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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hair Receivers, Secret Beauty Aids of the Past

Hair Receivers, Secret Beauty Aids of the Past

Although rare today, the hair receiver was a common fixture on the dressing tables of women from Victorian times to the early decades of the 20th century.
 Its purpose was to save hair taken from the hairbrush and comb, which were used vigorously on a daily basis. The hair could then be stuffed into pincushions or pillows.
Since hair was not washed as often as it is today, oils were frequently used to add scent and shine to hair. The residual oil made the hair an ideal stuffing for pincushions because it lubricated the pins, making it easier for them to pierce material. Small pillows could be stuffed with hair, which was less prickly than pinfeathers.
Hair receivers made the creation of ratts possible. A ratt (sometimes spelled rat) is a small ball of hair that was inserted into a hairstyle to add volume and fullness. The ratt was made by stuffing a sheer hairnet until it was about the size of a potato and then sewing it shut.


The Victorians were extremely concerned with their appearances, and a woman's hair was considered her crowning glory. In 1894, an article in The Delineator magazine stated, "The often-admired 'crowning glory' may be rendered almost a disfigurement if disposed unbecomingly, while a tasteful and careful dressing of the tresses, even though they are not very beautiful, will lend a decided charm to a plain face."


The use of wigs was common at this time, for women and men (judges, magistrates, and even soldiers wore wigs into battle). However, these were usually made from someone else's hair. A woman could use a ratt to create a beautiful hairstyle and truthfully answer that this was her own hair.
The widespread use of "extra hair" is evidenced by this instruction from Godey's Lady's Book: "When a lady is in danger of drowning, raise her by the dress and not by the hair, which oftentimes remains in the grasp."
A hair receiver can be identified by a finger-wide hole in the lid, through which hair is poked. They can be round or square in shape and some are footed. Made of a variety of materials, including glass and in later time’s celluloid, some of the prettiest examples are of porcelain. RS Prussia manufactured beautiful hair receivers, and one with delicate floral prints sold recently on eBay for $152. However, you will usually see the finer antique hair receivers hovering in the $100 range, while most are well below that amount.


     
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