Trendy hairstyles and hairstyling techniques have been around for centuries, but have you ever wondered what getting ready in the morning was like for an upper-class woman in the 19th century? These women would spend time getting ready for the day in their dressing room or toilette, where they would pomade, powder, and decorate their hair with elaborate curls and ornaments. A popular style of the 1830s was the a la Chinoise (ah la shen-wahs’). This hairstyle included parting the hair in the middle and pulling it smoothly to the temples where it was arranged in hanging sausage-shaped curls, in plaits, or with a loop of hair encircling the ears. At the back, hair was pulled into a bun or chignon which, during this time, was also called an apollo knot. After researching, testing historical hairstyling products, and recreating the hairstyle, I determined what practices could be duplicated for theatrical production
Whether it was thousands of years ago or now, despite the gender, people's obsession and interest in beauty and wealth were the same, and beauty was a symbol of wealth and family power during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1897) as well. Influenced by the Ming Dynasty from China, women in Joseon started to wear wigs called Ga-Chae, which were loops of thick and rich black hair braided together. Among all the different kinds of Ga-Chae, I chose to do a deeper research in the Queen style of Ga-Chae, called the Eoyeo Hair. This wig style was only allowed for the Queens of Joseon to wear and it looks like a crown but in a hairstyle upon their head, since only the Kings were allowed to wear a crown. The wig was made by actual human hair, which made it really expensive. During this time period, Confucianism (an ancient Chinese belief system, which focuses on the importance of personal ethics and morality) was the ruling ideology, therefore it was prohibited to cut your hair since birth or else people will take it as a huge disrespect to your parents and your ancestors. However, the demand of Ga-Chae from women was insane so some kidnapped people and cut their hair off, or people who needed money desperately would secretly sell their hair in a huge price. Natural hair would be the best but for the Queens, they wanted thicker and even more rich black color for their Ga-Chae, so people would use various ingredients to dye the hair, from importing Tang Scarlet from China which is about $5000 per pound, to squashing little bugs called Cochineals into juice and spread over the hair. For me I chose to use tomato powder mixed with boiled water since it contains Lycopene that helps with dyeing the hair for building my own Ga-Chae throughout this research and used Cassia oil along with hair smoothing cream to smoothen out the hair. The wig itself is quite heavy so if it were to be used for theatrical purposes then I highly recommend the wearer to avoid having drastic head movements, but it would perfectly do its job as representing the Queen of Joseon in a show.
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