Evening Hairstyles of the 1860s by Henri de Bysterveld

During the 1860s, Henri de Bysterveld, a hairdresser and editor of the Gazette of Hair, published several books and elevated hairdressing to an art form. He was inspired by antiquity (the Greeks and the Romans) and the 1600 and 1700s. People claimed he was a magician when it came to styling hair, and they reported that he offered innumerable ways to arrange a woman’s hair and did so to suit her face shape and skin tone. Some of his more dramatic, complex, and popular creations, were adorned with feathers, flowers, or jewels and compiled and published in 1864 in his book, Album de Coiffures Historiques.

Title page of Bysterveld’s book, “Album de Coiffures Historiques” that provides evening hairstyles of the 1860s. Author’s collection.

In the book he provided styles designated as evening hairstyles of the 1860s. These styles in general were were worn smoothed, waved, or poofed. Braids were extremely popular at this time and were worn in various configurations and fashions. For instance, they were pinned at the back of the head or used to form complex diadems, which more or less formed a crown. Tiny curls at the front of the face were also fashionable, as were chignons that were generally achieved by pinning the hair at the back of the head, and it did not matter whether the hair was smooth, wavy, curly, or in a braid. To maintain such styles, pomade or nets were often used. The styles were also finished off with flowers, foliage, jewelry, or headbands.

One the evening hairstyles of the 1860s was the Leonora Headdress and noted by Bysterveld to be “a fine composition, very graceful and of a great lightness. It more preferably suits a fair complexion, [and is created for] the theatre or grand evening parties.” To achieve this style the hair was separated near the temples, and the remainder combed to form small curls at the forehead, which was achieved lock by lock and by turning the hair inward after it had been crimped. In the rear, a catogan — an arrangement of loose curls and plaits — formed the chignon, to which bows were added on either side. In the front a rose and lilies of the valley were added for decoration.

Evening hairstyles of the 1860s -Leonora Headdress, Author's Collection

Leonora Headdress. Author’s collection.

The Court Headdress Bysterveld claimed was “a rich head-dress having a great stamp of distinction and for that … reason very … becoming for court … or grand evening part[ies].” To execute this style the hair was parted 10 centimeters (which is about 4 inches) from the forehead. It was then separated into three parts on each side, the top piece was puffed out, and the secured in place with pomade. It and the two ends were then pulled in a Mary Stuart style “to form a hammer curling.” At the rear of the head, a chignon was created, and two feathers were added on top and pearls strewn about to finish the look.

Court Headdress, Author's Collection

Court Headdress. Author’s collection.

Another of the evening hairstyles of the 1860s was the Young Duchess. It was styled with a little braided band at the front and a diadem plait above it. Additionally, several curls were placed at the side and a curled catogan, with a small bow that fell to the shoulder, was added at the back.

Young Duchess, Author's Collection

Young Duchess. Author’s collection.

The Reception Headdress was a brand new style for 1864. It was recommended for a variety of affairs, which included grand dinners, receptions, balls, and evening soirees, the kind of entertainments that the Princess de Lamballe, Eliza de Feuillide, or Marie Antoinette might have attended. To execute the style the hair was separated from the forehead and formed into numerous small bow bands. Then a false plait, in the form of a diadem, had hair from the temples raised over it. At the rear of the head a chignon of loose curls and ribbons were added. To finish off the style an aigrette was added to the left side of the head near the front.

Evening hairstyles of the 1860s -Reception Headdress, Author's Collection

Reception Headdress, Author’s Collection

Evening hairstyles of the 1860s also included the Grand Evening Party hairstyle. Bysterveld described it as a “head-dress of … perfect grace and … bold style.” He noted that it was an acceptable hairstyle for the theatre or for a grand evening party and recommended it for brown-haired or fair complected women. This style is similar to the Reception Headdress in that the hair is separated at the front and plaits rise over the top. At the forehead three corkscrew locks were placed above the plait and tucked behind. At the back of the head a catogan was formed and then ornamented with roses and volubilis foliage.

Evening hairstyles of the 1860s - Grand Evening Party, Author's Collection

Grand Evening Party. Author’s collection.

Another of the evening hairstyles of the 1860s is the Snow Headdress. It was supposedly a style of “remarkable grace and lightness [that] suits preferably a fair complexion … [and] may be properly worn for balls and grand evening parties.” It was executed in the front with “light snow curling,” which could be achieved on false hair or on a woman’s real hair. At the rear, on either side, was placed the every popular catogan and a plait (which Bysterveld recommended be achieved with false hair). The hairstyle was topped off with a pheasant feather, a gold clasp, and a rich velvet turban, tied at the back and from which jewels dripped.

Evening Hairstyles of the 1860s - Snow Headdress, Author's Collection

Snow Headdress. Author’s collection.


  • Henri de Bysterveld, Album de Coiffures Historiques, (Paris), 1864
  • Lacroix, A., Paris Guide, 1864

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