Friday, January 13, 2012

Snoods or Nets?

Victorian reenacting is catching on, whether you're a Civil War enthusiast or a Dickens lover. People are bringing back some really lovely old-fashioned styles of the mid-Victorian era. But there are one or two "fashions" of the Victorian era that never really existed - and I hate to say it, but the wearing of snoods is one of them.

Now before y'all get excited, let me assure you that I know how handy they are. Snoods cover your hair so you don't have to do anything to it.

You can even show off your favorite color with your snood.

You can even make a fashion statement with a snood.

But if you've done any research into authentic Victorian hairstyles, these pictures are making you say what I said: OW!

Not that Victorian ladies didn't keep their hair contained. But they first put their hair up, then contained it... and the "container" (if any) was a very fine hairnet or a highly elaborate ribbon net.

Of course, if she went out she probably wore a bonnet, regardless of whether she also had a net. But authentic bonnets are expensive. So are hair extension pieces, which many ladies with modern haircuts need. So what is a reenacting lady to do if she wants a nice covering for her hair?

First, know that the front of your hair will show. So always part it in the center and smooth it down. If you have bangs, you can use hair gel or hair spray (or both!) to make both sides lay nicely. Sometimes rolling your hair back can also be a good way to contain short hairs.

Next, if your hair is long enough, put the back up into a bun. 1860s buns tended to be in the low-middle portion of the head, not high up like the later 1870s-80s styles. If you hair is not long enough for a bun, put some hair gel or hair spray on it to keep it smooth and in place.

Finally - the covering! In another post, I will cover proper bonnets and hats for the Civil War era. But for now, let's focus on the types of nets that were used. Hairnets of the 1860s were either a fine thin net, or a beautiful thick woven net made of silk ribbon or silk chenille. A pretty band was often attached to the net across the top which included braided or ruched ribbon, flowers, beads, or lace. Nets in the 1860s were not the thick crocheted nets of the 1950s.

Have you ever noticed that many ladies in 1860s photos appear to have some kind of ripple across the top of their head? It's not usually a braid - it's the ribbon band on their hair net.

If you don't know how to create one of these nets yourself, you can often find them at sutler's tents at reenactments. My mom has some lovely ones in her Etsy shop. This is me wearing one I snitched from her stash! :)

I mentioned the ribbon and chenille nets - here are some original pictures of them. Isn't this chenille hair piece absolutely adorable? I'm going to make one for myself one of these days!

This is a ribbon hairnet and yes, those are cute little bees on it! Obviously, with all the beautiful gold and ribbon work on this one, it's meant to be an evening headdress. Wouldn't you look dramatic in this?

And here is my mom, wearing one of those evening ribbon nets, along with a comb and some lovely flowers and ribbons to dress it up. Doesn't she look glamorous? (Just a little secret - my mom's hair is very short! She wears a false bun under her net for evening wear, and she wears a lace cap for day wear!)

So that's the scoop on hairnets! If anyone's interested in a blog on how to do hair, let me know and I may do a post on that in the future. For now... here's a cute picture I took at a recent ball. Even the best designed hairstyle may need a little help from a girlfriend occasionally - here's Mom helping my sis with her hair piece. Isn't that cute?


  1. I love your mother's ribbon hairnet. Your work is beautiful and period accurate.

  2. Do you sell the ribbon barney like your mother's? And the hankie one with navy and white stripe dress. Would also love decorations on her hair.

  3. Donna, at this point I am focusing mainly on selling the parasols and cockades. However, my mom is working on various caps for her Etsy shop so you can see what she has currently listed. Neither of us are currently making the pretty ribbon nets, though there are sutlers out there who do.

    Here is my mom's shop:

  4. This isn't entirely true. Crochet hair nets that resemble snoods more than your net examples were in use and being made by ladies for wear. Here is a book from 1854 with a pattern for "a net for the hair" on page 37 with the image of what the net is supposed to look like on page 3, diagram 10:

    1. Eva, you are correct that heavier nets were worn over the hair in the 1860s. But they were not the loosely crocheted, bilious-colored monstrosities that we often see for sale on eBay. :) Crochet thread back then was much finer and the work was more delicate than we typically see now. So unless you are making or purchasing a crocheted net that you know is made from the exact weight of silk and the exact size needle they used, it's better to opt for a fine net, cap or ribbon net over your hair. They will look much closer to period-correct than a modern crocheted snood.