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Elizabethan Era Hairstyles

Updated July 20, 2017

Queen Elizabeth I ruled England for more than four decades in the latter half of the 16th century. The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth ruled her kingdom with both strength and style, defying convention and becoming one of the most famous monarchs in English history. During her reign, Elizabeth's personal style dictated the fashion and hairstyles of the time.

Dyes and Wigs

A natural redhead, Queen Elizabeth's curly hair was the ideal of beauty during her time, copied by many upper-class women with dyes and wigs. In order to achieve the red colouring, Elizabethan women bleached or dyed their hair using spices and flower extracts such as saffron, cumin seeds and celadine. When dyes were not an option, Elizabethan women often wore wigs of curly red hair, with the queen owning nearly 80 herself.

Hoods and Coverings

Hoods and hair coverings were common in Elizabethan England, often obscuring all but the hair framing the face. Beginning in childhood, Elizabethan women rarely left their hair uncovered. Girls wore white linen caps tied under the chin, called coifs, while women wore a variety of coverings. A common covering among upper-class women, the French hood, was a stiff, rounded band of fabric that sat on the top of the head and had pearl or glass beaded adornments. Accompanied by a veil or hairnet in the back, the French hood covered the ears and most of the hair.

Buns

Worn most commonly by married or adult women, buns were an integral part of most Elizabethan hairstyles. Formed from the hair on the back of the head, buns facilitated the use of the high collars and ruffs popular at the time, and were almost always hidden under some kind of head covering. Often sewn into place rather than pinned, buns lasted several days between washing and resetting. A common covering worn with buns was a caul, a type of mesh hairnet that gathered and encased the hair.

Rat and Frizzed Styles

Two hairstyles common during the Elizabethan era were the rat and frizzed styles, both using the hair from the ears forward. Rats, hairpieces so named because they mimicked the shape of rodents, were pads of hair rolled in a woman's natural hair and attached above the forehead, adding volume and creating a heart-shaped frame around the face. The frizzed style framed the face with a mass of frizzy curls, accomplished with the use of hot irons. Both the rat and frizzed styles accompanied buns and head coverings and often featured ornaments of jewels or pearls.

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About the Author

Jennifer Hayes began writing professionally in 2010. Previously published online, Hayes has written a series of crafting tutorials with an emphasis on green crafting and creativity on a budget. She attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where she studied English and art.