Mary Pickford’s Ringlet Curls

I told you we would get back to more of Mary Pickford.  America’s first “Sweetheart” was known as “the girl with the golden curls.” No one could top the things.

Let’s look at an early photograph of her during her Broadway days:

Photo taken by Broadway photographer Ira L. Hill

Her ringlet curls and large, wide hat were common during the early 1900s, but ringlet curls had also been popular during the 1800s and before. In any case, Pickford was well known for her “sausage” curls. Let’s just take a look at several photographs of her great curls.

Sausage curls whet your appetite?

So adorable!

"Does this hat make me look fat?"

Pickford was a star of the silent pictures, but, more than that, she produced over thirty pictures and did a little directing too.

"Give me melancholy."

Around the time her career was going down the tubes thanks to the advent of talkies, Pickford’s mother died and she chopped off her curls in response, shocking the nation and making headlines.

The sad end of the story is that she started getting zozzled more often than not and became a ragamuffin hermit. Damn those talking pictures!

Published in: on 26 February 2010 at 18:27  Leave a Comment  
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Civil War Hairstyles II

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate General of Tennessee

Goodness, Mr. Forrest, if I’m not careful I’ll get a crush on a dead man. But honey, when it’s all said and done, I don’t go for a racist. My great-grandmother told me all about the ruckus you caused. You were an awful man, for sure. Read all about it, people.

Let’s look at what is going on with Mr. Forrest’s hair. First of all, as his style indicates, longer hair on gentlemen was more of the going thing during the Civil War.  Grease was also the going thing. Any kind you could get your hands on for those luscious tresses. I don’t know how they managed it, but it sure gave them a most voluminous top wave. Most men had facial hair, and many shaved it down just like Mr. Forrest’s.

Andrew F. Skidmore, Pvt. 17th Virginia Infantry

Check out Mr. Skidmore, who had done his mop and his beard up very similar to Mr. Forrest’s. I did some askin’ among my gentlemen friends, and they told me that Mr. Forrest’s facial hair would most likely be called a Van Dyke beard with full mustache and a chin strip (not chin strap) variation. Correct me if I’m wrong. I have also been told that it can be called a circle beard, or a door knocker. Mr. Skidmore’s is a Van Dyke as well, but his comes to a point, as opposed to Forrest’s bushy one, and he does not have the chin strip, which makes his mouth more obscured.

John Houston Savage, 16th Tennessee Infantry

Goodness, Mr. Savage, you have quite the Fu Manchu! A remarkably controlled top wave, too!  He let the sides grow quite full and finished the look with neatly groomed sideburns.

Pvt. Hite Bird, Virginia Regiment, CSA

Let’s finish up this discussion with a look at Mr. Bird. Can I just say Wowee!, what a look! Again, a well-greased top wave. He has a wonderful mustache tending towards the handlebar shape & accompanied by a magnificently wide (ever so slightly lopsided) chin beard. (If you know of  a more appropriate name for that style of beard, please drop me a line.)

Goodness, it has been fun looking at these gentlemen’s tintypes. I believe I’m gonna pour me a little glass of hooch and flip through some more albums.

Civil War Hairstyles

A Southern Belle or a Connecticut Yankee?

Women left to tend their homesteads (or parlors) during The War of Northern Agression were forced to find practical, timesaving ways of doing up their hair. There are some similarities between WWII hairstyles (see my post “Longer ‘Dos of the 1940s”)  and these of the American Civil War, which makes me think that times of scarcity call for certain measures in keeping up appearances.

One similarity was this business of making rats. Fanny & Vera’s helpful hints and timely tips for Civil War reenactors say that, “Almost every Victorian lady had a hair receiver on the dresser, and would place the hair gleaned in daily brushings into it.  A lady could use this resource to construct rats for her hair. …Rats were used to add volume to the hair at the sides of the head.  Hairstyles that accented the width of the face were in style, so hairstyles were low on the crown and wide at the sides.” Anyway, they can tell you more about that here, if you are so inclined to find out.


The main goal was to have a very wide appearance to the hair, which adds roundness to the face. It’s just a thought that this hairstyle emerged while men were gone because the women were forced to take a more masculine role, and thus, a more masculinized appearance.

They had an uncompromising part in the middle, with no bang. The unbudging part down the middle could be seen as a parallel of the two sides of the Civil War, although I will say that the hair surely stayed a lot more in place than most anything else during those times. Perhaps due to an inability to control political affairs, the women controlled their tresses relentlessly during the War, not letting them get whimsical or out of place. It was very improper for a lady to let her hair down in public (a difference between these war hairstyles and those of WWII). You would be hard-pressed to find a tintype of a lady with her hair down between 1861–1865.

Who is this lady, and which side is she on?

However, it was permitted, at balls or dances, to wear ringlet curls. Often, women would confine their hair in buns at the nape of their neck with a knitted snood. Going to church or town, or riding horses or in a carriage, a lady may’ve worn a bonnet. Miss Vera’s Millinery has a great collection of Civil War bonnets.

Mississippi Woman Fights the Confederate Blues with a Bonnet

The last characteristic of Civil War hairstyles was a lot of grease, if it could be spared. That brings us to the end of this post and to the beginning of our next topic, Civil War hairstyles of the men in battle.

Until then, tout a l’heure!

Published in: on 16 February 2010 at 13:26  Leave a Comment  
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Flowers in their Hair

Isn’t it sensual to have the soft petals of flowers adorning your tresses? Isn’t it fabulous to pin on the scent of sugar that all the honeybees are drawn to? Ladies, I tell you, flowers are nature’s adornment, and we should wear them any chance we get! It’s been done throughout history in all different nations.

