Hair and Hats, 1912

A very wide hat from Delineator, October 1912. Does the model have short  hair?

Hats from fashion illustration, Delineator, March 1912.

Thanks to nurseknits for asking about 1912 hairstyles! She spotted the way that the models’ hair looked short in my post about huge 1912 hats, and asked, “What keeps a hat like this on your head, particularly at a flattering angle, if no hat pin can be employed?”

Simple answer: The models didn’t have short hair. It only looks that way because the hair close to the face has been cut short, while the rest of the hair remains long.

Although she has bangs and a few loose wisps on her cheeks, her long hair is rolled and pinned into a bun at the the back of her head. Illus. May 1912.

Older women sometimes clung to the styles of their youth, like these Gibson pompadours:

From a page of advice for older women, Delineator, January 1912.

Mrs. Clara E. Simcox, American fashion designer and writer. Photo from Delineator, February 1912.

But younger women were cutting bangs and wisps around the face.

Bangs and wisps softened the look of the hat. September 1912.

The visitor wears a very wide hat. April 1912. Delineator.

Her curly hair appears loose at the sides. The hostess has bangs and her hair covers her ears; if you look closely, you can see that it’s in some kind of knot at the back.

Notice the small bun at the nape of her neck. April 1912.

Shorter in font, curls and poufs over the ears, and coiled or braided hair in back. Dec. 1912, Delineator.

That model may have run a braid or twist of long hair across the back of her head from ear to ear.

Illustration of girls ages 14 to 19 shows a long braid. Braids could be pinned in place at the back of the head, or long hair could be rolled up. (right.)

This girl in her gym suit has coils of long hair over her ears:

September 1912: Young woman in gym costume.

Sometimes, quite a lot was going on at the back of the head: (Marcel waves, invented in the 1870s, added curls and waves.)

A La Spirite Corset ad, August 1912.

Hair pieces could be purchased or made from your own combings. “Combing jars” are shown in this post.

Ad for E. Burnham hair switches, February 1912.

Ad for Paris Fashion Co hair switches, etc. December 1912.

This 1912 hairdo may look familiar to those who remember the 1960’s “beehive” hair style:

Hair wrapped around the head, January 1912.

Another wrapped hairstyle; from April 1912. If she were wearing a hat, we’d only see the bangs and short, loose hair at the sides.

Bangs and wisps of hair at the cheeks — all you can see when the hat covers the hair. June 1912.

For evening wear, a band of ribbon, fabric, jewels, etc. helped support long hair:

Short fronts, long backs held by hair bands. October 1912.

A beaded band worn with evening dress. November 1912. [When she was broke, actress Ethyl Barrymore used a wreath of oak leaves. (Memories)]

On the cover of Delineator, …

Woman at a dress fitting, Delineator cover, August 1912.

…  the customer has removed the hat she wore to the fitting, and we can see the elaborate way her hair was dressed to fit inside the hat:

The mirror gives a back view of her long hair and hair accessories.

So, when we see a 1912 hairstyle, it is probably not short in back, but only in front.

Once you start looking for long hair, you start to notice these buns at the nape, which continued into the 1920s.

On this page of hat fashions from Delineator, December 1912,…

Midwinter hats from Paris, Delineator, Dec. 1912, p. 484.

… Hatpins were prominently featured:

Jeweled and enameled hatpins from milliner Camille Roger.

Dancer Irene Castle was famous for popularizing the actual bob (short) hair style during WW I. Munitions and other factory workers in Britain were encouraged to cut off their long hair for safety reasons. Mrs. Castle had cut hers before having surgery, in 1914, but some working women saw how good she looked afterwards and took the plunge.

Mrs. Vernon Castle (Irene Castle) was credited with setting the fashion for bobbed hair. From an ad campaign for Corticelli Silks, Delineator, October 1917.

More than one site says Irene Castle first cut her hair short before going into the hospital for an appendectomy in 1914.

