Monday, May 7, 2012

The one and only image I've found that might indicate French Braiding is Period...

So I haven't found much proof  that augmentation braids are appropriate for medieval hairstyles.  A vast majority of hairdressing is covered for the final image, usually with a variety of veils, but sometimes with hats; however, I have come across a singular image that appears to be a French braided style.  The trouble is, I only have the one image, and the website I found it on doesn't give much information on the source.  The webpage belongs to The Medieval Combat Society, a reenactor group in the UK that specializes in 13th and 14th century.  They have a huge collection of images for Female Civilian Clothing, composed of tomb effigies and grave brasses.

French Braids? 
The specific brass that appears to be French Braiding dates to 1335, depicts Elizabeth de Northwood, and should reside in Minster Abbey.  There is one extremely confusing word in the extremely brief description, the word copy.  This word causes me to question the actual date of the brass, but unfortunately it has gotten very late, and I've had a long day, so my Google-fu isn't what I would wish it to be.

Elizabeth's hair has some natural wave to it and is braided from the temples like many other hairstyles for this period, but the exciting part is the way the braids start off tiny at the top of her head and grow larger as they braid towards her ears.  This seems to indicate that more hair is added to the strands as they pass over each other.  The V-point within the braid is a bit of a conundrum, because it would normally indicate a french braid.  (Duth or cornrows have an upward point instead of a downward.)  However, gathering the hair in a normal French Braid doesn't result in the sharply defined edge of braid as in the image.  See the smooth sections in the below image, stolen from, as they join with the previous strand, no clearly defined edge of the braid.

There are some techniques for braiding that will cause the braid to flip over and give a clearly defined edge; it  is created by only augmenting the braid from one side of the head.
French Braids Hairstyle

It is a baffling image for me, and the source is just as confusing.  What does it mean copy?  Every time I come across the image online it is the same one, but there is no description of the image past what the Medieval Combat Society has. How are these braids accomplished?  The loose hair between the braids and the face on either side creates a challenge to recreating the style if it is an augmentation braid, as the hair is left loose enough to maintain its wave, not impossible to do, but not the sturdiest of styles.

There is also a simpler explanation, that the braids are actually being drawn from the back of the head down by her ears and are tapering out at the top.  A plain braid follows more accurately the myriad of other examples from the time period, but I'm still looking for the elusive proof of French Braiding in the Medieval Period.

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