While Loretta and I spent a lot (a LOT) of time in museums, there are still things that, even at our absolute nerdiest, can stop us cold.
Hair pieces, false hair, and wigs have been in and out of style all the way back to ancient times, but I'd never seen anything quite like this. The museum placard calls it a "hair cap," and dates it to 1830-40. (To me the style looked a bit earlier – though that could be because the cap is probably American-made, and not from a fashion capitol like Paris or London.) Instead of costly human hair, it's made of dark brown silk, elaborately knotted and looped and twisted to simulate curls, waves, and braids.
Such a cap was worn over a lady's real hair, and was designed to boost what Nature had failed to provide. Fashions of the times emphasised the hair that framed the face, with the back of the head hidden beneath a lace-trimmed linen cap, and often a hat on top of that. This hair cap could have given the impression of an elegantly waved hairline, complete with a tidy bunch of curls over the ears.
But according to the placard, there were other advantages to a hair cap, too: "When running water was not available in homes, it was difficult to keep hair clean and styled. One advertisement suggests that caps like this one were especially convenient while traveling, when sanitary conditions were even less certain."
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.