Women and girls often had their long hair cut short during serious illnesses. (Remember the Sherlock Holmes story — “The Copper Beeches,” 1889 — in which a governess is required to cut her hair short and wear a vivid blue dress as a condition of her employment? Spoiler: Her employer is using her to impersonate his daughter, whose hair had been cut short when she was ill, and who has the same reddish hair color.)

The “puffs” or guiches on her cheek are clearly cut shorter than the rest of her hair. Delineator, November 1917.

American women didn’t need to cut their hair for war work until 1917. And many stuck with the front-only cut well into the 1920s.

For more about long/short hair, search witness2fashion for “bobbed hair.” My Search box is at upper right.

Edit 9/18/19 Here is the full image of the blue suit pictured above:

500 1912 oct p 229 color 5664 k 5665 w 5668 sk 5669 blue 500 (3)

Illustration from Delineator, October 1912.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1910s and WW I era, Hairstyles, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories

13 responses to “Hair and Hats, 1912

  1. anna

    Those big hats like the top picture–are those what were called “picture hats”? I have never been able to find out. I know you have to ask the right question for Google to give you a useful answer, but whenever I type in “lady’s picture hats 1915” for example, I get lots of pictures of ladies in hats, from throughout history.

    • I searched “picture hat defined ” and found the earliest use of the term in 1887. Dictionaries agree it referred to the wide hats worn in some 18th c. paintings , e.g. by Gainsborough.

      • anna

        I find references to picture hats in novels up to post-WW1, so if it originally referred to Gainsborough-type hats, I guess the big ones are meant. I suppose it makes a nice “frame” for the woman’s face. If you like that sort of thing. *giggle*

  2. Great post (I would think that!). I believe that ‘peak hat’ was reached in 1911/1912. They didn’t get any bigger, and from this point on, slowly shrank. The final hurrah – reaching a frenzied apogee at the funeral of King Edward and coronation of George V.

  3. I have long hair because of the living history events I attend. However, I am unwilling to cut bangs / trim the side pieces lest I end up with some Fara Fawcett 70s hair. Any suggestions on how to achieve the 1912 look when my hair is all the same length?

    • Many women kept their long hair, usually parted in the middle and coiled into a bun low on the neck in back, to fit under a cloche hat. The hair was softly draped over the ears, though, instead of being skinned back above them. Many women had a Marcel Wave, so their hair could be “finger waved” with setting lotion into waves to frame the face. If your hair won’t hold a wave, then there was the exotic, straight haired “Spanish” look, good for dark hair. (Add a high Spanish comb for evening!) Braids coiled over the ears also made a soft curve over the cheeks under a hat. And, the easiest solution: a wig. Perfectly authentic: click here. The best way to fit long hiar under a short wig is to separated it inot many long twists, and bobby-pin each coiled twist of hair close to the scalp using two bobby pins in an X shape. We do this in the theater all the time. Once the wig is pinned to that tightly secured hair, actors and dancers can do somersaults and the wig will not fall off. Best of luck! (And remember you can choose early Twenties or Late Twenties… I love your work!

  4. catniphill

    In 1912 they were called “Merry Widow Hats”

  5. Great Post and beautiful pictures! Have you ever wondered why some authors wear hats? “The most important reasons to wear a hat is to keep ideas in. Ideas are abstract, fluffy things, prone to floating away, remaining just out of reach if you don’t contain them” – I have written an article titled “The Art of Wearing Hats” – – Feel free to check it out!

    • Loved your hat-wearing post. I suspect that Jack Kennedy didn’t like the way his hair looked when he took a hat off — I, too, hate “Hat-hair.”

    • You might enjoy “Mad Women” Jane Haas, a woman ad executive’s memoir. “Haas mentions many details Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant gets right, plus some that must have seemed too silly to put on television. ‘As soon as you were promoted from secretary to junior copy writer, you wore a hat in the office…. I never took my hat off, not even in the bathroom,’ said one woman who worked at the J. Walter Thompson Agency. A woman from Ogilvy and Mather explained, “Wearing a hat in the office was a badge. It proclaimed you were no longer a secretary.” (p. 115) My book review is here.

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