Category Archives: Hair and Hair-dressing

Hair-dye for Workmen: 1867, 1889

Grey Hair Restorer, 1881

HAIR-DYE FOR WORKMEN

Drives to Use It in Order to Keep Up in the Race with the Young.

There is now going on a mighty struggle which is almost essentially a question of age. Yet it is one which affects thousands and thousands of men and women who are toilers and bread-winners.

On all sides preference is given by employers to youth over more advanced years. Absalom, in the vigor of his juvenility, is content to receive twenty to thirty per cent less money than his more mature rival. In wholesale warehouses, in public companies, in retail establishments, in the street, on the road and the rail, men and women who are still hale and hearty in mind and body have been set adrift to make room for the younger—and cheaper—generations. They are willing to work for the same wage, but the masters will have none of them.

In their distress they turn to a comforter—not to the work-house, if they can avoid so doing; not to the charitable institution, not the trades union, but to Figaro himself, the peruquier, the hairdresser, the barber. The amount of hair-dye used by artisans and laborers of all sorts is not only enormous, but increases day by day. It is not vanity which impels them to the practice, it is life, for which it is well worth dyeing.

The testimony on the subject is undeniable. A knight of the razor in the north of London testifies that he is doing a tremendous trade in hair-dye with working-men for the reasons given above. “They take it home,” he said, “and get their wives to lay it on. In many cases it is an absolute necessity with female employes. Proprietors of big millinery establishments won’t have women with gray hair on the premises.

“You’ve no idea what misery I’ve been aware of in families from gray hair. I knew a man, a father of six children. All of a sudden, from illness, I think, his hair whitened, and his employer took the earliest opportunity of giving him the sack, and getting a younger man in his place. He couldn’t obtain another situation anywhere, and the more trouble he had the older he looked. At last, when he was at his wit’s end, someone told him to get his hair dyed, and, what’s more, lent him the money to have it done. Well, he’s got another place. It’s less money; but you’d hardly know him again. I’ve seen scores like him. Your young folk may sneer at dye and crack jokes on the subject, but as true as I’m not a Dutchman, it’s been the salvation of many hard-working men and women. A lady dealing in human hair near St. Pancras, when sounded on the subject, admitted the practice, and allowed that she dealt very largely in dye, nearly all vended to those earning their living in large commercial establishments.

The same tale was repeated by one who did a good deal of traffic in this way with ladies of the theatrical persuasion. “Lor’ bless you,” he exclaimed. “without hair-dye some of those women would be nowhere. What would you say, if you was a manager, if a girl with gray locks came to you and wanted an engagement? I expect you’d show her the door pretty quickly. I’m not talking of those vain young females who turn black to gold or red to brown. I mean the chorister of thirty-five to forty, still good looking, but who is beginning to show the powder puff on her head. There isn’t one, there isn’t twenty, there isn’t a hundred, but I’d like to bet there’s a thousand or more in the United Kingdom. Their great-grandmothers had to wear wigs; their descendant are a deal more comfortable with a little harmless coloring matter on their own hair.” And so the story runs ad infinitum. London Telegraph

Thomas County Cat [Colby KS] 13 June 1889: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Dyed hair has often been viewed as the prerogative of the aging roué on the prowl for a dewy heiress, the hussy, the debauchee without a portrait aging in the attic, or the mutton dressed as lamb. It is rather refreshing to see it viewed in a less moralising and colder economic light. Even to-day one may find men and women of a certain age being advised to colour their hair in order to get or retain a position. In an excerpt from an article about the technical aspects of dyeing the hair, a tonsorial professional waxed quite candid on the subject:

I was on the point of censuring the habit of using any sort of hair-dye, when the purport of a certain conversation that took place on a certain day, between me and a certain hair-dresser, came to my memory. He had been shaving me; passing his keen razor with delicate care over and among certain deep furrows which mark my face, disfiguring or embellishing me according to people’s fancy. He had been dressing my ragged mustache, and taking heed lest the grizzly beard, which it is my good pleasure to wear, should be curtailed of its normal proportions, when I found his two gray eyes lingering with a sort of deprecating look upon the many-tinted hues of the said beard, mottled with various-colored hairs, in which white predominates.

“I could make you ten years younger,” said he, at length, “if you would only let me. My charge is only three-and-sixpence.”

