October 8th, 2012
Our new bungalow boast two full bathrooms. Naturally I’ve decorated mine with pink flowers, green leaves, purple towels, an astonishing assortment of vintage and antique dresser jars, perfume bottles, and a truly horrifying clock surrounded by pink ceramic doves.
Nestled amidst the carefully scattered clutter is this pretty porcelain piece that I’m using as a hair receiver.
It’s late 19th-century — a childhood gift from my godmother’s best friend, who was an antique dealer. And it’s not actually a hair receiver. If it was, it would have a little hole in the center of the lid through which to poke the hair and swirl it into the forming rat.
In case you’re reading this and wondering, what on earth is she talking about, or if you’re just thinking “ew, that’s gross,” I’ll share a little background. In the 19th century, frequent, vigorous brushings were a good way to keep your hair clean between occasional washings. Brushing spreads oil from the roots, where it seeps out of your scalp, down to nourish and protect fragile ends. It also pulls out weak or damaged strands so that new, healthy hair can grown in. Women saved those pulled out hairs and used them to make the rats and pads required for many 19th-century hairstyles — their ears didn’t stick out that much without a little help!
I’ve made four or five rats since my hair grew out. It takes months of brushing to get enough hair together. On a side note, I recently found a strand of my own hair on my desk and decided to measure it (it was a slow evening). Thirty-one and a half inches — nearly a yard long! And, to my great delight, the California sun has exaggerated enough blond and red highlights to eliminate the mousy brown I’d developed after years of dreary NY winters.