Monday, November 21, 2011

Pompadours, Part 1: Women's Styles

One of the things I wondered about most when I first read the Betsy-Tacy series was what is this thing called a pompadour? It seemed to be a hairstyle of some sort, and Maud mentions them quite frequently--on both men and women. So how could they both have the same hairstyle? It's all very puzzling. Well, apparently I'm not the only one who has wondered about the mysterious pompadour. I've received a couple questions in the giveaway post (you have until tomorrow to enter!) from others who are wondering about this. In one such comment a B-T fan named Marissa wrote:
Pompadours. 1). Why are they mentioned so frequently in the Betsy/Tacy series? 2). Why is that word so hard to say? 3). What were they exactly? How can both men and women have pompadours? Why is Joe Willard's pompadour so fabulous? What makes a pompadour more special than regular hair? It is mentioned so much in the books, I am quite perplexed. I'd love a little ditty all about pompadours with perhaps a picture or two.
It's sounds like we've been wondering many of the same things! Never fear; in this post I plan on addressing all of those questions and more (although I don't think I can give a reason why "Joe Willard's pompadour is so fabulous." I think it just is.)

There is a difference between the men's and women's pompadours. This post will talk about the women's version. 

First things first: how do you say "pompadour." According to Merriam-Webster, it is pronounced:
pom·pa·dour (päm-pə-ˌdȯr)
If you'd rather hear what it sounds like, there  is a handy site you can go to just for this purpose. All you have to do is type in the word and click on "Say it!". 

So what exactly is a pompadour? 
Any hairstyle with the hair brushed back and arranged up creating a puffy effect. Variations were especially popular in the 18th century and in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.{Source}
The pompadour could take many forms, from a simple topknot (left) to series of
more elaborate poufs and curls (right). {Source}
The pompadour hairstyle or the 'Gibson girl' look was seen pretty much throughout the Edwardian period, 1901-1912 and was worn by women from the working classes to society ladies. The style is quit [sic] 'pouffy' right around, with the ends of the hair either tucked into a roll at the back or formed into a bun on top .... {Source}
In this illustration by Charles Dana Gibson, the women pictured
are all wearing a variation of the pompadour hairstyle. {Source}

As to why this style is mentioned so frequently in the series, I can only think that it is because it was an especially popular way of doing one's hair during the period in which these books take place. Also, I imagine that in the early 1900s putting one's hair up, as with wearing longer skirts, was a sort of a coming-of-age thing. Now that Betsy and her friends are in high school, they are growing up. Paying attention to the fashion mentioned in this series shows the outward signs of their blossoming maturity. But perhaps Maud just really liked the word!

Now that you know what this style is, I'm sure you will recognize it a lot in Vera Neville's lively illustrations. (Lois Lenski also draws a few pompadours on Mrs. Ray, Mrs. Muller, Mrs. Kelly, etc.)

To achieve the illusion of added volume, women would use "rats" (made from matted hair cleaned out of the hairbrush or horsehair), frames, back-combing, or other forms of padding. Also:
None of the hairstyles of the day would have been accomplished without firm hair pins made of much heavier wire gauge than those used in hairpins today. {Source}
There are many mentions in the series of the methods used to construct these hairdos: 
Betsy shows off her transformation hairstyle to Tib in  
Betsy in Spite of Herself. Illustration by Vera Neville.
[Tib] looked at Betsy keenly. "I know a wonderful way to do your hair."
    "Come here and I'll show you."
    They went to the dressing table, and Tib asked for Betsy's biggest rat. She pinned it on firmly and erected a magnificent pompadour, topped off with a high, pointed knot. (Betsy in Spite of Herself, 536)
She fluffed Betsy's hair over the wire "jimmy" into an airy pompadour. (Betsy Was a Junior, 142)
I'm not sure what a jimmy is or how it's different than a rat. I was unable to find any information online about it.
Tib had come as usual to dress for the party with Betsy – and to do Betsy’s multiplicity of puffs. The pompadour was rolled over a big sausagelike mat and each puff was rolled over a small one.
    “The rat and all the little mice, Tony calls them,” said Betsy, acting lighthearted. (Betsy and Joe, 479)
I hope this cleared things up on the subjects of women's pompadours. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll see what I can find out.

Style your own Gibson Girl updo. This site  also links to some video tutorials (which I haven't watched).

>> Pompadours, Part 2: Men's Styles

1 comment:

  1. Wowee! I feel famous! Thanks for answering my question! I'll wait expectantly for Part 2.