Finery for the Forehead
The Picturesque Modern Revival of a Charming Style of Headdress Introduced by the Beauties of Ancient Rome and Greece.
By Jean Seivwright
“Beauty unadorned is adorned the most” is all wrong, according to today’s leaders of fashion. And, without more ado, they prove their contention by demonstrating the utter folly of this old-time saying.
With jingling bracelets they embellish their ankles. Gorgeous rings set their fingers a-sparkle; jeweled girdles scintillate about their waistlines, and most striking of all—enters the jeweled head-dress.
Now as Miss America has a variety of ancestors, she chooses her forehead finery with a nice discrimination. Her particular type of beauty must be enhanced. With wealth and art at her command she can have what she wants.
Is she a Viking’s daughter with golden tresses and wistful blue eyes? Then the soft lustre of mother of pearl will appeal to her. But if the fire of some Eastern Potentate still slumbers in her heavily-lidded eyes the ornate and barbaric will be her choice. Other beauties find inspiration for their adorning in the quaint head-dress of the peasant or the jeweled cap of a court favorite.
But all are agreed that the forehead must be ornamented. Many of these jeweled head-bands are of fabulous price. But the golden eagle is no longer a rare coin that languishes in solitude in the old stocking we have all heard about. Golden eagles fly in coveys these days and big dividends keep up the supply.
“Ha, ha!” laugh the lords of the twentieth century, and just as merrily their ladies echo their mirth, “What’s money for but to spend.” So they chase from one end of the country to the other seeking new ways of spending their money. Sumptuously caparisoned it’s many a day since they bid farewell to the “kirtle brown.” Shimmering satins, priceless laces and jewels from crown to toe add to the glitter of their passing.
Of course, like every other innovation, the adorning of the forehead is really a resurrected fashion. In the days of the law-giving Romans and the beauty-loving Greeks most wonderful finery was designed for fair women. Doubtless if we could trace the origin of this mode still further back we might discover that our delightful ancestress in the Garden of Eden originated this style. Who knows whether she favored a gay array of glistening apple seeds, or found delight in the sparkling pebbles that vied with the weeds in her garden?
History of course does not make any record of this. However, we do know that the Romans delighted in handsome head-dress. They kept hosts of slaves to arrange their hair. And that was no mean task. It was a regular function. There were puffs to be attached, unruly tresses to be smoothed and various artificial appendages to be arranged. Oh, yes, the office of chief lady’s maid was no sinecure in those days, for her lady’s hair must be so disposed that her jewels would show to the best advantage. And whisper it not, but even in those days the blonde was a power in the land. To have golden hair was an ambition for which one was even willing to dye!
Another delightful whim of fashion in the Roman Empire was to have three or four earrings dangling from each ear. However, when puffs became the vogue in Rome feminine ingenuity had to find another way to display her jewels, so the forehead was bejewelled. And wonderful results were achieved, one of the most picturesque being an embroidered net. But mark, the embroidery was not of silken threads but of jewels–glittering rubies and emeralds with clusters of pearls.
Along about the time that Philip the Bold was creating many a flutter in feminine hearts, the fair enchantresses forsook the modest net, albeit they sparkled with many a gem and adorned their heads with gorgeous creations of peacock feathers. This was an opportunity not to be overlooked, so the forehead came in for its share of attention.
As centuries rolled on women still believed that the decoration of the forehead was essential. The notorious horned head-dress brought down the denunciations of the Church on its wearers. But they went merrily on making them more grotesque and formidable looking. In those days, gentle reader, you will remember that there were no subway crushes. Also the everlasting rush was unknown. Women had time to think how to beautify themselves…
But in this land of the free you may choose your forehead finery irrespective of any restrictions, for the quest of beauty is the only motif that inspires the wearing of these gorgeously jewelled ornaments.
The Washington [DC] Times 16 May 1920: p. 32
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The illustrations suggest a veritable treasure-trove of costuming inspiration for the passionate heroines of authoresses such as Marie Corelli, Ouida, and Elinor Glyn. Despite their glamour, we cannot call these adornments completely frivolous: forehead jewels are, of course, the perfect camouflage for the worry lines that inevitably accompany the tangled love-lives of Egyptian princesses and Balkan queens as plotted by lady novelists.
However, Mrs Daffodil cannot condone the pendants worn just above the nose, no matter how elegant or exotic. One fears an epidemic of crossed eyes.
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.