1800's Hairstyles

Updated February 21, 2017

Hairstyles in the 1800s were more delicate and feminine than in the previous century. Hair was plaited, twisted, fluffed, curled, crimped and adorned with all manner of combs, feathers, flowers and hats. Women who could afford to take the time with their hair might spend quite a bit of it making sure that hair was beautiful. A woman of means would often have a maid style her hair.


The beginning of the 1800s brought simplicity and naturalness to women's hairstyles. As their clothing became softer and more feminine, so did their hairstyles. Women mostly wore their hair wound up in one or more buns or coiled chignons, often parted down the middle with little ringlets called "sugar curls" surrounding the face and nape of the neck. Hair would be arranged to create the appearance of a round face, which was considered coquettish.


In the middle of the century, women started letting the hair at the back of the head hang loose, which created a more natural presentation. Women would coil their hair into several loops, or smaller ringlets. Curls were desired, as they were an indication that a woman had a sweeter temperament. Austrian empress Elizabeth started the style of placing flowers in her hair, and women in France and England took notice and followed her lead.


In 1872, the invention of the crimper changed the look of the hair from smooth to wavy. The crimper was a hot iron that created a wave when the hair was inserted into it. Women began crimping their hair and creating loose waves around their heads, while still creating various buns or plaits with feather or flowers on the crown. This was called the "Marcel wave." Many would pile their hair up high on their heads to create large pompadours.


Women often wore hair ornaments. Ornate tortoise shell combs or pearl-studded hair pins adorned their hair. Milliners manufactured elaborate hats with ribbons, plumes and flowers, and for women, the colour of the hat had to match the colour of the outfit. A woman would keep the hair from her brush in a "hair receiver," a ceramic bowl kept on her vanity. Once she collected enough hair, she would use it to make a "rat," which was a small cushion used to add height to her hairstyle. Women also made jewellery and pictures from their shed hair.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Donna Tinus has been a writer since 2005. She has a background in medical terminology and has written articles for various websites on topics such as family, finance, medicine, health, pets, gardening, beauty and relationships. Tinus holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Centenary College.