“That’s reasonable, anyhow,” quoth I; “pray how would you set about it?” “By dyeing that beard of yours,” was his prompt reply. “Its color is disgraceful”

Now the thought of having ten years of one’s life put back was not to be cast aside. Who would not accept the proffered ten years, if they could be given, even by a barber? It was pretence, after all, only pretence; my operator could only make me look younger, – a boon which I considered no boon, and declined. Improving the occasion, I began to inveigh against the practice of hair-dyeing in general. “People should have their hair as Nature made it,” I told him; “people should rise above all foolish vanity.” Thereupon he came out with strong disclaimers, and cogent arguments. He advanced a certain plea for hair-dyeing, the force of which I had to recognize. He spoke somewhat after this fashion:

“It may be all very well for you, sir, to let your beard stay as it is. I don’t know who you are or what you are. You ain’t no clerk, and you ain’t no shopman, or else you would know better…. But s’pose you was behind a counter a selling of silks, or calicos, or ribbons, how do you think the ladies would like your looks?”

It was a home thrust; I involuntarily took stock of myself in a looking-glass. “Do you think the ladies would have anything to say to you? Not much, I guess. S’pose you was a clerk, a wife and young uns at home, s’pose you wanted a situation where a hactive young man was advertised for. How would you get that situation?”

“O!” exclaimed he, taking advantage of my silence. “I’ve helped many a poor gent as warn’t so young as he once was to pleasant places. Better let me dye it, sir; it will do well.” “No no!” quoth I; “it would do me no good, but you’ve thrown a new light on the matter….”

The poor clerk or shopman may, perhaps, be excused for trying to beget an impression of greater youth by dyeing his hair, whiskers, or mustaches black. His bread may in some sense depend upon it; but were he to bleach his naturally black or brown hair, only to dye it some fancy color, one would then call him, among other names, a poor silly fellow.

Every Saturday 6 April 1867: pp 433-434

Physicians invariably inveighed against the toxic compounds used to colour the tresses. But there was a fate worse than dye-ing among those who darkened their hair:

“I wonder if it really as dangerous as doctors say to dye the hair?”

“Certainly! Only more so. I had an uncle who tried it, and he was married to a widow with six children in less than three months.”

The Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 14 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about coloured hair-powders for a more temporary effect and the fad for silver hair.

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.

 

Champagne for the Hair: 1911

CHAMPAGNE FOR THE HAIR

A hair specialist has told one of his lady customers (says our London correspondent) that she must not brush her hair at all, but must comb it with a rather coarse comb if it gets untidy, and rub the scalp with a velvet pad or a piece of chamois leather. The brush now has the reputation of spoiling the hair and thinning it, pulling it out by the roots. About half an hour should be spent nightly using the velvet pad or the pad of chamois. Then champagne is the latest announced liquid in which the hair should be washed. The first process consists in ridding the hair of grease by rubbing in the white of eggs for blonde hair, and by using the yolks for dark tresses. This should be rinsed off, and then the champagne bath has to follow, while red wine—preferably Burgundy of good body is recommended for tinting dark hair or rich auburn, and lemon juice is considered to be good for washing white hair, or hair that is on the way to getting white, as the lemon juice will by degrees impart a silvery hue. Soaking the head in champagne is said to impart a soft golden tint, and drying in the sun is recommended if there happens to be any sun available. If not, it should be fanned dry in a warm room.

New Zealand Herald 12 April 1911: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has always felt that those historic personages who bathed in expensive liquids were being ostentatiously wasteful; certainly the Hall butler, Mr Sterling-Kidd, would tender his resignation if Her Ladyship were to demand the Bollinger Vielles Vignes ’04 merely to rinse her hair.

A more economical, if prosaic, solution is found here:

Colored Hair Powders.

Almost every woman has a tendency to wash her hair too often in order to keep it soft and fluffy and glossy. It’s a great mistake, for in the end, it tells upon the hair’s good health.
But, you will say, after one or two weeks, my hair becomes so oily and flat, it packs so it can not be dressed nicely—I know, there are dozens of objections. I get them in nearly every mail.

The solution is to use powder between shampoos, to dry up this extra oil, to keep the hair thick and fluffy, and to cleanse it. You’ll say to this—powder can cleanse only the hair not the scalp. That’s true, but the scalp is so well protected it doesn’t need too frequent a cleansing. You’ll say more seriously—powder leaves the hair dusty, it’s almost impossible to get it out, it takes off all the gloss.

Not colored hair powders, which smart beauty shops sell at the most exorbitant rates—and only a few shops at that. You probably won’t be able to buy colored powder, but you can make it yourself by following these simple directions.

