Fourteenth Century Hairstyles By Lady Rosalie Langmod - For the Weekend Reenactor
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Fourteenth Century Hairstyles For the Weekend Reenactor By Lady Rosalie Langmod MKA: Kali Jackson Armstrong Clothier’s Seminar, February 2nd, 2019 email: r firstname.lastname@example.org myladymother.wordpress.com
In the decade that I’ve been a reenactor, both in nineteenth century reenactment and medieval recreation, I’ve learned that it’s the little details that make the difference in achieving a period ensemble. For me, the two most important areas (which are sadly always the last points to be addressed) are appropriate footwear and appropriate head dressing. In this class and handout, I hope to enable you with tips and tricks in how to dress one’s hair in authentic ways. First of all, relax! It’s a lot easier than you think and you can achieve these hairstyles using materials you probably already have in your house. (Even if you’re doing it using completely period methods!) The biggest obstacle is only the fact that, because some of these hairstyles are so foreign to contemporary sensibilities, it is difficult to get sufficient practice. It’s my hope that the advice I offer will help you over the hurdles. HISTORICAL OVERVIEW: While I would certainly never want to be without shampoo and conditioner, there are some medieval hair remedies which actually make sense and even work quite well. For example, aloe vera is probably won’t combat hair loss as prescribed in the Tacuinum Santiatis, but it makes a wonderful conditioner and detangler. In fact, I use aloe vera gel mundanely and it has made my son’s hair more luminous and it triples as a hair gel! (It’s great for curly hair.) Other medieval recommendations, like rinsing with vinegar or goats milk, or conditioning with olive oil, are still listed as “natural hair care” prescriptions on pinterest! Meanwhile, henna and indigo have both come back in vogue as natural dyes, much like our medieval counterparts. For quick reference of medieval applications: Cleaning: Vinegar (I once read that apple cider vinegar was good for brown hair), goatsmilk, lye.
Conditioning: Olive oil, Aloe Vera, Animal Fats. (Apply olive oil as a hair mask prior to a shower and wash thoroughly. Be careful as it can make your shower floor very slippery. Aloe Vera can be applied by the gob-fulls before, during, and after your shower. --I would never use animal fats in my hair for obvious hygienic reasons.) Dyeing: Sun-bleaching (everyone was trying to be blonde), henna, and indigo. (While young girls tried to lighten their hair, older women tried to disguise gray hair by darkening it with indigo.) Hair Tools: Boar’s Hair Brush, tight combs (heavily decorated), a hair pick (also decorated), hair pins, ribbon, and thread. MODERN HAIR VS MEDIEVAL HAIR While most medieval hairstyles aren’t very difficult to achieve solely using period tricks, provided your hair is long enough, the 14th century ladies’ disadvantages in regards to hygiene were actually a leg up when it came to styling. Modern shampoo strips hair of sebum which, while kind of yucky, helps hair to hold it’s style. Consequently, the reenactor not interested in recreating the odors of the past, should feel free to use pomades and hair gels to compensate for the lack of sebum. For my own part, I prefer using hair pins made by the Twisted Calontiri (Nikita Pashavich) both for reenacting and mundane use as they hold better and with greater comfort than any other product I’ve used. They’re styled after medieval pins, but made with copper as opposed to wood. That said, while medieval techniques, in my opinion, result in a more comfortable and surprisingly durable hairstyle, the one modern convenience which I would rather not do without are hair-ties and elastics. HAIR STYLES: In most Christian cultures in the Middle Ages, an adult woman (especially a married one) would not be seen with loose hair in public unless she was a queen at her coronation. (British Coronation portraits usually try to emulate the Virgin Mary in the representation of the queen.) Loose hair is primarily reserved for virgins and in many of the sources I’ve reviewed in preparing for this class, it’s clear that there is also a sexual connotation to
flowing hair that was to be avoided by a good woman. In fact, it’s desirable for, the most part, for women to cover their hair altogether, but it’s clear from manuscripts and statuaries that this clerical admonition was often bent and even broken. In truth, most hairstyles during the pre-modern era aren’t terribly difficult to execute, and many are much more accessible to contemporary stylists. Prior to the 1200s, the most common hairstyle was either one or two simple plaits. During the 13th century, crespines and Birgitta caps became popular and would have encased either two low buns or pinned braid coils. Later medieval hairstyles (except for the big Elizabethan poofy styles) are not often as foreign to us in contrast to the popular styles in England and France during the 1300s. Those of us with long hair generally braid it or style it in criss-cross crown braids just to run errands. However, few of us would style our hair in Princess