Slavic countries have very curious hair traditions. And this time, we’ll talk about Hungary and its folk hairstyles and headwear. The local women strictly preserved their old traditions regarding hair up to the mid-20th century. In some villages, these traditions still exist, though they’re not as widespread. In the past, say 100-200 years ago, it was a big deal as to what hairdo and headpiece a little girl, young maiden, bride, married woman with and without children, elderly woman, spinster, or widow uses. Every marital and social status needed to be showed off by the woman’s appearance and easily recognized by other people.
We’d like to thank YouTube channel “PrettyShepherd” for this interesting and useful info.
In the past, the woman’s hair was something that showcased her age, marital status, status in society, gender (obviously), and other important features. Today, we don’t realize how strict the rules were and how important it was to wear your hair appropriately because we can do just about anything with our hair and use any headwear we like. But centuries ago, every little thing counted. And every woman treated her hair in thorough accordance to tradition.
So, in this material, we’ll talk about different hairstyles and headpieces used by Hungarian women throughout their life – from little girls to elder women and from single females to widows. We must admit that similar hair traditions and rules we often find in other Slavic cultures, especially in the neighboring countries.
Fun fact! In the past, women (not only in Hungary but in many Slavic countries) traditionally washed their hair once a month and combed it once a week. They used various herbal decoctions, and their hair looked shiny and healthy.
We’re not talking about babies, obviously, because they don’t have much hair. And their headdresses depended on the weather and comfort more than on anything else.
Little girls in Hungary traditionally wore their hair braided so that it was out of the way. Parents didn’t cut their daughters’ hair short because a woman was judged by the length, thickness, and healthiness of her hair. So, it was important to have long and good-looking hair.
Usually, they used French or Dutch braids, which keep the hair close to the head and hold it tightly in place. Also, the hair was often divided into several sections and braided – such hairdos look neat and keep the hair firmly in place.
Often, girls wore velvet or embroidered ribbons tied around their head above the forehead, like a headband. These helped to keep all the tiny loose hairs off the face.
You have to understand as well that peasant women didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to their own and their daughters’ hair. So, no elaborate hairstyles, only practical and handy ones. And only hairdos that lasted at least one whole day. Just imagine a family with a dozen girls, every one of which needed to take care of her hair every morning – older girls could braid their own hair, but the youngsters depended on their mother. How much time did they possibly need?!
If to talk about the young girls’ color palette, it was mostly red. Girls wore red ribbons, red kerchiefs, etc. It was the symbol of youth. Or other bright colors were also appropriate.
These are girls who already aren’t considered children but not yet adults. Their age is from around 15-16 years old to the time when they get married. There is a difference between the folk clothing and hairstyles of these young girls and the little girls.
The young Hungarian maidens didn’t use any headdresses unless the weather demanded it. In any case, no traditional headwear, like we see on married women.
They plaited a single braid and wore it loose or put it in a crown around the head so that it was out of the way when a girl was working. Unlike we’re used to today, in the past, girls wore updos in daily life, for work, and a single loose braid on Sundays and festive occasions. For example, when they went to church on Sunday, girls used their best clothes and decorated the braid with a decorative ribbon of some kind. And this was considered a special occasion hairstyle.
Maidens wore their hair down on holidays to show off the length, thickness, and healthiness of it. Because it meant that they had a good healthy body and could give their future husband a lot of children. So, girls often added a ribbon at the end of the braid to make it seem longer and thicker.
Also, there were specific headwear items that could be worn by young maidens. These pieces usually looked like a crown or headband and didn’t cover a lot of the hair. And girls were allowed to use these headdresses from the time of their confirmation (or another religious ritual of coming of age) up until they got wed.
When a young man was courting a girl and wanted to make a present for her, he usually bought an embroidered ribbon or comb or some other hair accessory. These were rather expensive and were valued highly. The suitor was often judged by the items his lady wore in her hair. In some areas, there even was a tradition to give such gifts back in case the engagement was broken.
Every bride – take practically any culture around the world – must look as best as she can. As wealthy, ornate, eye-catching as she can. And, of course, the headdress of a bride matters a lot.
Brides from some Hungarian regions wore specific headpieces on their wedding day to show everybody who is the hero of the occasion here. And the headdress could be rather large and opulent.
In other areas, it was common for the brides to wear the headgear she got for her coming-of-age ceremony. It meant that the girl was still a virgin maiden, so she didn’t cover her head.
During a wedding, there was a special ritual of covering the hair, when a girl first wore a kerchief or some other headdress of a married woman. It could be a whole ritual with songs and congrats, when the bride’s braid was made into a bun and covered with a headpiece. And from that moment onward, she had to cover her hair constantly. Only her closest relatives were allowed to see her without a coif or bonnet or kerchief, etc.
If a woman was getting married for the second time (after losing her spouse because divorces weren’t allowed), she didn’t wear a usual bridal outfit and headdress. She didn’t have a ritual of covering her head, obviously. She just dressed in her Sunday best.
Married women without children
Interestingly, the headdress of a married woman with and without children differed in Hungary as well. These were two separate social statuses with certain dos and don’ts.
Sometimes, women wore their maiden crowns until they gave birth to the first child. After that, they took it off for the rest of their life and gave it to a daughter or other female relative.
Also, young married women wore kerchiefs, which were rather bright and colorful at first. It could be white with large bright flowers, etc. With age, they became darker and darker.
They tied the kerchief at the nape.
Married women with children
After a woman had her first baby, she always wore her hair in a bun or an updo and covered it. The bun was made with the help of a special hair accessory – a wooden stick of some kind. It was usually carved by her husband and given to her as a wedding gift. This stick was used to wrap the braid around it in a figure 8 shape and pin it.
Over the bun, she often wore a kerchief, especially in daily life. It was a common headdress because it’s handy and comfy. There are so many various ways of tying it. And married women with children usually tied their headscarves at the front, under the chin. In some areas, they weren’t even allowed to show the hair above the forehead, which often peeks when the kerchief loosens – it was considered immodest. But usually, this wasn’t such an issue and the rules were more flexible.
A woman got her kerchiefs also as a gift usually, just as with hair accessories. This could be a fine present made by the husband or parents or parents-in-law, and so on.
Elderly women and widows
Elderly women still wore their hair in a bun pinned high.
As you might guess, these women wore rather dark headdresses (black or dark brown, usually). Because the older a woman, the darker headwear she used. Also, older women always tied their headscarves at the front, under the chin.
And there was a wide variety of other maternity headdresses, some of them very opulent and good-looking, but also very appropriate and modest.
If a woman never got married, she didn’t wear her maiden bright clothing for all her life, of course. Usually, old maidens preferred darker colors of clothes and wore kerchiefs on their heads. Basically, they kind of tried not to stand out of the crowd and wear something a married woman would. Because it was sort of a shameful thing to be a spinster. So, these women wore something appropriate for their age.