If you’ve dark hair, make an exceedingly strong pint of coffee and strain and let it get cold. Add lumps of laundry starch, let them dissolve, pour off the liquid, let it drain and dry. Crush up the colored starch, until soft and free of lumps, add sachet powder to do away with any odor, and keep ready for use. If you’ve light hair, try strong tea.

Then dust the hair liberally with powder, rub through, shake and brush out. I’ve had all sorts of trouble with oily hair, and this I find the best remedy.

Fort Worth [TX] Star-Telegram 29 December 1922: p. 10

And, if money is no object or if one is Empress Eugenie, golden hair powder is a charming way to lighten the hair.

GOLDEN HAIR POWDER

 Powder d’or was first worn by the Empress Eugenie, at the Festival of Boeuf Gras, 1860. Since then this pretty conceit, as the wave of fashion always does, has extended from its centre to the circle of all who pretend to move within its sphere.

The best quality consists of crushed gold leaf, the common kind, or “speckles,” is nothing more than a coarse bronze powder.

The Art of Perfumery and the Methods of Obtaining the Odors of Plants, George William Septimus Piesse, 1878: p. 331

For the extreme fad of bleaching one’s hair, see this post.

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.

 

The White-Hair Fad: 1904

Portrait of a young lady, Gustave Jacquet, [1846-1909]

Portrait of a young lady, Gustave Jacquet, [1846-1909]

It was supposed at first that London society’s sudden fondness for white hair was only a revolt against colored wigs and dyes, and that it would result in giving Nature a chance at last, ushering in an era of less paint, powder and enamel and maybe a little less artificiality and deception generally. But what really has happened is a manifestation of feminine human nature queer enough to be worthy of the attention of future historians. No sooner was it known among the elect that white hair had become fashionable than young women whose hair scarcely had begun to turn gray got on the track of a Paris chemist who had discovered the trick of making the hair white artificially, and now that chemist is in a fair way of becoming a millionaire.

It was the genuine attractiveness of the “gray-hair” fashion—the fashion led by the smartest American women in London society—that brought about this “white-hair” fad. With their gray hair artistically dressed the beauty of handsome society women well on in the 40’s was much enhanced. Under the influence of softly powdered hair suggestions of wrinkles or little lines about the eyes faded away, leaving the face smooth and round and soft. Mrs. George Cornwallis West (Lady Randolph Churchill), Mrs Jack Leslie and Mrs Moreton Frewen, well known as the three Jerome sisters, and now greater favorites even than when their mother first brought them over from New York, are all in the swim of the latest fashion. Their hair is beautifully and naturally white. Lady Coleridge, widow of the lord chief justice, is another of the white-haired sisterhood. Though not more than 30, Mrs. Hall Walker also wears her hair white ad looks like one of the beautiful marquises painted by Jacquet. So many others in the ultra-smart set followed the fashion that when it began to be known that hair could be whitened artificially there was a rush for the treatment.

The Infernal Machine for blanching the hair.

The Infernal Machine for blanching the hair.

Not in London, but in Paris, is the fashionable blanching done, and at the cost of $50 a time. Arriving in the French capital, the woman of fashion must go to the salon of the coiffeur-chemist and there spend the greater part of a day. First her tresses are unfastened, well brushed, cut and singed. Then they are washed with egg julep so that no other chemical preparation shall clash with the fumes which come later. The hair is slowly dried by fanning and the client then passes into a small boudoir, dons a long wrap which covers up her gown and takes a seat in a large arm chair. The coiffeur-chemist places on her head a large bag made of india-rubber, which fits closely around the nape of the neck, up over the ears and across the forehead. This bag is fitted with a thermometer, which the coiffeur watches carefully, as it registers the heat of the fumes which enter the bag by means of a long india-rubber pipe from a wonderful apparatus that contains the chemicals. For exactly one hour and a half is the fair client under this treatment, the chemist busy all the time regulating the fumes and testing results. When the bag is at last taken off the hair that was dark and rich with coloring is found to be as white as snow.

But the patient is not yet free. In another room she reclines upon a couch with her hair spread out like a huge fan upon a table at the head of the couch. In this position she is required to drink milk and to rest for two hours, with her maid in constant attendance At the end of that time her hair is dressed and her maid is instructed how to put on the white paste at the roots when coloring again begins to make its appearance in the growing hair. Warnings are given as to the disastrous effect of using heated curling tongs or wavers on the newly blanched hair, and the superiority of soft white tissue curl papers is impressed on her before the client leaves the salon. What the ultimate effect of this hair-blanching may be time alone will prove. For the present it is considered dainty, chic, extremely smart and becoming, and that to the fashionable woman is more than sufficient.

The Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 13 March 1904: p. 36

An Elegant Lady in a Black Hat, Gustave Jacquet. Her hair is probably powdered

An Elegant Lady in a Black Hat, Gustave Jacquet. Her hair is probably powdered

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil believes that we may lay the blame for this extraordinary fad squarely at the feet of the late French Queen, Marie Antoinette. The Gilded Age was enamoured of gilded Louis Quatorze furniture, panellings and paintings looted from French chateaus and installed in Newport villas, as well as rather loose versions of “18th century fashions,” a la Dresden Shepherdess fancy dress. Bals poudre were a popular entertainment where participants powdered their hair to aristocratic whiteness and it seems probable that this influence suggested the white-hair fad.

Truly there is nothing new under the fashionable sun, Mrs Daffodil noted articles last year proclaiming that grey hair is “hot” and discussing a fad among the young for dyeing the hair grey or white. For example, there is an entertainer, “Lady Ga Ga,” (who, Mrs Daffodil can confidently assert, does not appear in Debrett’s) who bleached her dark hair to a “sparkly white blond” and posted step-by-step instructions to her followers who wished to imitate her. 

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.

 

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.

 

A School for Hairdressing: 1890

 

A SCHOOL FOR HAIRDRESSING

A New York Barber Who Teaches Maids How to Use the Brush and Comb.

Perhaps the latest thing in the educational line in this city was inaugurated Monday. It is a school for hairdressers. It started with a big class of ambitious young women, and the indications are that many more will join. Women only are to be admitted to these classes, and the subjects of instruction will be limited to the dressing of ladies’ hair. The pupils will be taught how to comb, brush, shampoo, crimp, curl, singe, plait and arrange the hair of women. They will be instructed by experienced hair-dressers, and when they are graduated they will be able to do all that a competent “ladies’ barber” can. The course will cover two weeks, and will comprise twelve lessons. The tuition is to be $10 for the course.

“So many young women have asked me to teach them the art of dressing hair,” said the owner of the place the other day, “that I was forced to open the school or use up all my time teaching them separately. Most who wish to learn are ladies’ maids. You see, it greatly adds to their value when they are able to dress their mistresses’ hair properly. I do not think that there will be any difficulty in teaching them in two weeks’ time all that is necessary for them to know. I have several competent assistants and I shall superintend the work. The pupils will practice first on dummy wooden heads fitted with wigs. They are just as good to learn upon as the real head.”

“And can the girls become artistic hairdressers in so short a time?” “That depends entirely upon how much natural taste they may have. It is like any other art; to excel in it one must have a natural aptitude for it. Hairdressing requires taste. I may be able to teach a young woman the mechanical arrangement of a coiffure, but I cannot teach her just what coiffure is best suited to a certain face. That requires a natural taste and many years of observation and practice. But I will give my pupils much technical knowledge and such hints for self-instruction that they may practice to advantage after they leave the school. The school is my own idea. I do not know of another one in New York. I believe that it will prove a success and that its influence will be felt.”

“Will you teach to bleach and dye hair?”

“If the pupils wish to learn the higher branches of the art they may do so of course after they have mastered the regular course. But that is something for after consideration; the main thing now is to start the school and begin the work. I have now about thirty pupils to begin with.” New York Sun.

Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 25 October 1890: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil smiles nostalgically at the idea of ladies’ maids dressing their mistresses’ hair properly. One of her first acts when employed in that office by an intolerable American heiress was to accidentally singe off the young woman’s back hair in its entirety—on the eve of her debut into London society as a new bride. This contretemps might have been avoided entirely had Mrs Daffodil had access to a school such as above. However, Mrs Daffodil is nothing if not resourceful and an improvisation, represented as the latest Parisian novelty: a flounce of lace attached to the remaining hair and a tiara set with emeralds the size of pigeon’s eggs, saved the day. The coiffure was the subject of much favourable comment at Lady Wormwood’s ball.

Singeing hair or “blistering the head” for cosmetic or medicinal purposes has been mentioned before in an interview with a well-known French hairdresser in New York.

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.

 

Blistering a Head: Secrets of a Hair-dresser: 1893

The four Russian Grand Duchesses had their heads shaved in 1917 during a bout with measles.

The four Russian Grand Duchesses had their heads shaved in 1917 during a bout with measles.

HER CHIEF GLORY

Fair Woman’s Art Shown in Arranging Her Hair

How to Trim, Dress and Preserve the Glossy Locks.

