In many cultures around the world, hair is considered sacred and an important part of human appearance and even of the local culture. The hairstyle and hair accessories often showed the status in society, age, marital status, gender, and other info about a person. For example, in Slavic countries, it was traditional for unmarried girls to braid their hair and for married women to wear it covered under coifs, bonnets, kerchiefs, etc. Practically every area in Eastern Europe has its own hairstyle traditions, customs, and superstitions. Let’s look at the ones typical for unmarried females in Hungary.
Hungarian unmarried girls typically wore their hair braided in a single braid. When working, they made an updo from this braid and wore the hair up so that it was out of the way and didn’t interfere. On holidays and special occasions, girls wore their braids down to show off the length and thickness of the hair.
The beauty and health of the hair was a very desired trait in a woman. The longer and thicker the braid, the more attractive she was to a potential husband because nice hair indicated health and fertility. That’s why girls often wove ribbons into braids – obviously, they didn’t use false hair in the 17th-19th century, so ribbons were good enough.
In the past, there were no rubber bands for hair, so women used ribbons to tie the end of the braid. But there was a rule – the length of the ribbon hanging from the braid shouldn’t be longer than the skirt. It was considered distasteful.
A ribbon plaited in a braid could be a symbol of wealth. Today, it’s hard to believe in this because we can easily buy any ribbons for ridiculous money, it’s something very cheap and ordinary. But a few centuries ago, a decorative ribbon was a highly valuable accessory. Women bought silk ribbons, embroidered ribbons, beaded ribbons, ribbons made from expensive and rare materials, etc to display their wealth and status. A costly ribbon could turn such a simple hairdo as the braid into a festive hairstyle.
As ribbons were expensive, it wasn’t that easy for a woman to get one. Girls often got ribbons as gifts from family members or a boy-friend (future fiance). Remember that such a pricey present was a significant thing and given only on important occasions. Also, ribbons could be passed to a girl from her mother or even grandmother – that’s how treasured and expensive they could be.