Mademoiselle Aline Vallandri and her amazing hair

 When I first saw this picture in Every Woman’s Encylopaedia, I couldn’t quite believe it was real. I mean, nobody’s hair could possibly be that long without hair extensions, right? I was irresistibly reminded of Disney’s Tangled – although I don’t think this woman’s hair had any magical properties…

The lady in question is Mademoiselle Aline Vallandri, a French soprano who sang with the Opera-Comique in Paris. In the Encyclopaedia, which, according to the cover, contains “what every woman wants to know” (mainly beauty tips, hints on how to furnish your house, handicrafts and a small amount on childcare – what else would a woman be interested in, after all?) the opera singer explains her hair care routine.

It is not difficult to set down the rules I follow for taking care of my hair. Greatly as I prize and value my gift, I am no slave to it, for I devote only about three-quarters of an hour every day to its care. If women generally did the same, I have no doubt that in a short time they would soon notice an improvement in the condition of their hair.

Maybe, but three-quarters of an hour? My hair is lucky if it gets ten minutes of my time every day!  But as I read on, I soon realised that when she said she devoted three-quarters of an hour to her hair every day, she had not been entirely truthful, for as it turns out:

Every morning when I get up my maid brushes my hair. As it is so long, I have had to have a specially high stool made to sit on. The maid brushes both my scalp thoroughly and my hair from the roots to the end for half an hour. The other quarter of an hour I devote to dressing it for the day.

The poor maid must have been exhausted!

Mademoiselle Vallandri has various tips for women who would like to have long and beautiful hair. The first is that although the hair and scalp should be kept clean by the vigorous brushing described above, it is important not to wash it too often. When washed (at rare intervals) it should be left to dry naturally, and should under no circumstances be dried by rubbing it with a towel or by using hot irons. One wonders how long it must have taken to dry, and how cold she must have felt while it was doing so – it’s no wonder she didn’t wash it very often!

Curling tongs should never be used because, apparently: “The woman who uses curling tongs courts disaster.” as they dry out the hair and make it brittle and liable to break. Should the hair become dry, she recommends massaging a little brillantine into the scalp and brushing a small amount into the hair, as this will make it shine. The hair should be trimmed and singed with a lighted taper regularly, as this promotes growth and prevents split ends. Trimming sounds like a good idea but a lighted taper, really? Sounds far more like a recipe for disaster than using curling tongs!

The singer attributes the beauty of her hair at least in part to a hair lotion the recipe of which was given to her by a nun in the convent in which she finished her education. However, as the nun swore her to secrecy she could not reveal the recipe to the Encyclopaedia’s readers, thus preserving forever some of the mystery surrounding the length and thickness of her hair. I never knew nuns were experts on hair care but whatever this nun recommended obviously worked. No hair extensions for Mademoiselle Vallandri. Hair care producers, eat your hearts out…