As all of you 18th century beauties will already know, Kendra Van Cleave, the intrepid costumier and long-time blogger of Demode, has finally produced a how-to book on authentic 18th century coiffures.
“18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step-by-Step Techniques” will cover history and tutorials for hairstyles from each distinct period. From the images on the Facebook page, a number of high and mighty 1770s poufs and 1780s hedgehogs will be covered, along with 1760s styles, and techniques for men.
I thought a great way to help Kendra reach her pre-order goal would be to try one of the styles from the book and show you all the result. When it comes to styling hair, I pretty much suck, so if I can do this, then you ladies with skills far greater than mine will excel to unbelievable heights (four-foot hair tower, anyone?)
The style I tried is one from c. 1768 through the mid-1770s. It was quite a popular style worn by Marie Antoinette and Madame Du Barry alike.
|Marie Antoinette, 1769, by Joseph Ducreaux|
|Madame Du Barry, 1770-74, by Francois-Hubert Drouais|
In studying these portraits, I determined that the style was overall egg-shaped, with smooth or frizzed hair ascending, then twisting into vertical rolls arranged prettily. The tutorial walked me through each step in re-creating this style, and left room for a little creativity on my part, too.
I’m not going to show you a step-by-step, because that is what the book is for. Instead, I’ll say that the tutorial instructions and images were clear and easy to follow. I made things a little harder for myself with the length of the wig I chose – mine was well-past the shoulder, and I ended up cutting off some of the length, before making the vertical rolls.
|Left – my wig at the start; Right – set in rollers according to the instructions|
My wig is synthetic, hard-front, and was about $30. You can do this with a cheap wig like this one, a nice lace-front wig, a human-hair wig, your own hair, doesn’t matter. As mine was synthetic, I set the curlers with boiling water (Kendra goes over how to do this in the book), and let it cool and dry overnight.
|Hair set with boiling water, then combed out. Atop is the foam rat foundation, a hair rat, and some of the hair pulled up from the back.|
Following the instructions, I smoothed, pinned, ratted, combed, fluffed, and curled. The style is built over a collection of foam rats wired together to create the correct shape. After much fussing and pinning, I got to this point…
I thought it looked nice – sculptural in a pleasing way – but I wasn’t sure how it would look on my own head, so I thought I’d give it a go…
After just a little work blending my own hair into the front of the wig (and yes, some color work needs to be done to match my own hair to the wig color better), I was *astonished* at how good it looked, and utterly pleased that it literally took 5 minutes to put the whole thing on. The little gaps in the wig where the wig cap peaks through are covered by my own hair, and with a few silk flowers and an old necklace, all of the sudden I had one epic pouf.
No, seriously, I’ve never had hair this good. My prior experiments in 18th century hair hopping have been rather disappointing, so I am just amazed that this was so straight-forward and easy to do. I just needed the right tools and a guiding hand.
What I love most about the tutorial is that I can see how to create infinite variation. You could do this style with a much shorter wig and a smaller foundation, to create an earlier 1760s ‘do, or you could go even bigger and higher, using a different structure (I’m sure will be covered in the book). You could create side-rolls under the ears, or stacks of rolls down the back. The possibilities are quite limitless and completely exciting.
All-in-all, for a few hours spent on wig-wrangling, I am incredibly happy with the result, and terribly excited to get my copy of the book. If you are wanting a copy as well, support Kendra’s pre-order so that we get the best possible version of the book, with all the portraits and planned tutorials, printed on good quality paperstock. Here’s the link to the book’s Indiegogo order page: http://igg.me/at/18thCenturyHair