Ahh, the roaring twenties. Beads, fringe, and the flapper revolution. There hasn’t been a decade since the 1920s that has loved sparkle and bling as much, especially in headpieces. Notorious for rhinestone beaded headbands, skullcaps and feather hair clips, the 1920s woman knew how to dress up her short flapper hairdo.
While cloche hats were worn during the day, headbands — called Bandeaus — were seen in the evenings with the most formal dresses until 1925. The trend started when the search for King Tut’s tomb began just before the 1920s. Soon after, every woman wanted to look like an Egyptian queen. Head-wraps, crowns, tiaras, full headdresses, and small hair clips were all made of beautiful precious stones, feathers, and pearls. Flapper movie stars were frequently seen wearing headpieces, creating a demand for them everywhere.
There is not just one style of headpiece nor one way to wear it. Here are the six of the most popular evening styles of 1920s headbands and hair accessories.
1920s Headband – Wrap Style
The simple but elegant headpiece of the 1920s was the head wrap style. Made of one continuous stand of beads, rhinestones, pearls, lace, colored stones, ribbon flowers, metallic leaves, silver braid, or embroidered fabric, it wrapped around the top of the head to the back of the skull.
Strands of pearls could also be wrapped around the forehead, skull, buns, and braids for more formal events between 1920-1922.
During the day, a thin ribbon or wide scarf was rolled and tied around the head, sometimes with a big fluffy bow tied low and on the side (see scarves below). Handmade headbands from ribbon or sewing scraps were a fun activity for a rainy day.
The 1920s Brain Binder
The Brain Binder headband circles the forehead and around the back. It was also called a headache band for its tight-fitting appearance. Worn mostly by teenagers, they usually matched the dress or at least other accessories. They ranged from thin 1 inch wide ribbons (called browbands) to thicker bandeau wraps. Some headbands featured long strings of beads or tassels dangling off the sides.
For parties and weddings, this style was elaborately decorated with silver and gemstones. Egyptian inspired designs of pharaohs, spiders, cats, and hieroglyphs were carved into the most fancy of brow bands.
Headbands worn in Downton Abbey:
The 1920s Skullcap
The intricately beaded skull cap is one of the exclusive symbols of the 1920s. It is also sometimes called the Juliette cap after Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This beaded cap required very thin, flat hair that the cap covered entirely. Caps were either beaded onto a form fitted hair net with bead tassels and fringe hanging down the forehead or ears or were cloth caps completely covered with beads or gold braid and shaped into a brimless style cloche. The expense of these caps made them affordable only by the very wealthy, and they were usually made to order to match the beading on the dress.
The 1920s Tiara
The gold Egyptian tiara and princess diamond style tiara was another style of evening headwear. Small and pretty, they sat perched on the crown of the head, buried slightly in a mass of fluffy early ’20s style hair. Hair combs secured the tiara in place.
Later styles blended the tiara and headband into one, sometimes lowering it on the forehead, yet keeping the overall crown look of the tiara.
Peacock feathers were still quite popular in the early 1920s. The green, blue and gold tones were common Art Deco colors of this time. Feathers were clipped onto the hair on one side of the head. Sometimes, blue and green jewels and pearls added extra bling to the feather clips.
An even more popular feather was the white Egret or (e.g. airgrettes/agret – the egret’s head plume) feather. They were usually placed tucked into the the bandeau in the center of the forehead. Others were cast to one side. The tall thin feather stuck straight up. The original look came from Paul Poiret in the early teens, who attached them to turbans. The turban-plus-feather trend continued into the early 20s.
1920s Hair Comb
Jeweled hair combs, also called Spanish combs or back combs, were popular hair accessories to hold back long hair knotted in a chignon bun. It was stylish to wear them at an angle so they were seen poking out of the side of her head. Combs were often made of celluloid (plastic) made to look like tortoiseshell, and they were available in all shapes and sizes in both hand-carved and rhinestone versions. Colored crystals tended to be blue, pink or green set against an orange-ish plastic or faux tortoiseshell. Otherwise, clear faux rhinestones were used on the cheapest models (like mine below).
Smaller (1.5-2.5) celluloid hair combs were used on both short and long hair to keep hair neatly in place on the side or at the back of the head. Some acted as a waving comb for the lightly marcelled look. Longer and curved combs were placed in the back of the head to hold a long rolled up hair in place.
Small barrettes could also be used to accent a bobbed hairdo. These were especially popular with young girls. Evening barrettes for the ladies were less common, but available in crystals or Art Deco designs. Many women continued to wear hair combs and barrettes from a decade earlier.
1920s Headwrap / Scarf
An alternative to the heavily beaded skull cap was the head scarf or head wrap. It was simply a rectangular silk scarf tied around the entire head, but with an open crown. Some were left to dangle down one side or the back. Most were plain wraps, while others had large floral appliques or prints. They could be worn in the evenings, but were more often seen in the daytime with sporty, casual outfits.
The Turban Hat
Similar to the head wrap, the turban hat became a trendy evening style in the previous decades, but remained popular into the mid-1920s. It could simply be a very long piece of fabric wrapped into a full hat, or a sewn cap, or gathered fabric. Rich fabrics like velvet or metallics were the most becoming for the evenings. A turban is a wonderful option for women who don’t want to style their hair.
More about hats and turbans.
1920s Headband Styles Today
A 1920s style headband, cap or bandeau is a must for an early 1920s evening affair. The most stunning tiaras and hair clips are usually found in wedding specialty shops or Asian import stores. These are often made with faux pearls and rhinestones. Even the cheapest ones are quite beautiful when set into your 1920s styled hair.
For the mid to late 1920s, hair accessories were out of fashion. A beautifully styled short hairdo was plenty elegant for most evening affairs.
I like to keep my evening looks simple with one of these options:
- A silk or satin ribbon tied around my head and in a big bow at the back. Very simple yet very accurate to the early 1920s.
- A pretty feather clipped to one side of my head, such as a peacock feather.
- A lace or rhinestone headband designed to sit around the top of your head can often be worn across the forehead, too. If you have a large head, you may need to cut the band and bobby pin the sides in place.
- Some of my favorite local stores to buy 1920s inspired headband and hair clips are Forever 21 and the ICING store.
Online here are some great 1920s headband choices: