Hair Fashions In Ancient Rome

(C) Shakko

The 1816 edition of the Belle Assemblee featured a very interesting article about the headdresses of some of most famous women in ancient Rome, and how hair fashions changed throughout the centuries. Here it is:

She knew how to arrange her hair in the most elegant manner, without any high toupet, and without even the ornament of an aigrette. A very narrow bandeau divided her hair in front from that behind, where it was tied underneath, the bow negligently appearing towards the uncovered ear; and two little bows of rib band fell on the nape of the neck behind. The front hair waved seemingly without art, and four braids of very long hair was wound in a kind of serpentine wreath all over her head, all equally divided, without touching each other; neither the roots or ends could be discovered, and seems plainly to shew that she was indebted to art for this ornament. If the reports of Claudieu may be credited, it was customary to shave the heads of every prisoner taken in battle, who was of distinguished birth, as a symbol of his loss of liberty; and Sidonius asserts, that this hair was scut to Home, to be fabricated into head-dresses for women of quality.

(C) ChrisO

From the forehead of this Faustina there is half a foot to height of curls built up, consisting of five or six rows, dressed very forward, and forming a most curious contrast to the headdress described above: the locks behind are woven together with much art, and consist of so great a number of plaits that it confirms the preceding idea, of the quantity of false hair which must be requisite to form this head-dress; for it is not possible that such an edifice, and formed of such innumerable braids, could be of the hair belonging to this Princess: a long needle or bodkin, of the kind we have before described, fastens this tissue of tresses, and prevents their being discomposed.

She was said to be the most beautiful lady in the Roman empire; and if, as it is said, that she delighted in being negligent in her attire, she could not but be sensible that a well studied dress was of infinite advantage to her attractions. We find her represented with a veil gathered up, the careless folds of which cover the top of her head. A large curl of hair is seen bordering this veil horizontally,and surrounding her head; a row of hair turned up, quite plain, is in the place of the toupet, and the hair on the temples seem only to be abandoned to their natural wave. The ear is bare, and the ends of the hair form’ a curl in the nape of the neck, which makes half a circle from one ear to the other; a narrow ribband, or perhaps the embroidered border, crosses the veil in the middle: at the extremity of this veil, which is at the very back part of the head, a large tuft of hair, which seems to have caused much care and pains in the dressing, rises proudly in numerous large curls, and can be compared to nothing but the tail of an ostrich, or a very large powder pun”; but all the ends of the hair are concealed in four rows of curls. The two ends of the toupet are not elevated, but are flattened as much as possible, with pomatum on each side, from whence they are carefully directed towards the middle, where the ends are collected under a tuft of hair, which is raised without being artificially bent backward from the forehead, and which seems to take its course towards the veil.

Her hair was always dressed in the most simple style, and only twisted a little next the face; her tresses drawn together on the summit of her head, resembled a Turkish turban, and formed a curl without any art. The calamistrum, or curling iron, was then unknown; and indeed, at that time any artificial curling was regarded as indecorous, and the hair simply combed was more accordant to the rules of modesty. But simple as this Roman head-dress may appear to our modern belles, they must, however, agree in acknowledging their obligations to the ladies of ancient Rome, who were pleased to occupy themselves in modulating and improving the different species of headdresses, and in applying themselves unceasingly to give them a new and more elegant form, and to banish as much as possible, the odious uniformity of one particular fashion.

Julia, and the two Faustinas, carried the study of fashion to a very high degree of perfection, considering the age in which they lived: but chiefly Sabina Poppea, that celebrated wife of Nero, employed herself in an excessive degree on the adorning her head, and distinguished herself in a particular manner above every other princess in the manner of dressing her hair. One day, when her glass told her that her head-dress did not become her, she wished fervently to die sooner than look old or ugly from want of taste in her dress. Her rage for dress was so much her ruling passion, that she beat her milliners most cruelly, or her waiting maids, whenever, by an unfortunate stroke of the comb, they had spoilt the turn of a curl of hair.

(C) Giovanni Dall’Orto

All her adorning consisted in the disposal of a fine head of hair, and she was more studious of arranging it well than Cornelia. On the head of that lady, we can scarce perceive the narrow ribbon with which she tied her locks to form the species of turban that composed her head-dress. The hair of Octavia was bound round with a ribbon, while a few locks strayed carelessly over her forehead, and the hair behind was tied up in a chignon in a double bow forming a kind of cross. Such is still the head-dress of the Italian female peasantry, and the youthful maiden without the aid of foreign ornament, fears not to discompose her head-dress, as she dances gaily and meets the rage of the stormy wind, without trembling for her many formal curls artfully arranged, and which take up so much time at the toilet of the town-bred lady.

She always regarded a fine head of hair as the greatest outward ornament a female can boast. The hair of Claudia was drawn together at the back part of the summit of the head, but without forming any bow, chignon, or curl. A long plait from three tresses was carried round her head to the roots of the hair behind, which were entirely concealed, as well as her ears; above the left ear hug negligently, and without any appearance of art, a light tuft of hair.

Which hairdo is your favourite?

Books Reviews: I Always Loved You, Hair Story, & The Fine Print Of Self-Publishing

Hello everyone,

I’ve been reading quite a lot lately and today I have three reviews for you. The first book is one of the best historical fiction/romance novels I’ve ever read, the second one discusses black hair and its role in the history of the US, while the third one is an essential read for every budding author who is thinking of self-publishing. Let’s get started then!

