Right, now you have that perfect dress and silhouette, supported by all the correct underwear (as covered in part 1 here), the next step is the face and hair. It is not much, you may think, but do not underestimate it – wrong hairdo or lack of headgear, modern make up or hairstyle will mar even the loveliest dress. Again, if you are dressing up for a party, or an eclectic photo shoot, and historical accuracy is not the main concern, that’s fine, you may actually enjoy the freedom of doing whatever your imagination prompts you to do – and there is a lot of fun in it too, ( that’s why I like Steampunk and bridal/fantasy shoots so much – pure creative, unrestricted fun!), but if you want to strive for at least a semblance of correctness, this post is for you.
There are several ways of achieving the desired effect as far as hair and face are concerned – some are period correct, some are modern substitutes, and it is strictly up to you whether you want to be 100% authentic ( and have the means for it) or whether you simply want to recreate the look using a mixture of modern and traditional techniques.
A few generic remarks first
Make up – On the whole, in 90% of cases, less is more…. even if make up was used at the time, the odds are that it was used by actors, courtesans, masque players, fashionable courtiers etc, so if in doubt simply use less – or none. If your character needs make up, ( Elizabethan courtier, 18th century actor etc), make sure you try and mimic the make up represented on the images from the period – modern make up styles will just look bad. Whether or not you want to use gentle make up as a base, (foundation, powder, concealer) is up to you – if it is subtle and can pass unnoticed whilst covering a few wrinkles, blemishes, etc – perfect. Just don’t plaster on too much, it really is very obvious!
Hair – don’t despair if you don’t have long hair – sometimes it is actually easier to recreate the hairstyles with wigs, hairpieces, etc – it is faster too. So short hair is not an excuse! Headgear, be it a wimple, hood or a hat will not only finish your outfit perfectly, but it will also make you carry yourself differently – and you will feel different too. Nowadays few women wear proper hats, so donning period-appropriate headgear does have an impact on your carriage, behavior and above all, looks – authentic and stylish.
I must say I love my wigs and extensions – they are easy to use, easy to style and they don’t cost much – synthetic hair is getting better and better. Proper, full wigs will cost you a bit more, but they are worth it. good company here: Hair Story or a USA based one, The Historical Hairdresser
Let us have a quick run through the ages…
As far as make up is concerned, none or hardly any was worn (I am speaking of Europe here). However, that doesn’t mean that ladies didn’t have some ways of looking more appealing. Fashions have changed since then and we may not think much of some of their beauty tricks – getting rid of one’s eyebrows entirely and plucking forehead hair to make the forehead taller or/and wider is not always appealing to our modern sensibilities, and yet that was the fashion. If you are aiming to portray a fashionable 14th or 15th century lady, there are a few ways to get closer to that look. Surprisingly, the recent vintage and pin up revival means quite a lot of girls do pluck their eyebrows completely as drawing them on is so much easier, and you can get the shape you want. If you are one of those who do, then you have the perfect opportunity to look like a high-born medieval lady – simply do not draw on any brows. If you do have eyebrows, simply powder over them to make them less visible. Often positioning of the edge of the veil level with eyebrows will work.
Generic make up – use foundation and powder if you need to, some natural eye-shadows work if applied lightly and inconspicuously – but leave eyeliner, mascara and lippy at home. I often used honey on my lips when working/doing living history for longer periods – great for your lips, tastes lovely and gives a bit of a gloss too.
Hair – A variety of styles are available, really depending on which period and status is portrayed. Generally, a head covering is preferred – if uncovered, then hair should be styled in an appropriate fashion. Consider practical aspects – it is techncalliy OK for Viking women to wear their hair uncovered and loose, but try that when living and working in a Viking village for a week , especially if you hair is long – it is a nuisance. Loosely flowing tresses are represented in the iconography – though usually it was worn for special occasions – coronations, weddings, etc. Sometimes a combination is used – a high headdress with hair flowing behind – though again, those are exceptions and dictated by the occasion. A great library of the late medieval styles is on Marie Cadieux site – here
A few examples :
12 century – long plaits were in fashion. Don’t have long enough hair -extensions rock! If your hair is short, it is possible to attach the ready-to-use plaits onto an Alice band – the band will be hidden under your veil anyway 🙂
In the later 12th century wimples and barbettes start to appear – perfect for hiding the hair completely
14th century – fashionable headgear is plaits, but coiled on the side of the hear. again, extensions can be used. There are lots of alternative and varied looks by then, from completely covered be-wimpled and be-veiled looks, to huge edifices – a lot to have fun with – just check out this site for some ideas – http://www.kats-hats.co.uk/
and a couple of henins. Not the most practical headgear, I must say….
