Hundred-year-old French Twist Directions

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Sunday, May 31, 1914: <<no entry>>

Source: Ladies Home Journal (April, 1914)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (April, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sometimes on boring Sunday afternoons when I was a teen, I practiced creating glamorous hair styles shown in the flyer that came with Adorn hairspray.

Did Grandma also style her hair when she was bored? . . .

Since Grandma didn’t write anything a hundred years ago today, I’m going to share 1914 directions for how to do the latest hair style, the French Twist.

French Twist

This coiffure is no more difficult than any other but to be entirely successful the hair must be artificially waved or possess a natural undulation.1914-04-73 a

Part the hair high on the crown, almost on a line with the ears, as the greater portion of the hair must be in back. Plait the back hair loosely to hold in place until you comb back the side portions.

1914-04-73 b

Then take a small portion of hair from the center front as shown in the illustration. Twist this in a loose knot temporarily and comb back each side portion of the hair, fastening halfway between the crown and lower hair-line, as indicated in the illustration.

1914-04-73 c

Twist this in a  loose knot temporarily and comb back each side portion of the hair, fastening halfway between the crown and the lower hair-line as indicated in the illustration.

Now unfasten the top portion which you knotted. Begin at the end and roll under, forming into a puff to be used as the foundation on which to pin the back portion. Unfasten the loose braid in back; brush and smooth this strand of hair, and taking the entire strand. Draw it upward.

Give it a single twist near the crown of the head, keeping the lower portion smooth and straight. Then begin to roll under the end as you did with the front section, fastening in a becoming line on the top of the head. Place the pins underneath, so they will be practically invisible. The comb may be placed in back or in a diagonal position in front , following the line of the twist. Comb the hair together at the partings and fasten with invisible pins.

Ladies Home Journal (April, 1914)

44 Responses

  1. Yeah, I can’t follow those directions, would you be able to do it?
    Diana xo

    • Probably not, they seem unnecessarily complicated. If I tried to do it, I’d probably rely more on what it shows in the pictures.

      When I find directions for how to do something from a hundred years ago, it always strikes me “wordy” they are. Today there is a focus on pictures (or YouTube videos) that clearly demonstrate how to do something. Back then it seemed like they tried to explain every detail using words–and at least by today’s standards–it ended up being confusing.

  2. Mmmm…I think I would need help to do that! Or longer hair, perhaps.

  3. “A natural undulation”?! Let’s just call it wavy hair! It’s fun to see how language use has changed!

  4. So many times, KerryCan makes the same comment that I have in mind: natural undulation….Huh??

    • Language has changed over the years! I had to look this word up in an online dictionary to figure out what it meant. I think that undulation is heading toward being an archaic word. . .at least in this context.

  5. I used to do hairdos on my dolls. My own hair …. Too fine to hold anything… Jane

    • I liked to try to do hairdos when I was in my teens–but they never turned out right. . . though I have some really hilarious photos of me thinking that I looked very glamorous with various crazy hairdos.

  6. Well, no wonder on Downton Abbey the maid is always doing the hair of the Lady. Who could do this on their own?

  7. I was always a bit fascinated watching my sisters put there hair in the strangest positions ~ and the French twist still defies physics in my mind even today :-)

  8. Yes, I used a lot of Adorn, too!!! I don’t remember seeing the hairstyles with the can, but then again, my hair was always short.

    • I actually recently found the old Adorn brochure that I used to pour over when I was trying to style my hair. I think that it came shrink wrapped with the can during a promotion. It’s so fun to see the suggested styles.

  9. Fun post! I remember my mother had some kind of brush roller that was sort of a conical shape that you wrapped your hair around into a french twist. Her hair was always short, so not sure why she had it, but I attempted to do it a few times when I was about 12. But I preferred to iron my “natural undulation” to try and get my hair like the Beatles’ girlfriends :) and Mod models in the ’60s.

  10. Looks sophisticated! I would need thicker hair…and undulating would help too :)

  11. I wish I were young with longer hair!

  12. Such a graceful hairdo though. Never could do it even when my hair was long and undulating. :-)

  13. How I envy those oh-so-feminine long hair styles. Undulating? More like cotton candy frizz! :)

  14. I thought this would be like the ‘French roll’ my sister used to wear her hair in, but not at all like that.

    • When I wrote this post, I did a Google search for “French Twist” to see if the term was still used. I discovered that the term is still used–but that the pictures of French Twists varied widely from one web site to the next.

  15. I’ve always wondered what was meant by a french twist. I admire the ability of the women back then to be able to accomplish such beauty with twist and tucks of hair.

  16. Definitely a good idea to have a friend or mother to help out with this hairstyle :)

  17. This is why I like my short hair! lol

  18. I’m really enjoying styles from this time period. Very graceful.

  19. I have not thought of Adorn hair spray in years! I love these old hair styles.

  20. Looks like my father’s favorite photo of my mother. In 1914 she was 24 and still blonde.

  21. Very complicated but lovely.

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