I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira
Belle Epoque France. American painter Mary Cassatt moved to France ten years ago to purse an artistic career but, when the Salon rejects her paintings, she’s about to pack her bags and go back home. And she would have, if she hadn’t met her idol, Edgar Degas, who invites her to exhibit her works with the Impressionists. Mary is sensible, independent and focused on her work, while Edgar is arrogant, unpredictable, and uncompromising. He is also a genius who helps Mary develop her talent to its full potential. They fall in love, but they are too different and yet too similar, to make it work.
Mary becomes friends with the Impressionists too, including Berthe Morisot, whose relationship with the Manet brothers, Edouard and Eugene, is also explored in the book. Through them all we also have a feel of what it was like to be a painter, and especially one who went against the strict and old-fashioned rules imposed on artists by the Salon, in Paris, striving to get their works exhibited, understood, recognized as true art and just to make ends meet. Thanks to Oliveira’s in-depth research and close attention to details, their world is vividly evoked. You’ll feel like you’re in Paris too, just next to Mary and her friends.
However, this is not your regular love story. You know from the beginning that there won’t be an “happy ever after”. It’s a bittersweet story, full of both the beauty and ugliness of love, of its pleasures and its pains, and the loneliness and regrets its loss can bring. And yet Mary and Edgar’s love is more true and profound than that most of us ever get to experience. Theirs is a love of minds and souls, not just of bodies.
The pace is a bit slow at times, but not in a bad way. It’s more Austen-slow than boring slow as the author describes in-depth the emotions the characters are feeling, their day-to-day lives, and the process of creating art works, rather than packing the story with action, twists and turns in every chapter. Instead, I Always Loved You features well-rounded, interesting characters, deep emotional insights and a beautifully-written prose. It’s one of the best historical fiction/romance novels I have ever read and I can’t wait to devour more works from this author. Highly recommended.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps
“Everything I know about American history I learned from looking at Black people’s hair. It’s the perfect metaphor for the African experiment here: the toll of slavery and the costs of remaining. It’s all in the hair.” – Lisa Jones, screenwriter.
Hair is a big deal to women of all colours, but while most decide how to wear theirs based on aesthetic considerations alone, for African Americans, and black people all over the world, it is still a political and social statement and a big part of their identity. The history of black hair in the US started when Africans, both free and enslaved, arrived there in the 17th century and found a culture that was hostile to them and their kinky hair. Kinky hair, and dark skin, clashed with the Western ideal of beauty which was, and still is, characterized by white skin and straight hair, and many black women, buying into this racist propaganda, spent a lot of time, ingenuity, effort, and once finally freed, money, into straightening their hair.
Things started to change in the ’60s and ’70s when more and more American people decided to go natural, and wear their hair in afros, cornrows and other natural and braided hairstyles, which often confused and scared White Americans. Going natural meant freedom of expression and from arbitrary beauty standards, but it could also cost people their jobs as these hairstyles weren’t considered, and sometimes still aren’t, appropriate for the workplace. In those decades, your hairstyle became a political statement.
These days, these traditional African hairstyles have become common and normal, and the political debate has calmed down somewhat, but there are still too few black celebrities and public figures with natural hair and, the prevalent ideal of beauty is still a Western one. Still, black hair, and black people, have gone a long way since their arrival in the States.
Black hair also gave women a way to support themselves. Madame C. J. Walker, for instance, started selling her homemade hair care products from home to home, creating an empire that employed, and thus gave financial freedom, to many black women. Today too, there are lots of black entrepreneurs that have created small companies that make haircare products for black hair, although most of the market is now dominated by giant corporations owned by white men.
Although the authors tend to repeat themselves at times, Hair Story is a well-written, well-researched, and beautifully illustrated book that tells the fascinating story of black hair in the USA, providing valuable insights into a topic too many people ignore. That’s why I recommend this book not just to black people, but also to anyone who want to educate themselves about black hair and the role it has played in the history of the United States.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Fine Print Of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine
If you’re thinking of self-publishing a book or already have, but with very poor results, I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Fine Print Of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine, which has now arrived at his fifth edition.
The book starts by explaining the difference between self-publishing proper, a process in which the author does everything, – writing, formatting, designing the book cover, marketing and all the other gazillion of things necessary to create a book – on its own, and self-publishing assisted, in which the author pays a self-publishing company to perform most of these services. Levine is a CEO of a publishing company (which he mentions only when relevant and never insists that they’re better than other companies or that you should only use their services), so it’s not wonder that, while providing valuable tips for authors who decide to self-publishing on their own, he recommends they go down the self-publishing assisted route. This bugged me at first, but by the time I reached the end and realised how complicated and expensive self-publishing a book is, I see the value in getting help from the experts, if you can afford it.
The book covers all the basics of self-publishing, including how to format a book, how to promote it, how to read legal contracts, how to get your ISBN and, if you live in the US, LCCN numbers, how you can prepare your files for print, how to turn your book into a mobi or epub, how to choose a good self-publishing company that won’t take advantage of you, how to price your books and how royalties work and much more. This new edition also features an entire new chapter about ebooks. It’s not as in-depth as I would have liked it to be, but, once again it covers all the basics, giving you lots of useful tips on how to turn your manuscript into an ebook.
There are also several appendixes, where the author reviews and compares various self-publishing companies, giving them a grade for how well and quickly they respond to emails from potential customers, how much their charge for their services, and what their polices regarding the return of book production files are.
While the book provides helpful tips and a fascinating insight into the self-publishing world, it is also a somewhat disheartening read. Self-publishing is tough and expensive, and most authors, far from becoming the next J.K.Rowling, actually end up losing money. Levine doesn’t want to discourage you from following your dream of finally publishing your book, but rather prepare you for what you’re going to face, while also giving you tips to create the best book you can and market it in the best way you can to increase your chances of success. The Fine Print Of Self-Publishing is definitely a book that any author should have on his/her bookshelf.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I received these book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.