In order to mimic a hairstyle from the 1860s, a key consideration to bear in mind is control. Hairstyles for both men and women during this period were always neat, without a hair out of place. In order to maintain this look, women of the time used sugar water to mat the hair. Tight buns were common for younger women while older women wore their buns higher on the back of their head. Younger women tended to drop the bun to the nape of the neck.
The most common, basic hairstyle worn during the day for women of all ages was simple and pulled back severely, usually into a bun. The hair was parted down the middle and worn smoothed back over the sides; it could be worn back to cover the ears. Women did not wear bangs during the majority of this time period as the goal of the hairstyle was to create a round face, although there is some evidence that bangs started appearing after the Civil War concluded.
Special Occasion Wear
For enjoying a night out at a nice dinner or at a ball, a woman in the 1860s would commonly wear her hair in a cascade or waterfall of curls. The hair was worn pulled back from the crown then fixed with tight ringlets or fuller curls. Women often added in hairpieces to make their styles appear to be fuller. Hairpieces could be made from human or animal hair and were pinned into the hair with combs and pins. Hair was often decorated with flowers, ribbons or feathers.
Use of Hairnets
Hairnets had some use in the 1860s. They were typically made of human hair or fine threads and were made to blend with the hair for an invisible look. Hairnets, which in later years were called snoods, were purely decorative. They did not confine the hair and the hair was still drawn and fixed very tightly and neatly in this period of history. Garish hairnets appeared in a later time period.
Young girls, at any age below 25, were likely to mimic older women by wearing their hair in similar styles. However, most likely for considerations of ease of styling, young girls could wear their hair cut short in a bob. This same hairstyle was occasionally found on young women during the Civil War to show their support for the war. Perhaps it was even to mimic a young man’s style, although women still parted their hair down the middle while men typically parted their hair on the side.
During the 1860s, men wore very simple hairstyles. Their hair was typically parted on the side and cut short in back, usually to ear level. Then it was combed down smooth. Sideburns were worn short and although chin whiskers were popular and often seen, mustaches were not in style.
References and ResourcesFlorida Reenactors Online: The 1860's Lady
LP House: 1860s
UVM: Men's Hairstyles