I enjoy giving advice to others on how to get unique hairstyles.
I have a soft spot for the Regency era, mostly thanks to Jane Austen novels and countless romantic television series and films set in the time period. One thing I love about this era is its style: the refreshing simplicity, the timeless elegance... it is simply divine!
In an effort to find some non-trendy but still exciting things to do with my hair as I grow it out, I did some research on Regency-era hairstyles, and would love to share my findings with you!
Most of the updos shown below are easy to reproduce (which is quite a turnaround, considering the elaborate pompadours from the previous era), so you might even consider giving these a try with your own lovely locks!
Simplicity and History; the Military and Romanticism
During the Regency era, two major trends influenced fashion: simplicity and history. These trends were, in turn, greatly influenced by romanticism and the military.
As England was at war with France from 1803 to 1814, people had Napoleon on the mind and were influenced by his aggressive campaigns. As Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt unearthed a renewed fascination for ancient antiquities, a general lust for distant times and places such as ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome back into style, and various Roman and Greek garments, architectural styles, and of course, hairstyles, began to pop up around fashionable neighborhoods.
What's more, 1800 saw the beginning of the Romantic Period in which artists, poets, and cultural trendsetters cast aside the science and reason-focused Enlightenment, along with the nascent industrial revolution, in favor of on emotion, the natural sciences, education, and history, which only drew people closer to the ancient Greeks and Romans.
During this period, a general backlash against the excessively fancy and detailed styles from the previous time period led people toward simpler styles of dress and adornment. Simpler styles may have been reinforced by the number of men trading out fancy dress for more streamlined military uniforms.
Beau Brummel, one of the era's most fashionable men, was known for his preference for simplicity in dress and did much to reinforce the time's pared down style. His near dogmatic love impeccable cleanliness and attention to detail boosted the popularity of elegant but splendidly well-executed ensembles.
The trends favoring simplicity and history led to some splendid fashions—some of my favorite dress and hairstyles of all history!
The Regency-era was a time of great neoclassical styles. Folks went crazy for designs, paintings, clothes, and hairstyles that harkened to ancient Greek and Roman times. It was therefore very common to see slightly updated greek hairstyles floating around during this period.
- Masses of curls framing the face with hair at the back tied into a loose bun
- The Psyche knot—a loose, Roman-influenced bun often accented by ribbon tied around the head
- Braided and twisted updos with a long lock of hair hanging down along the neck
Greek and Roman-inspired hairstyles were often complimented by ribbons and other small adornments. Styles incorporating ribbons into elaborately twisted Psyche knots are particularly fetching!
The Ringlet Trend
I have a difficult time thinking of Regency-era hairstyles without thinking of the classic ringlet-over-the-ear number. I personally refer to this style as a feminized version of mutton chops, but it is certainly more elegant than that.
This style is simple: the hair is divided into three sections (with the back section being the largest). Hair at the sides is styled into several medium-sized ringlets, which hang in front of the ears (were Regency-era girls self-conscious about their ears?). The rest of the hair is pinned or tied into a low-hassle updo.
This style made great practical sense for ladies heading out of doors, since it enables one to wear a bonnet while avoiding hat hair and still showing off some fancy styling.
Though some ladies used hot irons to curl their hair, paper curls were also quite popular at the time (and are still a very functional option). Curling one's hair with paper entails wrapping locks of wet hair around paper strips, which are then tied and secured near the scalp.
Straight Hair Styles
If curls aren't your thing, you could still most certainly pull of a Regency-era hairstyle with straight hair.
Long, straight hair was splendid for half-up-half-down hairstyles such as that depicted in Sir Joshua Reynolds' painting of Sarah Siddons as a tragic muse to the right. Complimented by a dramatic headpiece, Mrs. Siddons' hair looks beautiful in this series of looping, rope-like twists cascading into two loose braids.
If you choose to wear your hair completely down, you should probably be pretending to channel some Greek or Roman figure. Maybe throw some laurels around the crown of your head and put on a toga-like ensemble, just for good measure. Consider the second portrait to the right of Lady Hamilton by George Romney as a model to follow. While Lady Hamilton, posting as a Bacchante, is indeed sporting somewhat straight hair, she is essentially dressing up (and looking flirty- more on that later).
A more "mainstream" approach to your long, straight locks would be to bundle them up in a braided or twisted updo with some ribbons (such as a Psyche knot, described above). The voluminous pouf of the previous period would be a bit outmoded, so try to keep your hair close to your head, and you shall come across as a chic Regency gal with little extra effort.
Short Hair for More Adventurous Women
Because Regency-era styles were known for their simplicity, you can bet that some women took that to an extreme, which in this case involves short, cropped hairstyles. This is particularly exciting, because women back in the day were not known for having short hair. This was a radical development!
