Step one: Cheesy smile.
Here's our starting point. I realize that my hair is considered long by some, but I've faked period hair with much shorter locks before, too. It's a little harder to integrate the hairpiece when you have less natural hair to work with, but it's by no means impossible. The major downfall of my modern haircut is the layers--it's nearly impossible to get a nice, full-looking period hairstyle with thinned or layered hair. Sure, I can make my hair into a bun, but compared to the full, lush styles of the 1860s, my little stub looks pretty pathetic. That's why you use fake hair to fill it out!
Tools of the trade: Mousse, bobby pins, waving iron, comb, and The Bun
Here they are--the secret ingredients. The very first thing you need is goop--some sort of styling product that will goop up your hair and make it workable. Trying to do period hair with clean, fresh-from-the-shower hair is a recipe for disaster. Or at least lots of cursing. I personally swear by mousse--it gives my hair a good amount of malleability without weighing it down. It also doesn't dry into a crisp like gel or hairspray, so it's nice for something that's going to take a little bit of working. Gel is fine, too, and hairspray should be used to shellac everything down at the end.
Mousse your hair up thoroughly, combing it through to make sure you've got it all over. Then--and this is specifically for 1860s--part your hair in the center and smooth it down on each side. Then part it again, going from one ear, up over the top of your head, and down to the other ear. I usually part it a little behind my ear so that I have plenty for doing rolls in the front, but you'll want to experiment with various part locations to perfect your own style.
I put all my parted sections into little ponytails to keep them separated.
Next, I chose to use my waving iron to give my front hair a bit of texture. There are a few reasons, not the least of which is that you do see this in period images. Also, I have some not-quite-bangs that need to be hidden. It's easier to disguise them if my hair has a little texture, so that works in my favor, too. Thirdly, waving or curling the front sections give my pin-straight hair more body, so when I roll it toward the back, the rolls have a bit of spring to them rather than just lying flat against my head. I have broad shoulders--I look less like a pinhead if I have broad hair, too. Before I had a waving iron, I used to just spiral curl my front sections with a regular curling iron to get the body I wanted, but the waving iron works better for the texture you see in period images.
Next up: the rolls
At this point I decided that the waving wasn't going to quite give me the body I needed, so I pulled out two old sponge rollers I had and took the plastic bits off. That way, I could use the cylindrical sponge sections as "rats," or padding under my hair.
I tried to get good pictures of me rolling the sponges into my hair--I really did. But I was doing this by myself with a camera on self-timer, on a tripod on my parents' bathroom counter, and it just was not working for me. So...I'm sorry, no pictures of a potentially-tricky part of the process. It's not really hard, but it may take a couple tries to roll the rat/sponge/whatever into your hair and get it situated the way you want. I pretty much just finger-combed the waved section forward, nestled the sponge about where I wanted it, and then simultaneously twisted the hair back and down, enclosing the sponge in the roll as I went. It's almost a folding motion--comb hair forward, hold sponge in place, fold hair back over sponge and twist as you pull the hair down and back to cover.
Yes? No? I can make a video of anyone wants to see; I'll just have to bribe/pay/coerce my sister/mother/Samantha/Mike/someone into helping me.
Anyway, at this point, I was starting to sweat and my mom was starting to get into "okay let's go now p.s. I need the bathroom and can you help me with my hair?" mode, so I was rushing a little.
I would love to be able to say that rushing explains this face, but...
It took a little finagling to get both rolls symetrically situated and similarly-sized, but with that done it was time to decide what to do with the back section of my hair. I decided on four braids--braids are great because they keep your natural hair under tension between your scalp and the braid, which gives you something to which you can anchor your hairpiece. Anyway, I braided my hair in four pieces, distributed as follows:
One braid behind each ear, using the waved sections leftover from the rolls and a narrow section of the back hair, divided from crown to nape vertically. These were situated to show below my ear from the front, to visually balance the width of the rolls above my ears.
Two braids in back, made by parting the remainder of the back section vertically down the center and starting the braids about level with my ears.
Starting to braid. Man...naptime yet?
I pulled the braids to their respective sides and fastened the hairpiece so that the bottom was just a teeny bit lower than my hairline at the back of my neck. Then, I took the two back braids and crossed them up and over the hairpiece, tucking the ends under and pinning them in place. The two braids behind my ears I looped back and tucked up under the bottom of the hairpiece, again pinning the ends under the bun so they wouldn't show.
Ear-braid looped back, back-braid goes up and over.
You can see how some of the back section comes forward to go into the braid behind the ear...right?
A view from the side.
This hopefully shows a bit of how the hair folds back from the roll and continues into a twist...which then continues into the braid behind the ear. More convoluted than a Michigan roadwork detour!
The overall look, complete with straw hat.