Leia buns, horizontal, or vertical plaits to go to work or the grab lunch with friends and these are the hairstyles that are a little tricky to execute without practice. Another reason I think that we tend to leave off attempts at period hairstyles is that many of us live under a myth that our medieval counterparts had hair that flowed for metric yards. Given their use of false hair and the problems for which herbal remedies are prescribed, we can be safely assured that they had the same difficulties with growing their hair out as we do. Moreover, experience has taught me that, with a few exceptions, 14th century hairstyles can actually be easier to execute with moderate (at least be SCA standards) hair lengths --about shoulder blade length. The final reason I think some of us decline to use Medieval Hairstyles is that they simply don’t fit into our modern ideas of what’s attractive. I can’t tell you how many times my mother has made fun of my hairstyle when I’m headed out to an event, but when I look in the mirror, I realize that the braids swooping parallel to my cheeks frame my face beautifully and bring out the color of my eyes. Princess Leia buns make me feel like Sophie Marceau in Braveheart. Embrace the fact that you yourself are beautiful and you’ll find your beauty and confidence within the period aesthetic. Hairstyles By Region:
Germany: Loose and flowing if you’re unmarried, usually with a barbette and fillet. Single plait down the back, also with a barbette and fillet. Finally, knotted at the nape of the neck and hidden beneath a veil. ITALY: T he same as Germany except with less headwear. Italian ladies also wore their hair criss-crossed in a crown over the top of their heads. They were also unlikely to hide their hair beneath veils. France/England: Despite the intense rivalry between these countries, their fashions were often very similar and the same can be said of hair. While peasant women would hide their hair beneath veils, noble women and queens are depicted hunting and being regal with side buns (either Princess Leia style or set beneath the ear lobes), vertical plaits (either set at the temples or wrapped upwards from the nape of the neck), horizontal plaits (which can be executed in a number of ways), or a combination of horizontal and vertical plaits.) Hairstyles by Length: While one can certainly adapt hairstyles to work with hair length, the following hairstyles are better suited to the prescribed hair lengths (in my opinion). Long/Thick Hair,: Princess Leia and Low Sidebuns, Combination vertical/horizontal plaits. Moderate/Thin Hair: Vertical Plaits (both types), Horizontal plaits (both types, depending on length), and low buns. Note: Side buns should always be covered with a crespine. While f rench and dutch braids are not documentable p rior to the nineteenth century, dutch braids can be used to give the impression of having more braid to work with and can act as a good anchor. Crespines/hairnets should ALWAYS been worn over hair that’s been styled. In the Middle Ages, they were used to protect hairstyles, not to hold up loose hair. (This would have been difficult without elastic and the netting was not very tight, especially compared to modern crocheted snoods.)
HAIRSTYLE INSTRUCTIONS: These are very basic instructions on how to execute some fourteenth century hairstyles. Depending on the length (or shortness) of your hair, you may need to make some accommodations. If you’re reading this handout without attending my class, please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions either in the email on the cover page or in person at an event and I’ll try to help. Side Buns: This hairstyle is easy to execute and very grand looking, especially when dressed up with headwear. The downside is that the Princess Leia style requires both thickness and length, and the weight can cause headaches for the tender-scalped. (Or even the seasoned scalp.) 1.) Part hair directly down the center from the middle of the brow to the nape of the neck. 2.) Gather hair into two pigtails; either parallel the top of the ears (for Princess Leia style) or below the ear lobe and half between the ears and the back of the head for low buns. 3.) Braid pigtails. (Optional, you can weave a ribbon through the plait.) 4.) Coil into buns and pin. 5.) Cover hair with a crespine. Period techniques: Use ribbon or string in place of hair ties and elastics and sew bun into coil to help pins hold up. Vertical Plaits: There are a variety of ways to achieve this look, depending on length etc. For all versions, the hair should be parted down the middle as with Side Buns. Version A: (When done using period techniques, this hairstyle can withstand a rigorous day of housework. Perfect for an active day at an event! However, it looks best with shorter hair: mine is so long that I looked like a Swedish milkmaid rather than a medieval noblewoman.) 1.) Gather hair into plaits on either side of the forehead at the temples. (Optionally, weave ribbon through the plaits.) 2.) Tuck the end of the braid into the “pocket” created by the hair at the top of the braid and pin in place. (For longer hair, you can fold it into thirds so that the fringe peaks out at the bottom.)
