Successful Regency Face Framing Curls (Dolley Madison Ball 2014)

Portrait of Maria Theresa of Austria (1801–1855), 1817

You know those face framing curls that Regency women often sport in paintings and fashion plates? Modern ladies with bangs have it so much easier than those of us with all around long hair when creating this style! Unfortunately, I’m one of those modern ladies with long hair all around. The only short pieces I have are frizz! Nevertheless, I wanted to try to create this style at the Dolley Madison Ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers earlier this month.

A scene from the Dolley Madison ball. More pictures of the ball can be found at Plaid Petticoats blog and Dames a la Mode blog.

I’ve been pondering how to fake these face framing curls with my long hair for awhile. I’ve contemplated hiding the bulk of my hair length under a turban and having the curly ends come out from under that (which I still think would work, though I haven’t tried it…yet). I had the fabric for the turban picked out from my stash, but then I decided to wear my 1819 ruffle dress and when I looked at images for turban inspiration I didn’t find anything similar to what I was envisioning for that particular period. But I did find a lot of cute buns with braids and flowers (like the painting at the beginning of this post, and this portrait from 1813, and this fashion plate from 1819, and this fashion plates from 1816). So I changed course and decided to go in that direction, instead.

Successful face framing curls surmounted by a braided bun and ornamented with a little flower bouquet!

All of the flowers and leaves used in my little bouquet are intended for millinery, meaning that each stem of blooms and individual leaf is wired. That makes it particularly moldable once it’s on my head! Originally, both flower sprays were bright white which I didn’t think would go with my ivory dress and lavender jewelry, so I decided to try dyeing the flowers to a more suitable color. After brainstorming for awhile I decided that going in a purple direction with the flowers would nicely complement the jewelry and make the entire ensemble look put together. So that’s what I did, using RIT. I wanted to be down and dirty about just getting the flowers dyed, so I used whatever colors I had (which included navy blue, wine, and purple). I made a few different cups of dye with different colors and then dipped the different stems in until I liked them, which also created variation within the sprays, which I think helps them look more lively. Unfortunately, some of the silk flowers lost their nicely cupped petal shapes after being soaked with dye, so the flowers do have a different style than before they were dyed. The more vertical sprays didn’t seem to droop at all after dyeing nor did they loose their shape. I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time!

A better view of the bouquet.

So, how did I do it? First, I separated the hair at the front crown of my head to save for later. Then I put the rest of my hair into a pony tail. I curled bits from the pony tail (about three per side) and then pinned them along the top/side of my head so they terminated right below the separated crown bit I held out from the beginning. That took a lot of bobby pins… Once I was satisfied (which took a long time and included a melt down… sigh, it happens to even the best of us sometimes!), I parted the separated crown bit and brought those pieces down over the side of my head to cover all my bobby pins. Then I wrapped the ends of those bits up into the bun. I also braided some parts of the bun, though it’s hard to see that detail in the pictures.

I had fun helping a friend make similar face framing curls for the ball, too. Here we are, being curly hair friends!

Note: My friend has shorter hair than I do–it’s maybe shoulder length (mine is at least 6-8″ longer than that)–so we were able to use the same method for her hair, but without the added extra effort of putting the front bits into the bun and then running them back to the front of the face. Basically, with my hair I had to zig zag back and forth to make the pieces short enough, but with her hair all she needed was a curling iron and the front parted bits to cover the bobby pins!

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