During the Victorian period, a woman’s hair was seen as an important component of her overall appearance since it was a marker of both her social standing and femininity. It was a general understanding throughout that time that a woman’s crowning beauty should be her hair; hence, it was standard practice for men to expect women to let their hair grow too long.
The technique of growing long hair was popular during the Victorian era partly because it made it possible to create elaborate updos by using the plentiful hair produced naturally by the head rather than turning to the use of pads, rats, or early forms of hair extensions.
When a hairstyle required many volumes, many ladies would employ rats created from their hair, even though they had extraordinarily long hair. This was common practice.
In contrast to being “uptight,” the contemporary expression “letting her hair down” refers to a relaxed state. In Victorian times, this wasn’t just an idiom; it was a real act that only took place in the bedroom, and it included a lady releasing her hairpins so she could brush her long hair.
Although beautiful ladies with impossible hair lengths were shown in paintings and ads, only her husband (or her maid) could view her in that way. Both of these media depicted the romantic notion of flowing tresses implying femininity.
Wearing one’s hair loose in public was not considered appropriate for “respectable” ladies and was more often than not done for artistic purposes. Girls were supposed to start wearing their hair up at 15 or 16, even though it was common for them to have their hair down.
Models and actresses were often cast in roles that required them to have flowing locks of hair because they were intended to convey feelings of intimacy and love. Photographs of ladies in the Victorian era who kept their hair long and loose would have been especially fascinating to spectators of the time.
In the more affluent middle and upper strata of Victorian society, a woman’s hair became the major focus of sexual attraction and the primary display of her femininity. This was because the hair was considered to be the most feminine feature.
It was exceedingly impractical for the lower classes to keep their hair long when the disease was rampant and hygiene standards were quite low. The need for money led many women to resort to selling their hair.
The neatness of one’s hair was regarded as one of the most significant characteristics of Victorian-era hairstyles. The hair was required to be kept clean and shining at all times, regardless of the style.
The general profile of the human body was a good fit for the hairstyles that were popular throughout this period. During the Victorian period, one’s hair was expected to be styled in such a manner that it gave the impression that their body was very well-groomed.
(Photo credit: London Stereoscopic Company / Library of Congress).
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