One woman at the forefront of this trend was Lady Caroline Lamb, an aristocrat and novelist who was born in 1785 and was known for her affair with Lord Byron.
Though definitely a more edgy trendsetter, Lady Caroline Lamb's hairstyle was certainly reproduced by admirers. Those who were not brave enough to cut their hair entirely short would instead tie curly locks around their head in such a way that the ends would frame their face much like a short bob would.
Want to Look Extra Sexy? Let Your Hair Down!
During the Regency era, women rarely, if ever, let their hair down in public. Such hairstyles were reserved for Greco-Roman style portraits (touched on above) or very private settings, such as one's bedroom or dressing room.
Because the intimate associations that came with loose, long hair, several vintage pin-up prints of women with long, flowing hairstyles were popular at this time.
It looks like slightly curly or wavy hair is more popular, so if you really want to re-create a Regency era pinup style (which makes 1950s pinups seem positively modern!), perhaps you might like to spend some time with a curling iron.
As a side note, you may notice the ladies to the left engaged in a bit of archery fun. At the time, archery was one of the few sports with which a respectable lady may engage herself. Pretty cool, huh?
What do you think?
As hairstyles wound their way toward the Victorian era, many of the Regency era's styles remained popular, but blatant Greco-Roman callouts became far less common.
If one should remember anything about Regency hair styles, one should remember that they were characterized by a refreshing dose of perspective (in the form of reverence for ancient times) and simplicity (by fighting back against the unnatural and labor-intensive hairstyles of the Georgian time period). In many ways, hairstyles of this time were quite similar to hairstyles of the 80s and 80s, which replaced beehives and other highly controlled and troublesome styles with simple bobs and loose locks. Regency style hairdos were admittedly more detailed, but relatively speaking, they were freeing and refreshingly light.
What's your opinion on hairstyles from this time period? Are they elegant, ridiculous, or oddly alluring? Would you ever take one for a spin on your own head? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Jelena from Florida on June 21, 2015:
I've always found that era beautiful but women hair is just a lot more interesting back than. Really good hub.
Rhoda on May 28, 2014:
I am into the period and have researched much about it. I certainly would love to look like a Regency girl but don't want to look ridiculous. I most certainly think it is the nicest fashion there ever was.
Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on June 29, 2012:
Great research, Well done indeed. I and Pauline my wife, met as indentured apprentice hairdressers in 1959. Although hot irons were not used by then, we were taught how to use them as part of our training.
Voted up / all / following.
wrenfrost56 from U.K. on June 15, 2012:
Excellent hub, I really love the regency hairstyles you featured, especially the ringlets and like you I think my fascination with it stems from Jane Austin too. :)
Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on June 11, 2012:
These hairstyles would be a better retread trend than some of the 1960s and 1970s stuff we've already recycled.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 29, 2012:
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on May 24, 2012:
Talk about letting your hair down! Very informative hub and the history is fascinating. I particularly like the Greco-Roman style and the Victoria ladies with their hair loose and flowing. Voted up and across the board!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 23, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by, everyone!
And kittythedreamer, you should TOTALLY go for an ancient Egyptian style- that would be so cool!
Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on May 18, 2012:
An entertaining and informative hub! The list of important hairstyles explained by you are very detailed. I like the wavy hair style with curls cascading on the forehead. Thank you for piquing my interest in this enrapturing subject.
Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up.
Kitty Fields from Summerland on May 16, 2012:
Loved this hub, too! But...of course I did. I love everything from Simone Smith! :) Okay, enough with my cheesiness for today. Seriously, I'm thinking about doing my hair in an Ancient Egyptian fashion...complete with headdress (okay maybe not with the headdress). Thanks for the inspiration!
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on May 13, 2012:
Beau Brummel certainly set the standard for male fashions in his time and Lady Hamilton was probably painted more than almost any other model in hers. Excellent article here and an enjoyable read and look. The Recency era sure was a great one for hairstyles. Whenever i imagine the Regency era Josephine with her Greco-Roman dress and hair often comes to mind. Look forward to seeing your experiments too Simone which will be very cool for this aficionado.
DigbyAdams on May 11, 2012:
Well wasn't Lady Hamilton a sexy and voluptuous woman! Myself, I've always wanted to go back to the Roaring Twenties and be a Flapper. Until I read this I never knew there was a Regency Era, so I enjoyed learning about the fashions and hairstyles of the time. Thank you so much!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 11, 2012:
Oh, you would look LOVELY sporting many of these styles, Hyphenbird! The Gibson Girl style (indeed from the Victorian period) really IS fabulous, too. I'll be sure to document my old timey hair experiments!
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on May 10, 2012:
I love the old hair styles and most go well with my curly hair. I just thought of one that I actually used to wear. It is not Regency but pretty. The Gibson Girl hair style! Your Hub is fun and really cool Simone. Take a photo for us when you chose a style and tie a bow around it!