Uses of a Blistered Scalp.

A French Hair Dresser Discloses Some of the Secrets of Her Art—

Ideals of the Artists—Wonders Accomplished by Continuous Scientific Treatment—Tricks of a Trade of Which Little is Known—Puffs and Rolls Once More Coming Into Vogue.

“But I assure madam, it will not hurt; just five little moments, and madam will not know that her head has been touched with the iron. Blistered? That ugly word! Madam thinks it is the torture, but I swear to madam she will not cry out. Pouf! I screamed myself with the fright after I was ill with the fever, and they brought the iron. But when they showed to me my poor hairs all thin and weak, I said: ‘Oui, oui, scald me, blister me, take away the skin! It is better to die than not to have the long curls any more.’  And so, as madam may believe, they burned the head and I laughed at the hurt. Madam may see that I have my poor little curls, so poor, so dark beside madam’s hair of yellow. But it will die and force madam to wear a wig, the hideous wig of an old woman. Horrible! Will madame let me save this for her? In my France the fisher girl wears a little cap to hide her hair. Her hair is sacre, holy I think you call it, and besides the men, those foolish men, they run after the girls and whisper silly words if by accident they see the great braids. And when the luck in the boat is bad, and the pere and frere cannot buy new kerchiefs or sabots for the fisher girls at home, the little fools cut off their hair for the wretched francs one sends from Paris. Then what available the kerchiefs or the sabots after it is whispered all about ‘Jeanne has no more hair.’ The girls point at Jeanne the fingers and the men laugh, and because the glory is gone say rude things. Ah! Well, Jeanne, who cannot think to know that the men love women for hair and bright eyes, and not for kerchief or sabots, Jeanne has been well punished.”

A Pleasant Interior.

And the deft little French woman with the masses of cloudy hair touches madam’s nerves with balmy words, her hands stroke madam’s tresses—the few wisps that have survived tongs, alkali washes, modish cuts and hereditary baldness—with practiced ease.

The apartments are handsomely furnished, homelike rooms. Fires burn in the grates, the latest magazines are strew about the tables, and well dressed women, whose carriages are known on Fifth Avenue, bend over them awaiting their turn in the skylit, severely practical chamber through whose curtains the little French woman may be seen at her art. She is truly an artful person. White-capped maids, in reality hairdressers too who are employed to aid the madam in her business, pass back and forth through the rooms; subtle penetrating odors of violet, heliotrope and rose subdue pomades and tonics and washes used for scalp massage, while the Parisienne’s running voice and cooing lies quite dispel the irritation with which New York women of thirty years enter these apartments to ward off the two swift approaches to age.

For it is here that

Scientific Treatment of the Hair

Has been know not only to tighten dropping tresses and awaken life in comatose bulbs, but to coax the fiber from the heads long bald—men’s heads, at that which have shown for years in the orchestra circle bald as a billiard ball.

But the French woman’s remarks about the boys, young and old, who sneak to her rooms during hours reserved for them, would make, as Kipling says, “another story.”

Their wives come earlier in the day, and in due season are ushered into the operating room, where the coiffure is pulled to pieces, and various little curls, which peep so alluringly from the Psyche knot or the stately chignon, are ruthlessly picked out from the scanty locks which madame praises.

“Not long,” she murmurs, with disparaging eyes glancing over the switches and front pieces of the demolished structure, “in a few more weeks madame will find a new growth like the fuzz on a baby’s head. It is no miracle, oh, no! The good saints intend all the ladies should have hair, but the scalp gets tired, but I rub it and am a doctor, so that the hair must grow!”

Then the doctor seizes a magnifying glass and examines every inch of the head, after which she massages it for several minutes. Next she rubs a lotion into the pores and an ointment down the strands of hair. These she carefully dries, almost hair by hair; other preparations makes it glossy or fluffy, as the operator sees fit, and much brushing and stroking and singeing of split ends evolve the treatment for that day into a masterly coiffure.

It is only in serious cases that the madam insists upon

Blistering a Head.

It is not good policy, because it is certainly painful and extraordinary care must be taken for many weeks. Yet there is no other way to remove the thick cuticle from a “marble bald spot,” and reach the living bulb beneath. Madam swears by the virtues of her process and vows that the madam in the long chair will see the results before long. And sometimes madam does.

