The Court Hair-dresser: 1892

HE BEAUTIFIES WOMEN

A London Court Hairdresser Chats About His Patrons.

A Woman’s “Greatest Glory” Is Her “Weakest Point”

The Most Popular and Becoming Coiffure

The Princess of Wales Style is Her Own.

Mr. Walter Trueffit’s hair establishment is in the fashionable quart of Bond Street, and by virtue of his situation and renown princesses, duchesses and lesser women of English nobility bow down to his taste and submit to his dictation.

He can thus afford to be frank and discuss with me the fearful and wonderful processes of a fashionable coiffure. “Some poet said,” he remarked, “that a woman’s greatest glory is her hair. It isn’t so. A woman’s most uncertain beauty and her most deceitful charm is her hair.

“Why, you would scarcely recognize some of these court ladies whom you see at functions if you saw them as I do with locks au naturel.

“A woman’s whole manner and appearance is at stake when she places herself in my hands. I can make her or I can mar her,” said this tyrant of the court.

But Mr. Trueffit is a clever artisan and he has had twenty years’ experience to back his statements, so I listened while he reviewed the subject from his trade standpoint.

“How long does it take you to dress a head of hair?”

“Oh! It takes the average hair surgeon an hour and a half, but I once operated on five cases between the hours of ten and one. It was a great rush, I tell you, to get the women ready for the drawing-room at Buckingham. That performance beat any other record in my line of business.”

I asked him why he didn’t write a book on his varied experiences, and he replied that he couldn’t afford to ruin his trade by destroying a charm in women that most men believe to be natural. “Better fool ‘em as long as you can,” he said, very sensibly, and I agreed with him. He was something of a historian, this hairdresser, for he told me that the Greek warriors were the first to discover that a woman’s hair was her first assailable feature, and he referred to a stone frieze form the temple of Apollo exhibited among the antiquities of Athenian sculpture in the British Museum and representing a battle scene between the Greeks and the Amazons in which Athenian heroes drag the Amazons to earth by twisting their long hair about their muscular arms.

It was this knowledge which produced the Grecian style of headgear, for then, as now, it was a species of coiffure built in curling parapets, spiked to the topmost curl with various descriptive weapons in the form of Greek ornaments that no man could seize with impunity. Fashion, which in many ways is leading society back into the pretty galleries of past styles, has taken a stride from the present century into the age of early Athens, and in London, as in Paris, the prevailing fashion of dressing the hair for ladies is Grecian, said my instructor.

“What is the style of hair dressing used by the court dames in England?” I asked.

“The Grecian coiffure, of course, is the most popular,” he replied, “although it is not becoming to all faces. The best reason I can assume for the prevalence of this style is that fact that it shows the shape of the head and poise of the neck better than any other fashion. With some ladies I have found it necessary to dress the hair higher or lower in angles according to the outline of the face and the curve of the neck. English women of the aristocracy generally have a liberal supply of their own hair and do not require the addition of false twists to any great extent. I have rarely been called up to use any false hair in the coils at the back, but more often find it necessary to attach a fringe of curls to the natural growth in front over the forehead. It is the custom among all titled women when going to a grand ball to employ a hairdresser. His skill and taste sometimes contrive a complicated style that has no artistic precedent of any kind. The princess of Wales, for instance, never wears her hair in the Grecian fashion because it is not becoming to her. Therefore she has a style of her own which very few faces can carry successfully.

“What is the rule for wearing the hair at court entertainments?”

“It is generally founded upon the prevailing fashion of the times, allowances being made for the hairdresser’s judgment upon certain complications which are suitable to the face and head of the wearer. For young ladies the Grecian style is most becoming. On court occasions a delicate tulle veil is fastened with a diamond star, sun tiara or coronet of diamonds, and other valuable ornaments, generally heirlooms in the family, to the crown of the coiffure, while in front three ostrich tips are set drooping a bit over the fringe of curls. These plumes are usually white, sometimes pale blue or pale pink, but if the court be in mourning of course they are black.”

“What is the cost of a court coiffure?” I asked.

“Oh! Some of the ladies carry enormous fortunes in ornaments on the head. I have known one coiffure to represent a cash value of £10,000, nearly $50,000. Great care has to be taken in fastening diamonds and gems in the hair securely, and this branch of the hairdresser’s art is perhaps the most important.

“With elderly ladies the style of court hair dressing varies according to the quantity and quality of the hair. Ladies of advanced age usually wear lace mantillas or lappets fastened to the hair and falling over the shoulders. We have one set charge for dressing a lady’s hair which is never varied.”

“How much is that?” “Half a guinea ($2.52). Every court hairdresser carries a case of tools like a surgeon, and he travels from one mansion to another in a carriage like a doctor.”

“Where do the styles for court coiffures originate?”

“That would be hard to say. Of course we are always watching the fashion journals and studying the fashion plates and we get a great many ideas from the Paris papers.”
Very few American ladies apply for hairdressers, I was told, but when they do it is always in preparation for a presentation at court.

There is a special superiority in the Grecian style of hairdressing, and that is it can be bought in separate pieces or complete, so that with the very slightest natural foundation one can create as graceful and artistic a coiffure as fancy may dictate. And the whole wig is made of human hair, too. I went out into the fog and wondered no more at the frailty of my sex when I thought of the many odd and fascinating scalps that had been presented a court this year.

The Repository [Canton, OH] 23 October 1892

A 1923 Court presentation ensemble. Victoria & Albert Museum Collection

A 1923 Court presentation ensemble. Victoria & Albert Museum Collection

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Queen Victoria was still on the throne at the time of this article, yet the same requirements obtained–sponsor, train, feathers, veil, and curtsy–until court presentations were discontinued by our present Queen in 1958. Incidentally, Mr Truefitt–the correct spelling of his name–later went into trade manufacturing gentlemen’s razors.

At the time of King Edward’s coronation, court hairdressers were much in demand.

PEERESSES COURT HAIRDRESSER

Early Coronation Hour Brings Services of Coiffeuses Into Big Demand.

London, Saturday, April. 5. The early hour fixed for the coronation ceremony has had the effect of sending many ladies to their hairdressers. The smart hairdressers will spend all the day before the ceremony in crimping and waving the hair of the ladies who will be in the Abbey and the night beforehand they will go from house to house dressing the locks they have previously attended to with irons. Every appointment has already been made. One lady who objected to half past six o’clock in the morning as too early for her was told that it must either be then or not at all, as the artist had every other moment filled. Seattle [WA] Daily Times 6 April 1902: p. 3

Sensible ladies sent their maids to school for specialized hair-dresser training so they did not have to compete for appointments. No lady of title looks her best when she has to rise before six in the morning to have her hair dressed.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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