>Vintage Hair- A Few Basics

>A few of you asked me a while back about doing vintage hair.  Well, let me tell you, I am no expert!  I learned to do my own through trial and error.  But since you asked I will tell!

After previously just collecting vintage clothing and research materials I fell into the vintage lifestyle community, mostly through the Fedora Lounge and other online avenues, probably in the early 2000s.   So not really that long ago!  Even though I knew about vintage and could identify things in person or in periodicals I never really tried recreating the looks on myself (unless you count those late 90s attempts I made at 40s style brought on by the neo-swing movement).  In fact, my first attempt at vintage hair was all from looking at old magazines and the “1940’s Hair” Turidich book I had picked up at the Vintage Fashion Expo years before. I went to the Fedora Lounge/Indy Gear Queen Mary summit and I don’t think I was even a member yet, but was invited by my ex boyfriend who was then just a friend.  I always jumped at any excuse to play dress up!  I digress, I’m getting way off topic.

When I finally joined The Fedora Lounge in 2004 there were some lovely ladies on there who were very generous with their knowledge of vintage hair and beauty.  In particular, Miss Amanda Lee posted loads about what setting lotions to use and how to hold a hot set, and all sorts of neat information.  It was like a whole world opened to me!

I was determined.  By the next event a year later I was determined to master vintage hair!  Most weekends that year were spent putting my hair up in wet sets and testing out different methods of pin curls and hot curlers and setting lotions and hairspray and how they all related to my hair.  What I learned was that my hair was ridiculously immune to holding curl for long periods of time.  Even my wet sets, when they would usually last for days with other folks, fell out usually by the end of the night.  I was so anti-doing my hair in high school and most of college that I was told my hair was “too healthy”- which is the first time I ever heard it in a bad way!  So even though my year-long quest taught me a heck of a lot about my own hair, I found that my hair was first of all way too long to do the 30s styles I wanted to do, and second of all- I needed a perm if I was going to survive any length of time without wanting to re-curl every night before bed (and it was a three day event).  Well, I got my perm and it fried my hair.  Totally dead and fried.  Held a curl great! But looked like death on a day-to-day basis when I didn’t do it with vintage style.  And sadly enough, I still battle with my hair so much that I want to try it out again- but maybe this time go to someone who knows perms well as my first attempt was by my friend who was going to hair school.  Heaven love her, she permed me twice because it didn’t hold the first time. Not at all her fault. It lasted the weekend which is all I wanted.

So if I haven’t bored you to tears yet, the long and short of it (heh) is that everyone’s hair is different and you should try out loads of methods of curling and lotions and setting to see what works for you.
Now, here is what works for me:

1) Pick your method of curling.  
Heat Sets
Some folks can get by with curling irons.  Some can do hot rollers with little to no difficulty.  Heat sets don’t hold in my hair at all, but sometimes will if I do the following:
Wash your hair but don’t condition.  Towel the excess moisture off.  Work mousse through your wet hair.  blow dry.  Put in smaller rollers (some swear by Hot Sticks- I’ve never tried them) and spray each section of hair at a time before rolling.  Wait until they’re cool (important!).  Remove, style, and spray the heck out of it with hairspray.  This doesn’t work so well if you want loose fluffy curls because of all the hair gunk.

Wet Sets
Pin curls, sponge rollers, perm rods, rag curlers, vintage metal curlers… there’s a lot to choose from.  Each has it’s own good points.  There are five things that are essential for a wet set- curlers, water, setting lotion, spray bottle, and end papers.  Well, I guess you don’t have to have the spray bottle but I find it very handy to hold your mixture of setting lotion and water (I use half and half, maybe a little less of setting lotion.  I think it’s technically supposed to be 1/4 setting lotion to 3/4 water, but not sure off hand).  Some folks can set them the night before, sleep on them, and have dry hair in the morning.  I can’t.  Usually I have to set it a day before, or set it the night before and sit under a hood dryer for a good hour the next day.  Wet sets are a bit tricky at first- especially pin curls.  But once you’ve got it down you can go through it pretty quickly.  Some can do it while sitting in front of the TV and not even pay attention! I can if I’m not too fussy about how it turns out and I just want “fluff”. In my experience wet sets stay longer than hot sets.  If you’re at an event that’s a few days long you can roll the curls back up around your fingers and pin them back into place at night and give yourself a mist with the setting lotion and have great curls again the next day (if you’re not too fussy about washing your hair).