In the 1940s U.S., blossoms gave Lady Day an untouchable glamour on the stage.  She always wore hers on one side––a little sassy, she was, and very feminine. She preferred white hibiscus, although she wore other kinds too. In the 1930s Mexico, Frida Kahlo, boldly creative, always wore hers right on top of her head with a part in the middle. She preferred bright, tropical blossoms. Kahlo said to her lover Josep Bartolf, “I paint flowers so they will not die.” If we pin them into our hair, we can reclaim a little youth, too, before it wilts away.

Now I’m thinking of my youth wilting away like a flower, and I’ll just indulge this bout of melancholy. Lovesick Ophelia drowned herself in the flower of her youth, for she could not turn the head of the boy who made her heart leap.

She put flowers into her long, straight tresses just before she laid herself down in the river, probably ’round the 12th century in Denmark–– fictionally speaking, of course.

“There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.”

Ophelia was a deep-thinking and poetic young girl, so she pinned the flowers for deliberate meaning. The willows stood for forsaken love; the nettles for pain; daisies for innocence; pansies for love in vain; violets for faithful chastity and death of the young; and roses round her face, for she had been called the rose of May. What a poor young girl, but smart for dressin’ up so pretty for her death bed.

Long live Ophelia and Frida and Ms. Holiday; they’ll always be remembered for the flowers in their hair.

Short bang ‘do, circa 1929

LuLu showing the gents a smooth pour of brown plaid in Pandora’s Box

Unreal! Louise Brooks hits on all sixes as LuLu with her cheekbone-short, black, sleek bangs style in the 1929 German silent film Pandora’s Box. The bold cut commands attention from every Dick, Tom & Drugstore Cowboy–– and LuLu’s happy to have it, long as they cough up some dough. What a vamp she is. A real bearcat.

A lady can spend the whole film envying this ‘do and watching it move. LuLu shakes her head back and forth, back and forth, over and over  when her lover shows up with his fiancée at LuLu’s cabaret just before she is to dance. I declare she casts a real kitten! Is it her tousled bob, then, that convinces her sugar daddy to dump his heiress fiancée (and her perfect golden finger waves, I might add) and marry a vulgar stage performer?

This film caused quite a ruckus back in my day. They wouldn’t show it at the local theatres, of course. When I finally got my stickies on it, I could see why. LuLu makes her fair share of whoopee, and isn’t sorry for it either.

It’s also said to be the first screen portrayal of a lesbian, who is stuck on LuLu, and can you really blame her?

The groom cuts in on broad & bride

Longer ‘dos of the 1940s

Marguerite Chapman staying glamorous on the home front

The longer ‘dos of the late 1930s and the 1940s just had to have luscious waves or big curls. I remember it well, making my curls bigger by stuffing rats into the middle. Oh dear no, I would never let varmints rummage through my locks. We would make the rats by simply pulling out all the loose hair from our brushes and balling it together. During the war we were innovative, see. And we were still glamorous even though our men were away.

Bonus!:  A Slip of the Lip by Duke Ellington

Was it Loretta Young’s long ‘do that turned the eye of Clark Gable?

All the women were doing rag curls, which required only the rags that we had, cut into strips. A rather good tutorial exists, created by an unusually classy lady for this day and age. If it’s anything like the old days, all the men who are not in the war abroad  will be knocking on your door in hopes of taking you dancing, so you really must practice your lindy hop.

Marcel wave

Signed: Cordially, Mary Pickford.

America’s Sweetheart, Pickford wore this ‘do at one point. (We’ll look at other of her styles later on, never fret.)  Must’ve been after heated curling irons were circulating, for that was the technology required for this style. Francois Marcel invented this ‘do, and I prefer its earlier name, “Undulation Marcel.”

The style requires a waved curl, not a curly curl. Marcel developed his own irons for this look. If one of my dear readers were to come across an original patented Marcel iron from the early 1900s, she should grab it up immediately, for they are rare.

But there’s more. Marcel developed a permanent waving machine–– Yes, that’s right: the real, first perms were becoming chic in the early 1900s among those who could afford it. It wasn’t until the  1980s that everyone could afford it and all the young girls wanted one (a particular low point in women’s history). Also, it was turned into a chemical process rather than simply using a hair iron, which of course wasn’t as permanent as the more permanent perms of the 1980s. Nevermind this. History repeats, but always with a twist.

Marcel’s break in the States didn’t come until he’d waved actress Jane Hading‘s locks. He eventually acquired great wealth due to his several hair iron developments and patents, and he retired to a 500-acre estate. Well, I do declare. He was a man of hair.

Tutorial published in 1923

Published in: on 4 February 2010 at 13:00  Comments (1)  
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Finger wave

Someone’s now-grandmother wearing the style in the 1920s, Kansas City, Missouri

Quite a classic indeed. I like to wear it myself. The finger wave is accomplished with gel on wet hair, and, of course, the index finger, should you have one. It is best done on short hair, and it is strictly a ladies’ style, God forbid it be otherwise.

A most masterful finger wave

There exists a rather crass tutorial by a young Canadian lady, although I do say she gives a good lesson in the technique. A lady with longer hair can even wear this style; she’ll just need to pin it up in the back or set some elegant pin curls up.

Do wear it with class and composure, ladies, for it requires nothing less.

1930s tutorial

Published in: on 3 February 2010 at 16:52  Leave a Comment