Skip to comments.On Pins and Needles: Stylist Turns Ancient Hairdo Debate on Its Head
Posted on 02/09/2013 9:09:56 AM PST by nickcarraway
Ms. Stephens Says Ornate Coiffures Weren't Wigs After All; The Vestal Virgin Challenge
By day, Janet Stephens is a hairdresser at a Baltimore salon, trimming bobs and wispy bangs. By night she dwells in a different world. At home in her basement, with a mannequin head, she meticulously re-creates the hairstyles of ancient Rome and Greece.
Ms. Stephens is a hairdo archaeologist.
Her amateur scholarship is sticking a pin in the long-held assumptions among historians about the complicated, gravity-defying styles of ancient times. Basically, she has set out to prove that the ancients probably weren't wearing wigs after all.
"This is my hairdresserly grudge match with historical representations of hairstyles," says Ms. Stephens, who works at Studio 921 Salon & Day Spa, which offers circa 21st-century haircuts.
Her coiffure queries began, she says, when she was killing time in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore back in 2001. A bust of the Roman empress Julia Domna caught her eye. "I thought, holy cow, that is so cool," she says, referring to the empress's braided bun, chiseled in stone. She wondered how it had been built. "It was amazing, like a loaf of bread sitting on her head," says Ms. Stephens.
She tried to re-create the 'do on a mannequin. "I couldn't get it to hold together," she says. Turning to the history books for clues, she learned that scholars widely believed the elaborately teased, towering and braided styles of the day were wigs.
She didn't buy that. Through trial and error she found that she could achieve the hairstyle by sewing the braids and bits together, using a needle. She dug deeper into art and fashion history books, looking for references to stitching.
In 2005, she had a breakthrough. Studying translations of Roman literature,
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
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Now if only we could wrest the reigns of accreditation from the grips of the universities and vest it once again in knowledge and learning, we could start to end the brainwashing and servitude of our youth. Far too often, all a student ends up with after putting themselves nearly a hundred grand in debt is a fancy piece of paper and an even longer application line.
I must admit, I have always had a thing for the Vestal Virgins.
The one in the middle looks like bed hair.
Cleopatra looks angry.
True dat. This woman is a perfect example of someone intellectually curious who mixes her skill as a hairdresser with her love of ancient hair styles. She's not bound by the conventional thinking of "oh, they wore wigs". Neat story.
Thanks for posting! I love stuff like this. I sent the link to all my theatrical costuming friends. :)
Do the historians realize that the wealthy women of the day never did their own hair? They had servants to do that, so elaborate ‘dos’ were no problem.
Wife and I own a salon. She cuts hair and I sweep it up. She thought the article was very interesting and so do I. It makes sense. Extensions and “weaves” are often sewn in today.
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Thanks nickcarraway. She must have combed ancient sources for the info.
I know they used have their dressers sew their clothes on before zippers and buttons, so why not with hair? They didn’t wash it every day for sure.