Hair Styles of the Georgian Era

Given the length of the Georgian era we thought it might be fun to take a peek at how the Georgian ideas of what was fashionable and how it changed over the period. The comments have been taken directly from English Costume, Volume 4, by Dion Clayton Calthrop (1878 – 1937) so here goes.

George I (reigned 1707 – 1727)

The ladies were little lace and linen caps, their hair escaping in a ringlet or so at the side and flowing down behind, or gathered close up in a small knob on the head.

Elizabeth Egerton (1678–1720), Mrs Peter Legh (c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Elizabeth Egerton (1678–1720), Mrs Peter Legh
(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

George II (reigned 1727 – 1760)

The hair is very tightly gathered up behind, twisted into a small knob on the top of the head and either drawn straight back from the forehead or parted in the middle, allowing a small fringe to hang on the temples. Nearly every woman wore a small cap or a small round straw hat with a ribbon around it.

Catherine Hyde (1700–1777), Duchess of Queensbury (c) English Heritage, Marble Hill House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Catherine Hyde (1700–1777), Duchess of Queensbury
(c) English Heritage, Marble Hill House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In the middle of George II’s reign fashions and hair styles changed. Now the lady would puff her hair at the sides and powder it; if she had no hair she wore false, and a little later a full wig. She would now often discard her neat cap and wear a veil behind her back, over her hair and falling over her shoulder.

Catherine Harpur (d.1740), Lady Gough (c) National Trust, Calke Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Catherine Harpur (d.1740), Lady Gough
(c) National Trust, Calke Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

George III (1760 – 1820)

This was period of immense change in fashions both in terms of clothing and also hair styles. The writer of this book’s description of hair styles and hygiene is highly amusing:

Those piles of decorated, perfumed, reeking mess, by which a lady could show her fancy for the navy by balancing a straw ship on her head; for sport, by showing a coach, for gardening, by a regular garden on flowers. Heads which were only dressed, perhaps, once in three weeks, and were re-scented because it was necessary. Monstrous gatherers of horse-hair, hemp-wool and powder, laid on in a paste, the cleaning of which is too awful to give in detail. Three weeks, says my lady’s hairdresser, is as long as a head can go well in the summer without being opened’.  With the fashion of 1786 came the broad brimmed hat and the turban.

We simply couldn’t resist including this caricature!

lwlpr04213 - fruit stall
Fruit Stall. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
The Artist at Work (Self Portrait) by Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun (copy of) (c) The Royal Agricultural University Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Artist at Work (Self Portrait) by Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun (copy of)
(c) The Royal Agricultural University Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Martine-Gabrielle-Yoland de Polastron (1745–1793), duchesse de Polignac by Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun (c) National Trust, Waddesdon Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Martine-Gabrielle-Yoland de Polastron (1745–1793), duchesse de Polignac by Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun
(c) National Trust, Waddesdon Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

George IV (1820-1830)

By the 1820’s it was all change again in fashion and hair styles.

Young ladies wear their hair well arranged … the curls again appear in numerous clusters around the face; and some young ladies who seem to place their chief pride in a fine head of hair have such a multitude of small ringlets that to give what is a natural charm all the poodle-like appearance of a wig.

A Regency Lady by Henry Wyatt (c) Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Regency Lady by Henry Wyatt
(c) Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Charlotte Rothschild (1807–1859), Baroness Anselm de Rothschild (c) National Trust, Waddesdon Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Charlotte Rothschild (1807–1859), Baroness Anselm de Rothschild
(c) National Trust, Waddesdon Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Header image: Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Thomas Gainsborough, National Galley of Art

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