The Art of Victorian Hair Wreaths

hair wreath 1Since I’m writing this on Halloween (though you won’t see the blog for a couple of days) I want to introduce you to a slightly morbid Victorian art form – hair wreaths.

Not flower or leaf wreaths for your hair; not even an ornament made to wrap around a woman’s bun. I mean hair—woven into wreaths. Hair of a deceased family member or close friend, to be precise. A little creepy, isn’t it?!

In the Victorian age, the hair of the deceased was woven into a wreath to hang in the house as a memento, a form of mourning. And, of course, they didn’t stop with wreaths. Hair was made into wearable ornaments–bracelets, brooches, pins, watch chains, even buttons. Godey’s Lady’s Book even included instructions on this art form.

hair wreath 2Then Sear’s got into the act, advertising hair wreaths, with the caveat that the hair you receive may not be the hair you sent. With out the sentimental connection, the art died out.

To be fair, it wasn’t only for mourning that hair was clipped and woven. Hair was taken from living friends and relatives, too. According to Leila Cohoon, of Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri, it was “a way of keeping track of families, before the camera was invented…” [See more at: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11479#sthash.kwhXbEdo.dpuf; or http://www.leilashairmuseum.net/index.html.]

Now, I’m not creeped out by keeping hair. A snip of hair in a locket or a lock woven into a watch chain sounds normal, even sentimental. But a wreath to hang on the wall? Nope, couldn’t go there.

How about you? Creepy or creative?

Tracy Garrett
History, Texas, cowboys, horses—these are a few of Tracy’s favorite things. Check out her westerns at www.TracyGarrett.com.

15 Comments

  1. I find it rather creepy too. I agree, maybe a small clipping of hair, but don’t display it like this.

    1. Though I have to admit, Janine, I’m intrigued by the collection in the Hair Museum.

  2. Tracy, I’m with you; creepy. But I feel the same way when I see bicycles,teddy bears and other mementos marking accident sites along the road. It’s not how I would want to remember a loved one.

    1. Agreed, Margaret.

  3. Interesting post, Tracy. I remember the custom to keep hair from a baby’s first hair cut. It was kept by a mother in memory of the child’s passing from babyhood to a toddler maybe? I’m not sure. I never did because that custom died by the time I had children. I can’t imagine having a wreath or jewelry made from someone’s hair. Kinda strange to me. Thanks for the interesting post.

    1. I’m okay with mementos like s child’s, or even a lady giving her gentleman a lock of hair woven into a watch chain. But putting them on the wall is a bit much for me.

  4. Just popping in to say hello Tracy. I heard of this custom through my mom. She has a friend that collects hair wreaths and let me say that going to that friend’s house is rather creepy. They are very beautiful–just give me a strange, eerie feeling. Definitely not my cup of tea. My mother also kept a clipping of my hair from when i was a child. She eventually gave it to me as an adult. It was fun to see that the color I know dye my hair was the exact color I had back then. (Guess that means it’s good for my skin tone LOL)

    1. Hi, Kathryn! I’m fascinated by the art, the complexity of the weaving, but I just can’t see framing it for my library.

  5. I say kind of creepy but not as bad as what I just read – keeping the tattoos of dead ones and having them framed – yikes!

    1. Okay, catslady, you win! That is just gross. *shiver*

      1. Tracy’s right, yikes, is that a thing, catslady????

  6. A little of both.

  7. I’d never heard of this until just a few years ago and I was in a museum and saw this really elaborate, really LARGE hair wreath.
    I found it FASCINATING.
    I keep picturing myself cutting off the hair of a loved one and then spending seeks or mouths crocheting it into something.
    Then hanging it on the wall.
    EEK
    But then I’m a wimp and honestly it’s beautiful artwork.

  8. Wow! Talk about dedication! I’ve seen fancy pins & flowers, nothing as elaborate as those in the picture. Very interesting post. Learn something from y’all all the time! 🙂

  9. So glad I didn’t live when this was popular! I’ve seen it but No Thank You.

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