Victorian Hair Wreaths

Hair wreaths were popular memorials from 1850-1880. This wreath was created from the hair of the Sherman sisters, Emily (12), Amelia (7) and Helen (5) who all passed away from diphtheria in 1879. Hair Wreath: Petaluma Museum, Petaluma, CA (Photo: ©Skyfeather Studio)

Hair wreaths were popular memorials from 1850-1880. This wreath was created from the hair of the Sherman sisters, Emily (12), Amelia (7) and Helen (5) who all passed away from diphtheria in 1879. Hair Wreath: Petaluma Museum, Petaluma, CA
(Photo: ©Skyfeather Studio)

During the Victorian era the custom of making art from hair became a popular form of memorializing loved ones. Locks of hair were incorporated into keepsake jewelry such as brooches, bracelets or lockets. Strands of hair were gathered and hand woven into delicate leaf, vine and floral shapes. These “flowers” were then formed into horseshoe-shaped wreaths which were left open at the upper end to symbolize the spirit’s ascent toward heaven. The wreaths often represented multiple family members and generations with varying colors of hair. Close viewing reveals a spectrum of shades from silver, blonde, red, and brown to black. The wreaths were set into ornate frames with the very center of the piece reserved for the hair belonging to the most recently deceased.

The wreaths were the creations of middle and upper-class women who looped multiple strands of hair around fine wire before fashioning them into intricate botanical forms. The shapes and designs are so graceful and delicate they would have required small hands, excellent eyesight and a great deal of time to make. In those years a woman was expected to dress in black clothing and be in mourning for a year if she lost a child and 2 1/2 years if widowed. The wreath-making was something that the females of the family could do together as they mourned to show affection and respect for their loved ones. They would pour their hearts into creating a work of beauty, a remembrance that could be passed down and appreciated from one generation to the next.

-Singing Luna 11/4/2013

For more information and images:

http://www.pinterest.com/ajylitalomiller/victorian-hair-weaving-mourning-traditions/

http://www.adamscohistory.org/Mourning_Rituals.pdf

http://meredithhost.blogspot.com/2010/05/victorian-hair-flower-workshop.html

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4 Responses to Victorian Hair Wreaths

  1. I have to agree with Rebecca – this is fascinating! I had not heard of this tradition of using hair to make a memorial,let alone art. What an exquisite way to honor a loved one and to keep their memory alive for future generations.Thanks for the interesting post!

  2. singingluna says:

    There is a museum in Missouri called Leila’s Hair Museum with over 400 hair wreaths (including two thousand other artworks made from human hair). It was started in 1956 by Leila Cohoon. Apparently she also teaches the technique or has written about it so the knowledge of how to create a hair wreath is not a lost. You can read more about her museum here:
    http://www.leilashairmuseum.net/about-leila.html

  3. rbenn24 says:

    This is fascinating! I have always been interested in ancient Greece and Egypt. These traditions peak my curiosity. I wonder if there are many originals left in the world? I am sure in museums, but I wonder about them being passed down.
    -Rebecca
    CS5711

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