August 26, 2017

The Crown of Women

"For the hair of a woman is her glory
It weaveth all of secret and renown
Through all chivalry and mystery and story
The glory of a woman and her crown."
- G. K. Cesterton, "The Crown of Women"

Woman seen from the back, ca. 1862,
by On├ęsipe Aguado de las Marismas.
(Image source: MET Museum, 2005.100.1)

Rather than begin a whole new blog post for today's prompt, I decided to finish the one I had started for challenge number 19 - ornament of the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month).  By definition, an ornament is an accessory, article, decoration or detail used to beautify the appearance of what it is added to or a part of to make it more attractive.  A great example is a decorative hair comb, much like those that were popular during the late 1850s and early 1860s when the hairstyles were worn low at the back of the head and neck.

The following image depicts a variety of mid-19th century hairstyles dressed with back combs from contemporary sources:

Victorian hair dressing with ornamental combs.
(Image source: Pinterest)

Now all I need is a similar statement piece to complete my historical updos!

Lots of hair!
Many thanks to Allison for her hairdressing talents and the picture.

Prompt 19 - Ornament

When I was studying some of extant garments in the Point Park costume collection, I came across a plastic bag of what turned out to be eight, decorative hair combs at the bottom of one of the costume boxes.  At the time, and still not knowing much about dating hair ornaments, all I was able to do was jot down their dimensions and snap a few pictures.  I am hoping that through sharing them today, the experts out there will be able to shed some light on the specifics.

A bag of decorative hair combs that I found in the Point Park collection.

Comb Number One

The first comb that I pulled out unfortunately was in two pieces and missing a tooth.  About seven inches at its widest, this comb with its spiraled details would have been quite the statement piece in its time.  Notice the numbers written on the back of this comb as well as those to come, this was a deaccessioned item from another collection and probably a donation to the university.  

Front of the comb with a unique, spiraled edge.

Back of the comb.

Comb Number Two

The second comb is just as lovely and even more intricate than the first.  The curve of its delicately carved top extends into the four teeth of the comb.  From top to bottom, it measures about 6.5 inches.  This also appears to be a deaccessioned collection piece probably donated to the university.

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.

Comb Number Three

This comb is fun and in perfect condition! 

Front of the comb, notice the gentle curve from side to side.

Back of the comb.

Comb Four

Another wavy-shaped comb with a gentle curve from side to side.  This one, sadly, appears to be missing four parts or whole teeth.  You'll also notice two former accession numbers this time.  

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.  Notice the two, different accession numbers.

Comb Number Five & Six

These two combs appear more functional and utilitarian than decorative in purpose.  The first, (on the left) rounded comb has a tag identifying it as 1860s to 1870s.  The second, "u-shaped" accessory (on the right) looks more like a large hair pin to me.

Comb fronts.

Comb Number Seven

I am labeling the comb with the five teeth at the bottom of the picture as number seven.  Unfortunately, it appears that I only snapped the one picture of it.  From side to side, it's a little over five inches in width and has a slight arch.  The discoloration on the left most tooth is actually a former museum's accession number.

Front of comb number seven (on the bottom).

Comb Number Eight

Last but not least, this comb is an interesting piece.  It is missing four teeth, and the metallic plating is flaking off.  Also a little over five inches at its widest, it probably was quite a grand hair ornament in its time.   

Front of the comb.

Detail shot.  Notice the flaking silver plating.

Back of the comb.

One of my favorite parts of participating in the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) has definitely been the opportunity (and motivation) to share posts that may have otherwise gone unwritten.  I'm not really sure when I would have written about these combs, had it not been for the perfect, timely "ornament" prompt.  Again, if anyone can contribute any more information and dating for the combs above, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.  You're also welcome to reach out to us through our Facebook page, where your "likes" and "follows" keep us going.  We appreciate your time and thank you for reading!  

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