Other gadgets and implements-
There’s loads of other gadgetry out there to help you get a curl or manipulate your hair.  Steam rollers, wave clips, wave irons, and even neat old gadgets from the 20s and 30s to give you a perfect marcel (or finger wave). They each have a purpose.  Some are a bit more obscure than others.  But they’re worth looking into and trying out.

Hair Styling
Well, maybe this should have been covered first.  If you know what style you want beforehand it will help you decide how to curl your hair in the first place!
Most importantly for a basic vintage look is to think of your hair as having 4 different sections.  You have the top section of your hair- from the edges of the top of the forehead to about the center of the top of the head.  You have one section on each side of your head from the ear up.  And you’ve got the back of your head which is all the rest.  For vintage fluffy curls start your rollers down off the top of your head- the lower you can get to your nape the better for most- it depends really on how much hair you have as to where you place them. I’ve got a ton of hair so mine always migrate north farther than I want.


Setting charts-
Setting charts show you where to place your curls and what direction the curl should g
o in.  Usually I think of it as curls going up or down.  Basically when you curl up you can get that bouncy 40s hair thing going on.  When you curl under you can get something close to a pageboy, so I’ve been told (though I’ve never accomplished it myself).  When you look at a setting chart you need to look closely at which direction the hair is going in and mimic that either with whatever curling method it is you’re using (pin curls, hot curls, etc).  They take a little getting used to, but they’re fun to try out.  Luckily there’s several modern books that cover some of these and there’s vintage magazines and books that have them as well.

Tools for styling-
Some things that I find essential are hair combs (in sets) for pulling back the sides of the hair,  hair nets which are nigh invisible and help you keep that spring in your curls in the back by providing a sort of ant-gravity device, and hair rats which can help with height and body depending on where you place them.  Unfortunately all these things are somewhat disappearing from modern hairstyling so you may need to order some online (especially rats).  Also fun to incorporate are flowers.  There’s loads of people who make clips with flowers perfect for doing vintage hair and it’s fun to place them in different places depending on what look you’re after.  Barrettes are great fun, too.  And, of course, there are the decorative combs with rhinestones or flowers or patterns or gigantic Spanish style ones.

And don’t forget hairspray.  Lots and lots of hairspray.

I’m sure there’s more I can’t think of off the bat, but there’s some basics to get you going. :)

There’s loads of references online and in books for vintage hair, a lot of which offer tutorials for pin curls or setting patterns or what have you.  Since they’ve already been done so well I won’t redo them here, but here’s some links to get you going:

Vintage Hairstyling by Lauren Rennells– Awesome book and well worth the price, especially if you’re just starting out in vintage hairstyling.  Covers loads of techniques and I certainly learned a lot- and I only bought the book about six months ago!
Bobby Pin Blog– the author of the book above also has a great blog!
Vintage Hair Community on Livejournal – gals showing off their hair, asking for advice, and tutorials thrown in now and again.
Beauty is a Thing of the Past Lots of great scans of old beauty and hair books and magazines
Vintage Hair with Lolita Haze– video on Youtube.  She also has a great blog here.
Lisa Freemont Street– great blog with hair videos and tutorials.
Diary of a Vintage Girl– love Fleur’s blog. Linked to her tag “1940s hair” and she just posted a tutorial today!
The Beauty Room on The Fedora Lounge (which I barely ever venture into and probably should)

If you have more online or print resources for vintage hair on the internet please add them to the comments!

I do have several 30s hairstyling magazines that were aimed at professional hair stylists and salons (which is where the images today came from).  Let me know if you’d like to see posts with some of those in the regular rotation.  Not as much setting charts as finished hairstyles, but they are pretty fun.

Ahh.. this was a nice distraction.  I found out yesterday from the dentist that I not only need a root canal but need my wisdom teeth extracted.  This puts a serious dent in shopping plans!

Psst…. you know how I said I wanted to do another giveaway soon?   Well, there’s a really exciting one coming tomorrow!!  I can barely wait I’m so excited!

12 Comments on >Vintage Hair- A Few Basics

  1. Beth
    February 24, 2011 at 6:09 pm (13 years ago)

    >Sorry about your teeth! That's the worst. :(I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Miss Amanda Lee for everything she posted on the Fedora Lounge about styling vintage hair – that's where I learned techniques that really worked for me.I'm a big fan of Hot Sticks, but vintage hairstyling definitely requires trial and error to figure out what works for each person. But those resources you posted will help ease the pain! I'm inspired to practice some wet sets soon.

  2. Katharina
    February 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm (13 years ago)

    >Great Post! Sorry about your teeth :(We still need to do a workshop! ALl your infos are really helpful! I remember once you got those wave clips and they are so hard to find but i will make it one of these days to get my hands on and try them out!If you folks have more questions you can also ask me http://www.facebook.com/BlitzVisageMakeup

  3. Trucydae
    February 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm (13 years ago)

    >Wow ! Thank you for posting this !It will surely be very use and helpful !!

  4. Isis
    February 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm (13 years ago)

    >Ugh, dental work is really the worst, both uncomfortable and expensive.Thank you for posting your hair history! Very interesting and informative!

  5. Lauren Hairston
    February 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm (13 years ago)

    >I'd love to see more vintage hairstyling posts. I have a layered pageboy, which I pin-curl (and velcro roll when I'm feeling '60s). I always like to see new (well, to me, at least) options for hairstyling.Sorry about your teeth. Ick.

  6. Steph
    February 24, 2011 at 11:33 pm (13 years ago)

    >Thanks for all the info! When my hair was longer, I used to go a week or two between full washes, just washing the back or ends if it needed it. That meant I could pile and twist my hair easily to my heart's content. I still can't make curling work for me.

  7. Stephanie Lynn
    February 25, 2011 at 12:58 am (13 years ago)

    >Hope the dentist at least gives you some really good drugs!This is a *great* post! I love Lauren Rennells' book too. And I can't wait to see the give away!

  8. Lolita Haze
    February 25, 2011 at 3:27 am (13 years ago)

    >Thanks for the shout out! You've inspired me to do another tutorial! I'll have to try putting one together in the next couple of days after I bleach my roots! Eep!Sorry about your teeth. :( I had 2 teeth extracted and it isn't terrible.

  9. Amanda
    February 25, 2011 at 4:30 am (13 years ago)

    >What a fantastic post!

  10. superheidi
    February 25, 2011 at 7:32 am (13 years ago)

    >Just had some dental work done yesterday. :-/ But thank you ever so much for sharing this great post. I feel less alone with my curlrefusing hair. :-)But please do post more on 1930s hair, I still can't figure out how it works.

  11. GodeysKnits
    February 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm (13 years ago)

    >Thanks so much for posting this! It's a great and huge help,indeed! I love 30's and 40's hairstyles- a lot!!! Well, this helped me find out how they got the wavy locks.. and to see what original hair clips and curlers looked like then..also since I'm trying to get into wwII reenacting! I must say this- I love your site! It's like digging into one of those goodie bags.. never know what you're going to find! :) – Samantha Jane

  12. garofit
    February 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm (13 years ago)

    >Great post! If you could post those 30's hair styling articles it would be fantastic, I am especially interested in those.

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