Tutorial: How To Wrap A Tignon

An easy tutorial for tying on this head wrap with African American history.
Publish date:
December 1, 2014
How-To, head scarfs, African culture, banning black hair, tignon wrap

While writing an article about the historical banning of black hair, I fell into a black hole of research and thought. It continued to bore into me that something so benign and beautiful as Afro-textured hair could be forcibly hidden from the world by those wishing to subjugate it.

The best way I could think of to spit in the face of that odious legacy, aside from writing about it, was to try out the inventive and luxuriant ways that black and multiracial women would style their scarves--all as a free black woman in the modern day. May the late Governor Miró roll eternally in his grave.

First, procure some fabric. I found this two-toned polyester finery in the discount section of my local fabric warehouse. You can also use any other kind of pre-hemmed scarf as well--just make sure that it’s a square that’s one yard (92 cm) long on each edge.

It’s important that the fabric is really stiff, so that the resultant tignon has a lot of body to work with. It’s also really important to hem the edges with either stitches or fabric glue if you opt to cut custom fabric to size, because no one wants to look a raggedy mess while out on the town. We’re going for classiness, you see.

Figuring out how to make a normal headscarf look like the vertical tignons that I wanted to emulate was a bit tricky, but I realized that a key component was having vertical hair for the scarf to mold around. This can be easily accomplished with a high bun. Those who've got that short hair and don’t care can roll up other scarves to add volume. Or not--you do you.

To begin, fold the scarf in half to make a large right triangle. Position the middle of its longest edge on the top of your hair, and bring the two points to meet in the back.

Tie the two ends together in the back, and bring them back around to the front, where they will meet anew.

From there, tie the two ends together on the front of the look to make a bow. I twisted my tignon to the side slightly to go after the asymmetry that I saw in some the paintings, but you can also leave the center if your heart so desires.

Yay, you did it! Sorta. What about this random piece of floppy fabric hanging down on one side?

We certainly can’t leave it there on account of it looking pretty dumb, but there’s a super easy solution. Pull the loose end up through the band you made by tying the other two ends in the front, like so:

Here’s where the stiffness and two-toned fabrics really shine. You can do a lot of interesting architectural things with stiffer fabrics, and the two tones add drama to the twists and turns of the fabric itself.

After that, put on your fancy jewelry and go out on the town!

  • Have you ever tied on a tignon?
  • Are there any historical (or culturally loaded) looks that you’ve wanted to try?