3.) Sew or pin the plait closed so that the “hoop” is closed. (Sewing holds best and doesn’t poke the wearer’s ears all day, unless you are clumsy with the needle.) 4.) Remove pins or leave them as you please. Version B: (This one is easier done with a barbette to cover the fringes at the top.) 1.) Gather hair into two plaits at the nape of the neck. (Higher if your hair is shorter. Again, one can easily weave ribbon through the plait.) 2.) Pin the ends of the braids at the top of your head so that the fringes are hidden. 3.) The result should be two plaits that run from the top of the head along the temples and cheeks before ducking up behind your ears. Version C: (This is the last one I’ll describe, but this is certainly not the only way you might execute this style. I find it’s harder to sew the plaits onto unbraided hair, so it’s more reliant upon bobby pins which makes it’s less durable or comfortable. It also takes more practice, but it’s really just a simple trick at the end of the day.) 1.) Gather hair into pigtails near the back of your head, along the crown. 2.) Braid hair into plaits. 3.) If necessary, pin your hair to hide hair-ties. (You can always cut the hair ties once the style is complete.) 4.) Pin or sew plait along crown until it reaches your templet. (If your hair is too long, simply criss-cross the plaits at the back and send them along the opposite sides of your head.) 5.) Fold the remaining plait in half and pin the fringe underneath the plait. 6.) Sew or pin the hoop shut. Note: While it looks sloppy to the modern eye, fourteenth century women incorporated the fringe into the hairstyle. They even trimmed it so it was all an equal length. Horizontal Plaits: This style is certainly the strangest to modern eyes, but it’s perfect for moderate hair. 1.) Part and gather into pigtails as with Princess Leia Buns for long hair, further back as with Version C for shorter hair. --Plait.
2.) With long hair, fold plait back towards the center. With shorter hair, only pin back to hide the hair tie. 3.) Pin towards the temple. 4.) Fold the fringe under the braid and pin into place. For shorter hair, you can “fake” this hair style by dutch braiding from the back of the head to the temple and then folding the fringe inside the “pocket” and pin. For longer hair, you can wrap the two plaits criss-cross along the back. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t worry! This style takes practice and was often covered with a wimple in period. SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS: So your hair simply won’t fit into these styles due to length or texture? No worries! A veil and wimple isn’t your only option. Our medieval counterparts used wool or human hair bought from someone with a genetic advantage but a financial disadvantage. (The latter which was frowned upon by the clergy.) You can braid false hair into your own plaits to add thickness or simply create false plaits and sew them to fillets just like they did in period. If, conversely, you have so much hair that achieving these styles is either a terrible chore or brings on a horrid headache (or both), you can always use only part of your hair for a vertical plait or side buns while braiding the rest into a single plait down your back. Additionally, you can simply plait your hair down the back (or knot it at the nape) and use false hair as prescribed above. CONCLUSION: While I commend anyone wishing to use medieval techniques, (and even prefer some of them myself), I also urge you to have grace with yourself. Unlike our medieval counterparts who styled their hair this way regularly, we only do so on weekends and the odd week. They have on their side, you should not feel guilty about adopting any of the cheats prescribed. At the end of the day, medieval hairstyles are not as inaccessible as you may think and they truly make all the difference in adding to the magic. The grandest ensembles can fall flat when paired with a modern hairstyle, but a the simplest cote can look like it came straight out of a manuscript when pair with
a period hairstyle. I hope the advice I’ve shared will help you feel confident enough to give it a go!
Figure 1: Luttrell Psalter, a lady having her hair done by a very grumpy looking maid. (1327-1340) Figure 2: 14th Century Funerary Brass
Figure One: Luttrell Psalter: Side buns with exposed fringe. Figure Two: Holkham Bible: Side buns covered with a crespine. 1325-1350 AD.
Figure 1: Taymouth Hours; Side buns under crespine. 1325-1335 AD Figure 2: Horizontal Plaits. (Also Taymouth Hours)
Figure 1: Romance of Alexander: “Combo” Vertical and Horizontal plaits. 1340 AD Figure 2: Back view.
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