People have always been kind when I’ve done something fancy with my hair in character. Over the last few years I have tried to work with distinct “styles” for each of my characters to help visually tell them apart – from Rowan’s long braid and bandana, to Wren’s mountain of braids, Brigit’s ribbons and Miriam’s wimple and veil.
I have pulled together a collection of links and guides that I have used / perused or just watched for inspiration, in the hope that something sparks an idea for you too. Fancy hair isn’t always as complicated as it looks, and it is something that can be done out in the field with a bit of practise (or a lot of cunning).
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The best place to start is probably with the basics. There are a number of different braids, but the key methods I use are the regular braid, french braid and the dutch braid. These can make either rounded braids or a flatter braid and can change the style of a hairstyle by simply changing how your hair is braided.
The regular braid is the standard 3 strand braid, with french and dutch braids gathering hair into a single braid. Dutch braids are “inverted” french braids which just change the way hair is passed over and under each strand – rather than passing the hair over the strand into the middle, you pass it under.
Here are some links to helpful resources, but the internet is a vast place full of such things too …
~ 17 braided hair styles ~ Braids for Maids Renfaire (though these are just for inspiration!) ~ [archive] Dreamweaver Braids Braiding Instructions ~ [archive] Dreamweaver Braids Braid Examples ~ The basics of braiding ~
Hairstyles with Ribbons
I’ll be honest, Morgan Donner’s post on italian braids and curls inspired this post. What a beautiful hairstyle! And whilst this has not been done for an active larp setting, it is possible – you just need an armoury of hair pins and plenty of patience! (I also have major kit envy for the majority of her wardrobe. Aspirational stuff right there – check out her posts on the supportive kirtle, her 1580s Venetian gown and Zimurra, and all her posts on her Acension Dress and all the accessories. Oh and the Russet dress. I’m going to stop now …)
I’ve been looking at beribboned hair and crown braids for a while, stumbling across the excellent Louise Anne Bateman’s videos on youtube that keep inspiring me to try new things as I find another one I’ve not watched …
The best ones (in my opinion) for medieval / renaissance hairstyles are the faux hair taping, proper hair taping, the renaissance heidi braid and the regency scarf bun. She also has a tutorial on doing a parada braid, which is how Morgan Donner lengthens and thickens her braid for her crown braid.
I even did some faux hair taping for Dame Ravenna’s banquet kit.
But there are loads more tutorials and things out there, so go and take a look and see what tutorial works best for you. I always look for ones that are being done on the person giving the tutorial so that I don’t have to rely on someone else when out in the field. I try to avoid ones that are dependant on having a mirror to check your progress, because that would involve hogging the bathroom on site when at fests or trying to balance a mirror atop the pile of larp kit in my tent. So long as you can raise your arms above your head and not brush your elbows on the tent skin you should be fine …
From a quick search here are a few more tutorials that might be of interest, though I’ve not tried these – medieval italian hairstyles, dutch crown braid (remember the difference between french and dutch we discussed earlier? This gives a nice flat crown of hair) and a crown braid with no partings (I included this one as a reminder to try it. So far I’ve not actually managed to do a proper crown braid and it’s a skill I feel I *need* to have)
Hairstyles with Extras
Sometimes, however, hair and a ribbon simply isn’t enough. Oh no, sometimes you need a bit more bling, or perhaps need to add some more period style in the form of a headdress. I’ve been teaching myself how to crochet over the last few years and have recently completed a round of hair snoods to spruce up my kit. Snoods are so much fun, but I’ve found them a little fiddly to put in until you have the knack (hint – lots of pins if you’re going out to larp!).
Building the Magic have a collection of snoods and snood resources on their website, and I’ve found a beaded snood pattern that I love over at Wild Chestnuts. I love it so much that I’ve made several now with the same pattern (2 without beads and 1 with). I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t need more snoods, and so far my willpower is holding, but there are plenty of tutorials and things up on youtube for snoods and hair nets and the circular panels which are pinned into the middle of a crown braid. There’s also nothing wrong with “cheating” and using fake hair to help accentuate your fabulous outrageous style or just make things easier – at one time it was the fashion and therefore perfectly acceptable. Shops like Claires or other hair accessories shops often have fake hair / braids / bits, so look around and experiment with what works for you.
I found a lovely velvet ribbon in my collection that matches some of my current kit perfectly and wear this across my brow to tie into my beaded snood to add a bit of medieval fancy to my current hairstyle.
However, sometimes you just need to add a bit of modesty and grace to a character. You may recall I made a wimple and veil and cap for Lady Miriam. Here are some guidance notes on several ways of wearing a veil, how to cut a circular veil, and how to make a St Birgitta’s cap to act as a base for the whole ensemble. There are lots of resources for how to wear veils (alone, with circlets, with wimples, with caps, with hats …) available online, particularly those affiliated with the SCA, but the above links are just for starters. When I last wore my veil I was able to braid my own hair into chunky braids at the side of my face, but here is a link to making your own fake hair braids or Cornettes (which was a fashionable thing to do back in those days!) here to wear with your wimple and veil. Here is also a link to ways of wearing your wimple on Virtue.To, with other things of interest on their articles page like their post on girdle books (and though still not hair related, Rose Foundry did something similar several years ago … I’ll just leave these articles here …)
There are also resources and tutorials for hoods and hats from the Tudor and Elizabethan period (and more) online or in costuming books.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief collection of resources of hair styles and accessories, and happy costuming!