely be looking forward to the next posts.


  • Lauren R

    January 13, 2012 at 1:39 AM

    Debbie, I am so jealous, you have the perfect hair for doing all kinds of period hairstyles.

    You are right about the padding, too, and all manner of rats were used. You can buy rats, or make them from various materials, these days.

    Lylassandra, I'm pretty hopeless too, but let's see what we can do. 🙂

    I found some videos that are helpful:




  • Lynn Brooks

    January 13, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    thanks for posting these. i have been trying to learn more historic hairstyling, there are tons of stuff from the 40s on, but it is so difficult to find much from before. looking forward to more.

  • Seraph

    January 14, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    A style I've seen around on hair blogs and such is the "Gibson tuck," which claims to be an Edwardian hairstyle and is absurdly easy. It really works better on shorter hair–I have thick hair with lots of layers and the longest bits come to my collarbone, and it goes in a tuck with very little effort. To get it really right you'd have to be particular about the hairline though, it looks like, but it's an easy way to get the back up and it looks pretty full that way. A quick google will pull up a bunch of good tutorials.

    Also, the look with the bow in the "teenager" page reminds me of one of the Anne of Green Gables books, with Charlotta the Fourth who had an enormous bow that stuck out from the side of her head like wings.

  • Kate

    January 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    I love 1910s hair styles. Such a lovely, soft, Grecian feel.

    Sadly I too have insufficient hair to do most period styles. It's longer than shoulder-length, but not by much, and it's not very thick. Anyone know any good resources for easy-to-use hair pieces?

    • Lauren R

      January 16, 2012 at 3:12 AM

      Kate, I can recommend Sally Beauty Supply for hair pieces and extension/weave wefts, to make your own hair switches. There are also a few places online – Vogue Wigs has bits as well as full wigs, and I just found Ebony Online, which has tons of different kinds of very affordable hair pieces, clip-in buns, full wigs, etc., if you have dark hair.

    • Kate

      January 16, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Ooh, you're right, Sally Beauty Shop has fab stuff! Real hair!

      But oh noes! They don't ship to the UK. I'll have to try and persuade one of my Stateside friends to take delivery for me.

      Just seen your 'Anna Karenina' link on FB, btw – *so* gorgeous!

  • AvaTrimble

    January 21, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    These pictures are really great! I think I can figure out what's going on in the step-by-step illustrations, and I can try to put together a photo tutorial or two if that would be useful to anyone, and link 'em here. Have you run across any other step-by-step hair illustrations, Lauren? They look very handy! There's not usually that much information accompanying hairstyle design illustrations from the mid-19th century, which is where most of my hair expertise (such as it is) lies. Yay for clearer instructions!

  • Mia

    April 18, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    Would love any advice on hair for the 1840's. Need styling advice- for instance how would an older woman's hair be styled as opposed to younger, and how to set the hair for spaniel curls?

  • Love's Fly

    December 29, 2015 at 10:43 PM

    I'm going to be in a production of "The Music Man" and found your blog to help me figure out what to do with my hair. The links to most of your visuals are broken, though!

  • Sophiabgrace

    July 2, 2018 at 7:20 AM

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  • Anonymous

    August 16, 2018 at 1:30 PM

    I love that hairstyle, it's so easy and cute. I always try it, but to be honest, my hair is not so silky and smooth, and i have short layers that make it a little complecated. For more info look at this now.


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