Saturday, January 12, 2013

Janet Stephens and the Seni Crines

A friend recently sent me a link to the YouTube video that appears on the left.  This video was made by a woman named Janet Stephens, who presents herself as a Hairdressing Archaeologist.  This video is the latest of a number of videos Ms. Stephens has made, demonstrating her theories for how the hairstyles of classical Greece and Rome likely were created. 

Chief Vestal (from Wikimedia Commons)
As this interview indicates, Ms. Stephens's re-creations of period hairstyles are based upon more than 20 years of personal experience as a hair stylist, careful analysis of period sculpture, and her knowledge of the hairstyling tools that were available during the classical period. The resulting videos show a strong and clear resemblance to the period artworks Ms. Stephens has studied, and provide simple instructions on how motivated reenactors can recreate the styles for themselves.

Ms. Stephens's latest video, which is the subject of this post, shows Ms. Stephens's step-by-step recreation of the hairstyle that was part of the distinctive hairstyle worn by the Vestal Virgins.   The photograph on the left is a picture of one of the many sculptures of Vestals that Ms. Stephens examined in the course of her research.  This sculpture depicts a Vestal of the 2nd century CE, and is now in the Museo Nazionale in Rome.  It is useful in that it shows all of the layers of headcovering that a Vestal might wear, and is prominently featured in the video.  A comparison between the sculpture and the end result of the video presentation demonstrates how closely Ms. Stephens's recreation duplicates the appearance of the sculptured portrait.

The style worn by the Vestals was called in Latin "seni crines"; this term is sometimes erroneously referred to as the "six braids", because it was believed to have been constructed with only six braids (though Ms. Stephens demonstrates that, to achieve the look shown in the sculptures, a seventh braid, made from hair taken from the hairline at the forehead, must have been involved).   This style was not just the trademark of the well-connected priestesshood that played such a prominent role in Roman religious life.  The seni crines was deemed emblematic of virginity in general, and thus was also worn by Roman brides; speculation has ranged for centuries as to how the style was made. Ms. Stephens's reconstruction of the appearance of the seni crines style thus gets us much closer to a foundational piece of Roman culture, and is all the more valuable for that reason.

Interested readers may also wish to check out Ms. Stephens's other historical hairdressing videos on her YouTube page.  These videos may be interesting to folk who are not reenactors or historical costuming enthusiasts.  At least one of them (an ancient Greek style) requires only a long thin scarf to achieve, can quickly be done on one's self, and stays tidy if the scarf is made from a non-slippery fabric. 


  1. So I'm an enabler, now? ;-)

    Actually, I'm not seeing the video in the space to the left. It might just be me, but I thought you should have a heads up. The link to her YouTube page is fine.

  2. Yes, I guess you are.

    I knew about Ms. Stephens before you gave me the present link; I just didn't know about this particular video.

    The video is showing just fine for me, but if you're just coming back to the page it loads a bit slow. Try reloading the page or restarting your browser.