Fringe - Natural Waves - Final Emancipation of the Curl
When Queen Victoria came to the throne she found the curl high up and gay, but she herself did not succumb to the fascinating ringlet. In her early portraits we see her with the hair parted and brushed down smoothly each side of her head, and with light plaits draped round her ears. No doubt this severely neat and simple style of hairdressing suited the clear-cut profile of the young Queen, and was more in keeping with the solemnity of her exalted position than the riotous curl would have been.
The portrait of Jane Elizabeth Digby (Fig. 1) is an excellent example of the way the curls were worn at this period of their history. The particular curls of this lady played havoc with many hearts, for, following her divorce from Lord Ellenborough (Governor-General of India in the early part of the nineteenth century), she became successively the wife of a Bavarian nobleman, a Greek general, and an Arab sheikh. In the portrait of Sarah Austin, who was a con-temporary of Lady Ellenborough (Fig. 2), we have another pretty arrangement of curls. In this case, however, they were looped up and arranged in a slightly more methodical manner.
From this smart beginning the tame drooping variety of curl was gradually evolved. The ringlets got longer and less smart - indeed, all style was beginning to be abandoned. This rather inartistic Victorian mode is within the memory of some of us, and even to-day there are old ladies who cling with tenacity to the style, which pre-dated the chignon and the crinoline.
Fig. 3. Miss Agnes Strickland, a famous historian of the Victorian period. This mode of hairdressing shows the rise of a more serious era
The portrait of Agnes Strickland (Fig. 3) illustrated the new mode, which has a serious note, and seems to tell of a new era of ideals.
Then we have a well-known picture of the poetess, Mrs. Browning (Fig. 4), of the same epoch, which shows the curls almost au naturel. This fashion, pretty enough in a young girl, is altogether wanting in the touch Of parade which one associates with the dignity of maturity.
The big, loosely-turned-back curls familiar in portraits of George Eliot foreshadow the chignon, although the development took place gradually, and the draped pieces suspended round the ears and finishing in a rather tight knot low on the nape of the neck took hold of public taste at this period, when the curl was being coaxed into smoothness, and when pomatum was called into request to produce the desired effect. But, despite all such effort in the days of dulness and extreme respectability, the curl died hard. If it was suppressed in one place it broke forth somewhere else, as will be seen in the coiffure of the Hon. Mrs. Norton, one of the Sheridan sisters, and a famous beauty of her day.
Here conventional severity and pomade have conquered to a great extent, but the careless knot at the back and the alluring little "follow me" are an expression of their fair owner's appreciation of the graceful ringlet.
Fig 4. Mrs. Browning, the poetess, adopted the coiffure of loose curls which are now deemed appropriate only to a very young girl
With the entry of the chignon came the temporary eclipse of the curl, and ugliness reigned supreme. Hoops and bustles and other queer and ridiculous contrivances took the whole world by storm. Small wonder was it that the hairdressing was inartistic too. The curl must have awakened a latent sense of humour in womankind, and sisters, a famous wit and beauty of her day, never quite abandoned the use of the curl in her coiffure have bidden them return to grace and beauty, but the curl was strenuously suppressed until such time as hoops and wire cages gave place to paniers and the clinging polonaise gown fashionable thirty or forty years ago.
Fig. 5. The Honourable Mrs. Norton, one of the lovely Sheridan
Fig. 6. With the advent of the chignon the curl disappeared, until, in the 'seventies of last century it began to revive in the first small beginnings of the curled fringe
Then, lo and behold, the curl emerged again in the form of a taure, or fringe. This was in the 'seventies, when the first small beginning of the fringe began to appear (Fig. 6), and as the chignon waned the fringe increased, until, in the 'eighties, it reached a climax (Fig. 7). This mode was not altogether beautiful, for the large netted mass at the back of the head was entirely devoid of beauty, and it was not until the rather aggressively frizzed fringe came to be considered demode that women were inspired with the brilliant idea of letting the hair fall in natural waves, and of gathering it up into a graceful knot at the nape of the neck or in a simple coil on top.
At last they realised that the head was shaped prettily, and that the hair was intended to emphasise this fact, not to be tortured into monstrous and ridiculous excrescences. So the taure disappeared, and the long curls were arranged in sculpturesque waves from a centre parting and coiled neatly at the back of the head. This brings us up to when we were decorously bidding farewell to the Victorian age, and entering into the Edwardian era, which period signalised the final emancipation of the curl, whose progress we have followed through many changes from the earliest beginnings of its history. First, the waves became little billows and puffs, which grew and spread in picturesque abandon, until hairdressing arrived at its present stage (1911) of beauty and perfection.
Fig. 7. As the chignon disappeared, the curled fringe increased, until the fashionable head-dressing of 1880 resulted in a heavy curled fringe on the brow and a loosely coiled mass of hair at the nape of the neck
We have borrowed from the fashions of the past many salient points, and combined them with the enlightened taste and culture of to-day; and when we review the world's fashions of two thousand years we are confident in saying that the curled coiffure is incomparable, although the long and varied history of the curl inclined us to apply to it the well-known lines respecting the "little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead." Like this curl-wearer, "when it is good, it is very, very good, and when it is bad, it is horrid."