In Puffs & Powder
Re-creating an 18th Century Hair-do,
(from the Feb. 1902 issue of
"For one who takes part in Washingtonian tableaux or serves
at a Martha Washington tea one of the first requisites is a wig of white
horsehair, or, if this is unobtainable--and in small towns or the country
house it generally is--powder to whiten one's own tresses.
As there is a right and a wrong was of doing almost everything under the
sun, so there is a right and a wrong way about even such a simple process as
powdering the hair. In the wrong way we have no interest. The right way
first requires the spreading of a sheet on the floor for the one whose hair
is to be powdered to stand upon. A second sheet should envelope her from
head to foot, so as to keep the powder from bestrewing the clothing. The
hair, which should have been well washed-a little ammonia being put in the
water-and dried, to make it fluffy, should be brushed free from all tangles,
divided into two parts between the front and neck and then waved with the
ordinary crimping irons or put up on hairpins and pinched with flat tongs.
All short hair about the face and neck should be tightly curled before the
powdering is commenced.
After the hair is waves satisfactorily do not comb it out,
but rub a little white petroleum on the bristles of the hair brush, then
brush the hair lightly with this, to hold the powder after it is applied.
Ordinary white violet powder or cornstarch may be used for the powdering,
and it must be shaken over the hair from a large puff which must not be
touched to the hair itself. Care should be taken to sprinkle the powder so
thoroughly and thickly that it reaches well down into the roots.
After every part of the locks is well whitened a coarse-toothed comb should
be passed through them lightly and the hair arrangement done in any
The illustrations show a real 'Martha Washington' coiffure, and one which
may be easily imitated if the head of hair is fairly plentiful. If the
natural growth of hair be thin the addition of a few false puffs and curls
of white horsehair will very materially aid in carrying out the effect.
To arrange the hair as pictured the front portion should be
combed over the face, the sprinkling of the powder being continued
throughout the hairdressing, and the back part should be combed up and tied
at the crown of the head; then a pompadour roll should be pinned in place as
in No. 1 and the front hair combed back over it, as in No. 2. The combined
back and front portions should now be arranged in loose twists, as in Nos. 3
and 4, puffs, waves and curls being formed as in Nos. 7, 8 and 9. Waved
locks may be allowed to fall each side, as in No. 5, or the whole mass, with
the exception of a few curls at the back of the neck, may be pinned up on
the head. Invisible hairpins of fine steel should be used for the pinning.
Very slender waving steels may be used to hold the puffs, as in Nos. 7 and
The pretty ribbon decoration shown in Nos. 5 and 6 is sewed
on a piece of flat wire, then this is caught to the hair with the invisible
hairpins. The decoration terminates in a bow with standing ends and an
aigrette which is placed at the left of the front. A garland of small
flowers may be similarly arranged and may replace the ribbon, with very
After the hair is dressed, and the ribbon or floral
decoration placed in it, it should be given a final powdering, and last of
all a plentiful sprinkling of diamond dust, which may be purchased by the
package, and which is really powdered isinglass.
If possible, the entire fancy or evening costume should be donned before the
hair is dressed, then neither the powder nor the hair arrangement will be
disturbed. Never wash the hair to get the powder out of it, but remove the
artificial whiteness by thorough and patient brushing, dusting the hair
brush frequently, as it will soon become powder-laden."