Make up – again, the less the better, at least in the first half of the century. Situation changes with the Elizabethan period, and following the ways of the ageing queen, the courtiers tended to replicate the fashionable pale faced look. Lots of opportunities here to have fun with, just don’t go the whole hog and make the cosmetics with lead – not the best for your skin, to put mildly. Theatrical make up is accessible, and for those of you who prefer natural things, it is possible to source proper make up, giving the authentic look, but without the harmful substances – Sally Pointer makes some excellent ones – link to shop here
Hair – hardly seen in the first century as covered by hoods, bonnets, coifs,caps etc. You would see front hair with French hoods and as the century progressed, more and more hair was being revealed – but always styled elaborately and with ornaments – billiments etc. that’s for the court.If you are portraying middle class, you would almost always wear something on your head, especially if you portray a married woman.
Even with hoods, wigs and extensions are useful – Eleanor above wears a lovely wig with her posh coif and cap – and the picture above shows the hairstyling for late elizabethan – my own hair plus lots of extensions and padding!
I use false braids coiled at the back of my head to add additional support to my french hoods – so a lot of options for both long and short hair. remember that wigs were used even back then 🙂
Make up – again, as little as possible – with the Jacobean rule more decorum is introduced and that means a tad less even in the court, especially under the Commonwealth – you are still fine with paler complexion. Make up is much more evident in the Restoration period, at court – both for women and men…. mind you, more make up does not mean modern eyeliner and mascara
Hair – lots of options, hugely dependent upon the decade, nationality, status, religion. Ringlets, buns, coifs, hats – lots of choice . I tend to use extensions to achieve the curls as my own hair stays curled for about 5 minutes and then collapses… It is easy to customize a weft – simply cut in bits and sew onto hair clips. I use these for 17th century, Regency and Victorian styles.
all extensions here….
Make up – again, less to start with ( can you see the pattern yet? ), but getting heavy in the second half. Powders, lead based whitening pastes, rouge/blusher, beauty spots,red lips – an epitome of the spoilt French Aristo comes to mind – and that’s just the men 🙂 Again – that’s high fashion, if you are re-enacting lower and middle class, go easy on your face paint. Powder rules and was used excessively – both on face, hands, necks, hair etc. Rouge went on the cheekbones, and on the lips too.
Hair – lots of fun and possibilities here, from the simplest hairdos, with a cap, to the elaborate wig/hair sculptures – all depending on which decade and social stratum you are re-enacting. you can style your hair or wear a wig – up to you; I usually find wigs much better – they stay in the style I want them to, and take much less time to put on – love it! Even better – hats are in fashion – from straw bergeres to huge Gainsborough affairs, tricorns for hunting etc – you will be spoilt for choice. Reference material on my Pinterest board
Lots if interesting tutorials and fun with 18th century hair can be found on the American Duchess website – have a browse!
There is a fascinating book by Kendra – a lot of information on the hairstyling, dressing wigs and hairpieces and tons of reference material – superb resource! http://18thcenturyhair.com/
lovely hat and wig from Sherri – http://www.farthingalehistoricalhats.co.uk/
Regency, Victorian, Edwardian
Make up – slowly subsiding after the revolution, though powder lingering on a bit longer. With the more restrictive Victorian fashions most of the make up was discarded and was worn usually by ‘fallen women ‘, actresses, circus performers etc. Having said that, rosy cheeks and lips were often depicted – either induced by pinching to bring the blood into the cheeks or by some more nefarious means…. 🙂
Hair – lots of hairstyles over the decades, styling changing a bit more rapidly now – and include some fabulous looks – as well as some quite silly ones. Wigs and hairpieces are worn a lot – as are the hats, turbans, bonnets, caps, riding hats, etc, enormous variety – some styles shown here
There are a few kind of curls & ringlets extensions available, and they often come attached to a grip – but it is easy to dismantle it to use and style the ringlets in whatever way you want to!
a few examples…
There you have it, a very generic overview – more of overall guidelines rather than strict rules, but to be honest going into details of each century and decade is very much like writing a book! hope you will find them helpful.
more links to hats pictures, btw… – here
and a few checked wigs suppliers: