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A New Hairstyle for Annabelle

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July 25, 2013 by kristin

During my most recent revision of my novel, I realized I had a failure of imagination when it came to my female protagonist’s hairstyle. I was so busy researching Civil War prisons and hospitals and medical techniques that I entirely forgot to research hair. I gave her and her mother simple chignons and thought no more about it. Not too exciting consider the vast array of hairstyles that were popular during the 1860s.

So I went on the hunt for a signature hairstyle that would’ve been appropriate for Annabelle’s age, time period, and the work she was doing. It had to be simple, as she had no servants, and utilitarian, since she was doing hot, sweaty work all day at the hospital. The only time she might need something a little fancier in the course of the novel was when she and her mother went to the weekly Ladies’ Aid Society sewing circle, but then, she was often in a rush to clean up and get there after a day of work at the hospital. No time for curling irons!

One of the best resources I found for browsing hairstyles was the U.S. National Archives’ Flickr set of 201 photos of Civil War-era women, by famous portrait photographer Mathew Brady.

Many of the hairstyles are way too elaborate for what I need. I imagine many of these women styled themselves to the utmost for their portrait sittings, so there aren’t as many simple styles. But several women were photographed with the following style, one I still like today but have made a complete failure of replicating on myself.


I decided it was perfect for Annabelle – simple, yet with a little more softness around the face than a sleek bun. And now I get to write about her unpinning her braid and brushing out waves.

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About Kristin

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Historical fiction writer and reader. Procrastinator. Sewist. Slytherin. Fan of red lipstick, rock 'n' roll, and everything vintage.

Current Work-in-Progress

The Boy in the Red Dress

When her drag queen best friend is accused of murdering a socialite, a Jazz Age Veronica Mars searches for the real killer in the seedy underbelly and glittering upper crust of 1931 New Orleans.


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