If she does not, if the hair vesicles are utterly defunct and the laborious life of a rich society woman has sapped vitality until it cannot respond to the skillful touch of the “masseur of the scalp,” there is another finely appointed suite of apartments not a block distant where she may betake herself. “Hairdressing Parlors” is the legend on the card, but on the first floor one sees only the wigs, the artificial curls, the elaborate coiffure, all ready to be pinned upon the head, which are the vivacious French woman’s abomination. The prize hair of a “large, newly imported stock” is here—poor little Jeanne’s, whose cropped head is bowed now disconsolately beneath the jibes of her companions. The glorious masses of it sell for a sum that would delight her peasant heart with kerchief and sabots for many a day. The preparation of the raw material is so careful that a woman may almost be pardoned for covering her scraggy growth with soft, clinging, silky curls or naturally waved gold or braids of brown, or puffs of auburn; as mode dictates the color and the style.

Upstairs, where one’s own locks are lightened with scientific applications of peroxide or changed into a dusky bronze with “mezzolina,” there is much discussion, as to

The Coming Manner of Coiffure.

“We cannot say positively,” announced a maiden whose head was a good advertisement for her establishment, “for we haven’t had any direct word from the other side. But we are pretty certain that the hair will be worn very broad and low down on the side of the head in puffs and rolls.”

“Rats,” groaned a voice. “Yes, rats,” was the reply. “And the bang will be pointed in a  long curl with side pompadour. Perhaps it will be parted through the middle for another year, with a tiny bang. Too bad the chignon is taking the place of the three Empire puffs, one high at the point of the head and the other two lying against it. The regular French twist will come again, too, and the hair will not be crinkled with irons, as it is now, either. More and more will be used; with the rolls and puffs a great many switches will be needed. The new style will be very exclusive, indeed, because everybody cannot afford to follow it.”

So we are going back to the ancient wads of horsehair, which made our grandmothers’ heads look like padded cushions.

Well, why not? Having just escaped shipwreck on the crinoline reef, we are prepared to graze the other enormities of fifty years ago. And, moreover, we will all rush into the purchase or manufacture of “rats” and pin them to our heads regardless of their shapes. Round faces and short faces, long faces and square faces, hatchet faces and tubby faces, will turn towards the new coiffure; as to the becomingness of the style, that will not matter much at first. The sense of the eternal fitness of the things is always lost with the appearance of a novel mode. All women cast themselves into a single mode and come out with the power of individual expression gone.

Ideals of the Artists

Hair, dress, manner are subdued to the proper relation with other women’s hair and dress and manner. A few days ago a group of women were standing before an exhibition of “ideal heads’ by famous artists. The spectators wore flying capes to their ears, tiny hats and coiffures, each and every one of them was crimped heavily from the nape of the neck to a tightly pointed coil at the top of the crown.

The heads of the ideal women were, after all, painted, one could see, from humble models—German peasant girls with ripe youthful faces, set in a mist of loose flaxen hair, which fell in uneven, airy masses on their necks, or was gathered into a massive braid from beneath a gay shawl twisted about their heads. One face was that of a young girl whose light brown waving hair was coiled into a ‘prentice coiffure on her head. It was her first effort to become a woman, perhaps; at any rate, there was a story in the simple twists of soft tresses.

Another portrait was that of a Magdalen, whose bare arms and clasped hands gleamed through straight wild masses of neglected hair.

Her face was calm and sad. There was abandonment only in the subtle suggestions of utter forgetfulness of her sinful beauty.

Besides here was a gypsy girl, whose black locks were tightly curled and shaken down over one cheek and a broad white brow. Beneath her headdress the straight hair au naturel betrayed itself.

An arrant little coquette, this Romany maid! Artists and women in the unartificial walks of life have alone preserved the secrets of beauty.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 19 March 1893: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As one can see from the photograph at the head of the post, the Imperial Russian Grand Duchesses’ heads were shaved during a bout of measles. This was done for coolness in fever and for hygienic purposes, because germs were believed to be spread by the hair. It was also a popular belief that shaving the head, as this cooing French hairdresser threatens, would allow hair thinned by disease or heredity to grow back thick and luxuriant. Blistering the scalp was a recognized treatment for alopecia and was also done with chemical agents such as the caustic croton oil or carbolic acid.  In the 1890s, every woman wanted to look like the stately females drawn by Charles Dana Gibson, with their whipped meringue pompadours. One could not be fashionable without a fine head of hair. And if one was not fashionable, one might as well be dead—hence the ladies’ submission to cures that sound to Mrs Daffodil like the tortures of the Inquisition.

Hair has always inspired controversy. You’ll find a post on chignon horrors here. And chignon satire here.

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.