July 9, 2012

TEEN LIFE WAY BACK WHEN: Hemlines and Hairdos - What was the Message?

Take a look at this photograph from the 1890’s.  What’s different between the mother and her daughters?  We know that in the nineteenth century, children were dressed as miniature adults.  But, when it came to girls, there were some key differences that were designed to send a message.

You will notice that the mother has her hair up and the daughters wear their hair loose and flowing.  Also, the mother’s skirt reaches the floor and the skirts of the daughters are considerably shorter. It was only when a girl was mature enough to marry, around the age of seventeen, that she was allowed to put up her hair and lower her hemline.  This was a signal to everyone that she was now available and ready for marriage.  It was considered an important rite of passage. Not only that, it was improper for a girl of marriageable age to wear her hair down.  This sent another, altogether different message:  it was considered a sign of sensuality and vice.  After a girl put her hair up, loose hair was reserved for her husband and the bedroom.

For references and additional reading:  Go to  Extras

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