My Kingdom for a Bobby Pin

While Shakespeare’s Richard III pleaded for a horse, (A horse! A horse!  My kingdom for a horse!) women of the 18th century might equally have wished for a bobby pin.

Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles
(The Marquis de Lafayette's wife)
In my recent post about big hair in the 18th century, I talked about how difficult it must have been for these women to keep those massive piles of teased hair high on their head in a time when hairspray didn’t exist. I mentioned a few substances that might have helped: egg whites, sugar water, and lard, but regardless of how well these worked (or not!), I still can’t imagine getting the job done without a few well-placed bobby pins.

Although bobby pins have gone somewhat out of style since the 70s, I think most women are familiar with the handy little devices invented sometime on the 1930s. The name is supposed to have originated from the bob hairstyle popular at the time. The tension built into the arms and the little waves on one of the pins makes them extremely secure while causing less damage to the hair - especially once they covered the sharp ends with some sort of epoxy.

modern bobby pin
Women of the 18th century certainly had hair pins, and they might have resembled bobby pins, but the ones I’ve seen look more ornamental and of little use at keeping a mountain of hair in place. Those resembling the modern hair comb but have helped, but they aren;t what I envision when  novelists uses the word "pin."

Given the amount of time women of the past spent on their hair, historical romance authors often mention a lady’s hair pins or at the very least hair dressing. If anyone has more information about how these gals kept their locks in place before hairspray and bobby pins, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to include links in your comments as well!

Even if you're just an aficionado of elaborate dos and not a history buff, let us know how you think it’s done.


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