Earlier this month I attended the Battle of New Orleans bicentennial event. I spent two days in costume wandering about the battlefield as well as the French Quarter, including a lovely ball I attended the second evening. I made quite a few new pieces, which I'll get to soon, but first I wanted to talk about hair! It's constantly a problem to keep those beautiful curls bouncing for an entire day through all of the abuse. Usually I use a modern setting lotion, wet set pin curls, and a good shellacking of hairspray to keep them from sagging. But this time around I left the modern methods at home and took the opportunity to experiment with the method women of the time were using.
My friend, Abby, has been studying haircare of the 18th century, particular the use of pomatum and powder in both styling and cleanliness. So, I brought with me a bit of both to put them through a trial by fire.
I wet my hair the evening before, worked the pomatum through, and put my whole head up in pin curls. That morning I took out the curls and found they were so well ensconced I couldn't get them to do the spiral fall I was looking for on the sides. I think the problem is in my short hair and the lack of weight needed. So, I pulled out a small barrel curling iron (something they would have had, but I don't think the hotel would have appreciated a brasier being lit in the bathroom) and encouraged some of the curls into the proper shape. The curls on top I left alone as they seemed to lay well. I also decided to forgo the powder since the finish already looked very similar to portraits of the time.
This was soon after arriving to the site, with brisk winds that actually gave my face windburn that day. Despite all of the tousling, the curls were perfect.
A few hours of walking about the site later, still no loss of curls!
The next day I used the same technique, only rinsing my hair and adding a bit of pomade to achieve the wet set pin curls. However, my other hat sat much further down on my head (something I need to fix), so it spent almost all day squashing the poor curls I had so tediously set!
But all was not lost! I reset the curls for a couple of hours before the evening event and fixed up a bit with the curling iron again. Mind you, the most squashed part (the top), I never used the iron on and it still bounced back with just a bit of pinning while dry. So, after at least 15 hours my very straight hair was still very willing to curl just perfectly!
Prior to the event I tried a few small curls set for three hours that I then brushed and ran my fingers through and this is what resulted after all of the abuse. Needless to say, taking my hair down after the event I looked like orphan Annie. 1780s hedgehogs anyone?
I've still got a number of tests I'm planning to put this system of haircare through, but I hope you will too! Check out Abby's Etsy shop here!