Sunday, January 1, 2012

Guest Post: Talia Felix talks Poufs and Pompadours

I am delighted to start of this new year with a guest post from illustrator, author and blogger, Talia Felix.  Talia's newest adventure is her blog, The Gibson Girl's Guide to Glamor which details the toils of being a fabulous lady of fashion in the Edwardian age.  Talia is here today to shed insight on the similar hairstyles that graced both the Georgian and Edwardian Ages and how you too can create these fabulous coiffures.

Can you spot the differences between these two hairstyles?

They are actually very slight, and while the Edwardian girl is trying to model herself on the Georgian look, she's made a small alteration which makes her true era quite easy to identify. It mostly just amounts to her having set her pompadour about 2 or 3 inches further forward on her crown -- all the difference there is between a pompadour and a pouf.

This observation is mostly of interest to those people who enjoy recreating historical hairdos. Hair styling methods from the Edwardian era are much better documented than those of the Georgian period, and if the methods of one also apply to the other, that's good news for the reenactor!

There is a reputation that the tall "Marie Antoinette" hairdos were achieved by simply wearing a wig. While this may have been true in some cases, examination of portraits don't usually show women with that same telltale wig-line the men's pictures tend to have. And how many women do you know who'd be willing to shave their heads entirely, even if they would be covered with a wig?

One of the few actual Georgian-era sources I've come across, that produces any sort of attempt to give a realistic description of the period's hairdressing practices, is the book Evelina. (Maybe it has the honor just because it was actually written by a woman, who knew something about the subject.) In fact Evelina and her friends get into plenty of hairy situations. It describes use of "cushions" and of false hair to supplement the natural locks, as well as ratting or "frizzling" the hair for volume, but makes clear that the women's own natural hair is the basis for all the styles. Edwardians had similar ways of gaining the amount of volume needed for the fashionable styles of their time -- ratting the hair, adding artificial rats (often cultivated from their brushes and combs, and saved till a nice mass was had) or purchasing pieces of false hair to weave or pin in. It is a fact that until the 1920s, most women kept their hair as long as possible; but really, when you think about it, even those with very long hair are unlikely to have enough of it to not only pad out a full pouf but to also have been able to achieve all the external supplementary rolls and curls as well.

The best-remembered styles of the 18th century, tall as one or two more heads stacked onto your own, didn't seem to be super-popular in England as on the continent, judging by the styles English ladies preferred to wear in their own portraits. The mere 3/4 of your own head looked like it was the standard for active English ladies, like Frances Abington and the Waldegreve girls. This is actually a fairly easy style to achieve -- and it's done with the same base as the Edwardian pompadour.

These demo pictures are being done in a very loose and messy fashion since I'm trying to style my hair myself with no mirror, and without using any pomade (if you do want to go all out yourself though, I recommend Murray's pomade. It really holds those Antoinette curls in place!) My own hair is, functionally, about hip-length -- wet and held straight the longest point goes roughly a quarter way down my thigh. This is to give some idea what's being worked with.

To make the pompadour/pouf, I'm using a hair rat made of my own hair, saved for a couple months from combs, and formed into a crescent shape.

1.Testing the rat. You'll want to comb your hair over it, but here it's just set on top of my own hair, and almost looks like a complete style.

2. Hair combed and pinned up over the rat. A ponytail is left over.

3. That ponytail gets used to create two rolls going down toward the neck. It's interesting to see how flat the style actually looks from the side.

4. Front view of the 3/4 head pouf.

Now I am sure if I had not used that rat I'd not have had hair enough remaining for the two neck curls. But if the Edwardians are anything to go by, there's a second cheat for this: if you want to rat your own hair, or for some other reason don't end up with enough hair remaining for the curls, you can just pin on pre-curled pieces of false hair. I have dark hair so we're not getting much contrast for the photo, but right over my ear in picture 5 is a pinned-in roll made entirely of false hair. Buns, coils and whatever else you want of false hair can also be thrown in. 

This just goes to show that, firstly, it is possible to achieve these styles without a full wig: but also, that the fashionable 'dos might not always have been entirely one's own hair either. Let's face it, even nowadays the most fashionable hair style are made with hair extensions. But just as the Edwardians made use of "transformations" to gain the needed abundance of hair, so can we assume did the Georgians with their at least equally complicated tresses.


  1. Oh no! All the pictures are broken for me...

  2. They're broken for me too. And I really need to see these.

  3. Sorry about that! I just (hopefully) fixed the problem

  4. They're working now. Great step-by-step pics, btw. My hair isn't that long but gads, I've got a ton. I could do the poof with ease, but would still need extensions for the curls.

    And I still say I live in the wrong era...

    Thanks, Heather and Talia!

  5. Interesting post - and led me to research how to make my own hair rat so I can try this. I usually do a Gibson with the hair just sort of poofed but it always separates and flattens after a short while - thanks for the demonstration. Happy new year!

  6. Thanks for sharing. Nice styles and helpful method to do so.

  7. Lovely and so beautiful.

  8. Now dress up for us and show it all off! Pretty please with hair poufies?

  9. Very useful information and I Hope to see more posts soon!.