This article first appeared on Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. As it is rather long and Picture Heavy I will make it into two blog posts. The first part will cover the hairstyles history as well as 17th Century hair care, the second part will cover a step-by-step tutorial how to create the hairstyle.
|Young woman with side curls by Wenceslaus Hollar (1617-1677), 1645|
I am venturing into a new costume territory this year, the 17th century, or, to be more precise, the 1640’s. With new clothes, comes the need for hair that is suitable. A very popular hairstyle in the mid 17th century was a style when the hair on top and back of the head was shaped into a chignon, or bun, placed rather high on the head and with the side hair hanging loose. By 1650 this style had already been popular for about twentyfive years and it had still twenty years of popularity to go, but during that period it went through several incarnations. To go through, and name, all the variations and names it had would be well out of the scope of this article, but I will describe some of the more significant changes it had over time. When it first came it was called “spaniel ears” and for ease I will call it that throughout the article. I will also talk a little about period hair care and show how I set and style a wig for a look fitting for the middle years of the 17th Century.
|The same woman, back view by Wenceslaus Hollar (1617-1677), 1645|
Fashionable hairstyles in the 17th century
In the beginning of the 17th century women’s hairstyles were high, worn over pads in front, coiled into a chignon in the back. Around 1615 this hairstyle started to phase out, it got lower on top and fuller around the ears. This softer and less formal way of styling hair corresponded well with a changing fashion in clothes, which also grew less rigid with a higher waist and lower collars. In the 1620’s the hairstyle this article concern became popular, though it was worn alongside more strict hairstyles as well. At first the side hair was quite short and either hanging in rather loose curls or arranged in a frizz that made the name “spaniel ears” quite fitting. Sometimes women also wore their own version of the male lovelock, one or two hanks of hair that was longer than the other curls. Sometimes they were pulled together close to the tops with small bows and there were also a variation were none of the hair was hanging loose, but completely gathered together. A short fine fringe was very common, possibly the first time fringes came into fashion in Europe and it could either be straight or arranged in small curls or loops, clinging close to the face. This hairstyle was worn by all classes, though the lower classes tended to forego the curling.
|Leonora Christina, Countess of Schleswig and Holstein by Karel van Mander (ca. 1610-1670)|
|Portrait of Queen Consort Henrietta Maria of France by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), 1632-35|
The chignon, which originally was quite small could be arranged into a number of different ways, a plain bun, braids, puffs or coils of hair shaped into an O. It was very often decorated with pearls, either braided into the chignon or twisted around it or shaped like a hairnet. Queen Henrietta Maria of England was portrayed several times with a crown or tiara encircling her chignon. Ribbons and bows were also popular decorations and the chignon could also be partly or completely covered by a bourrelet, a padded and decorated cover, shaped like a crescent.
|Painting in profile of Henrietta Maria, Queen of England by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), 1638|
|Lady with Her Maidservant Holding a Letter (detail) by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), ca. 1667|
|Messenger by Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681)|
In the 1640’s the side hair got longer and more abundant, arranged into more structured curls, looking more smooth and glossy rather than frizzy. At times the hair was left uncurled, though that was a fashion that seemed to have been more popular with the middle classes. The fringe disappeared and though curls could still decorate the forehead they became fuller than previously. It also became popular comb all the hair back, leaving the forehead completely bare. The chignon grew larger to balance the long curls.
|Princess Louise Hollandine by Gerard van Honthorst (1590-1656), 1642|
The rather simple style of the 1640’s was still popular throughout the 1650’s, but more elaborate versions were also seen. The section of hair on top of the head that was combed back into the chignon became broader, with the effect that the loose hair started just over the ears. The curls also grew more elaborate, giving the style more width around the face than previously. The use of false hair, by no means unknown earlier, became more popular to help achieve this effect and sometimes even wire constructions were used to allow the curls to defy gravity. It also became increasingly popular to decorate not only the chignon, but the loose curls with pearls, ribbons and bows.
|Countess Beata Elisabeth von Königsmarck by Hendrick Munnichhoven, ca. 1654|
|Portrait of Anne Bulwer by Gerard Soest, 1654|
The elaborate hair grew even more complicated in the 1660’s, with a more extreme width around the face. In general, there was a trend toward shorter curls, often with a few long locks hanging down from them. A simpler version with loose curls hanging more straightforward down remained in style, but it was still a lot more complicated than it had been twenty years earlier. The forehead was often decorated with an arrangement of very elaborate curls. In the early 1670’s the hurluberlu took the fashionable world by storm, a new style where the hair was shaped into a shock of short, wild curls all around the head, and the spaniel eared hairstyle that had remained popular for such a long period of the 17th century, finally became obsolete.
|Portrait of Margaretha Delff, Wife of Johan de la Faille by Jan Verkolje (1650-1693), 1674|
Thick, curly and glossy was the ideal hair for the 17th century and though blonde hair was popular, brown hair was quite modish as well. There were a number of recipes for hair dyes that promised golden locks with the help of rhubarb, saffron and the light of the sun, silvery white tresses from a decoct containing thistles as well as recipes for red and black hair. Most startling, perhaps, is a recipe for green hair, with the help of distilled capers. The tints rarely had any real staying power, though. Hair powder to change the colour of the hair had been known since the late 16th century, but even if it remained in some use throughout the 17th century, it didn’t suit a hairstyle with long flowing curls. It is difficult to keep hair powder on loose hair and the visual effect of dry powder is far from the glossiness one can see in portraits.
|Queen Consort Catherine of Braganza by Peter Lely (1618-1680), 1665|
Curls could be set with curling irons or with rag, paper or even pipe clay curlers. To maintain the curls the hair could be prepared with a setting lotion. Decocts containing flax seed, lemon juice, gelatine or sea weed had been in use at least since the 16th century and gum arabic, a water soluble resin, or egg white could also be used. A recipe for hair care to ensure a good curl gives the advice to wash the hair with a solution containing quicklime, then to anoint the hair with either myrtle or olive oil, powder it with perfumed powder and then put it up in curls and cover it with a cap over night. If one did put up the hair like that carefully every night, the recipe promise that the whole process of washing only needed to be repeated once or twice every week. Quicklime is not the best substance to wash hair, it can irritate eyes and skin, but it is related to potash which lye and soap can be made out of.
Myrtle and olive oil were also advised as good for keeping split ends at bay and there is no doubt that it would help hair that had been stripped of its natural oils by a quicklime wash. It may sound odd to powder the hair before curling it, but the main ingredient in hair powder in the 17th century was starch, and today that is what dry shampoo mostly contain. The powder would soak up excess fat from the oil and would then be combed out the next day when the hair was arranged for the day. One could also opt to boil Maiden hair, a kind of seaweed with salt and water to a honey-like consistency as a kind of leave in conditioner and then wash it with a wash made of beet leaves, fern roots and gum arabic, after that it was supposedly easy to curl it any way that was wanted. Hair too frizzy and unruly could be combed with oil of rose, lilies or marshmallows, two or three times a week to make it easier to maintain.
|Catherine Howard by Wenceslaus Hollar (1617-1677), 1648|
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