Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fancy Work

During the Victorian period (1837-1901), European and North American societies believed that a middle- or upper-class woman should function as manager of both the house and family. The interior of the home subsequently became a showcase for a woman’s best handwork and decorative taste. The term "fancy work" came to describe both functional and purely aesthetic objects a Victorian woman made or embellished in her free time. From 1850 to 1875, one of the most popular forms of fancywork was the hair wreath.

Appealing to the tendency among Victorian women to incorporate the importance of friends and family into their work, hair served as a tangible remembrance of someone. Often, close companions exchanged hair as tokens of friendship. Hair was also sometimes taken after a person’s death as a means of honor and remembrance. For a woman whose local supply fell short, hair swatches could even be purchased from catalogs and stores. Hair wreaths were constructed almost entirely of human hair, which was manipulated to resemble a variety of flowers, floral sprigs, and leaves. The flowers placed together in a horseshoe-shaped wreath represent a common Victorian symbol for good luck displayed with the open ends up so as to "hold the luck inside."

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