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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tutorial · Rolled Vintage Updo

I've had several requests for a hair tutorial, especially in the last month- so here you go!

I started doing this hairstyle about 3 years ago, and it's been such a good fit for me that it's remained my constant go-to style ever since. ;-)

Now, I would describe myself as being "hair challenged".  Lots of people scoff at that, since I always have my hair "done", but I tend to find 1 style and stick with it for years on end. (hence 3 years and counting with this one....)  I wanted a style that was flattering on me (I prefer fuller styles) and something that worked nicely with lots of different hat styles, since I wear hats on a daily basis.

I read up a bit on vintage hair, but the end result was that I just got really overwhelmed and felt out of my depth. :-/  Well, I still DO feel out of my depth with most vintage hairstyles!  This style was my half-way compromise, but I think it still turned out good enough to be acceptable. :-)  One book that has helped ENORMOUSLY with my understanding of curls and how to manipulate them is Lauren Rennell's "Vintage Hairstyling".  I know everyone talks about this book, but it really is great! :-)  The sample styles are nice, but the great information in the front really helped me understand all the concepts and better be able to manipulate and predict my hair.

I'm qualifying this style as "easy", because I think it is. :-)  It's had its fair share of learning curves, but it was something that I could achieve with some level of success from the start.  Also, it is very time-efficient.  It takes no more than 5 minutes at night, and is styled in less than 10 in the morning!

This style is very adaptable, and is really comprised of 2 parts- the front hair and the back roll.  I change the front around occasionally to add a wee bit of variety. ;-)

This tutorial is for the specific style I did on my New Wardrobe StapleFriends and RelationsBlack Eyelet Dress, and Lemon Dress posts.  Other 1950s posts on the blog have been slight variations on this theme.

· Disclaimer!  This is NOT a good tutorial for a "proper" pin curl set.  I am very sloppy with the way I set my curls, and they will not work well for wearing down.  This short-cut is great for getting the right volume and waves near the hairline though, which is all I'm concerned about! :-) ·

Just as an FYI- my hair is mid-back length, no layers, very fine, very straight, and a bit on the thin side.  I typically have a hard time getting my hair to hold a curl.

I've done this hairstyle on lots of differing lengths of hair- it works on the more-period-appropriate shoulder-length hair, but I've successfully done this style even on mid-thigh length hair!

Start with dry hair.  First, part the hair on the side, then section off the front portion from ear to ear.

 Braid or clip up the rest so that it's out of the way.

 On the smaller side, I divide the hair into 2 sections- top and bottom.

 Each portion gets sprayed with setting lotion- enough to make it a bit damp for the first 8".

· I use the store-brand setting lotion at Sally Beauty.  I didn't find a difference between that and the name brand for this style, so I go with the cheaper option. ;-) ·

Wrap the strand of hair around your fingers (1 or 2, depending on how tight you want your curls) starting 4-6" from the scalp.

Then continue rolling the hair up to the scalp, being careful not to twist it.

 Secure with 2 bobby pins in an X.  Both of these curls with be rolled away and up from the hairline.

On the larger side, separate the hair into 2 portions- the center top and the side.  

Divide the center top portion into 2- front and back.

Curl the front section away from the face.

When pinning, force a "ridge" near the part.  We'll reinforce that later while styling the hair, but I find it helps if I give the hair a "head start".

Curl the back section to mimic the front.

Divide the side portion into 2 sections and curl those away and up from the face.

The point of pin curling the hair is to convince it to do the style you want the next day.  Some hair (like mine ;-)) takes more persuading!  It helps to envision your final style- make sure the way you are curling your hair will help it naturally go there the next morning! :-)

Let dry overnight.  Or, if you're in a rush you could blow dry the style on a low setting, but I never do that.

Once they are dry, take out the pins and brush the curls.  I don't have a particular method for brushing out, and I use a boar bristle brush- personal preference!  The goal is to get the "crunchiness" out and smooth the hair into a uniform shape.

The smaller side is easy- just curl the hair around 2 fingers about 4" away from the scalp, then roll into a small victory roll. (if you're having a hard time keeping all the hair in place while rolling it, try hairspraying the whole length before you start so that it has some "grip" to it)

 Secure with bobby pins as inconspicuously as possible.

On the other side, separate off the hair approximately where your pincurling was and start brushing the hair into one continuous wave.

Start wrapping the hair around 1 finger....

... And form the hair into a victory roll.  You want to keep some "slack" on it near the scalp, so don't pull it back tight.

Pin in place.  I also use 4 bobby pins on the "inside" crossing in an X. (2 come from the top and 2 come up from the bottom)  If it needs help (or even if it doesn't), form a wave near the part with a ridge clip.

Giving a final helping hand with ridge and wave clips has been a lifesaver for me!  I hairspray the entire style and leave them in for 15 minutes or so as I'm finishing up getting ready.  I take them out as the final step, and the hair holds the rest of the day!  Yay!! :-)

There you go- the front is complete!  This does take a while to get the hang of, but it's second nature after a while. :-)

For the roll in the back, I use a hair rat.  Yes, a real one.  I didn't really want to post this part of the tutorial because I know that really creeps some people out.  But there you go.  Now you know the truth. ;-)  If you're creeped out, feel free to skip on to the next pictures!

I know there are a few different options for non-hair rats, but I haven't used them.  I think a natural hair rat is great because you can make it any size you want, it's an exact color match (so it's not as noticeable if it peeks out), and well, it's free. ;-)  Granted, it means you need to keep a LOT of your hair from your brush before getting started.  I got a running start with an unexplained hair loss years ago (I guess this was a silver lining to that? :-/), but I make a habit of cleaning my brush every day and putting the hair in a ziplock bag, no matter how small the amount.

In theory, you might be able to use the hair from a haircut, but I've never had the need to use mine yet. (And yes, that does mean that I save all of my cut hair in bags, too. :-P  Great.  Now I just sound weird.  I promise!  This is like the weirdest thing I do!!) I am hesitant to use it since it is so slippery!  I would have to somehow mat it up before it would work, whereas the brush hair is already matted perfectly and locks into place quickly and without any mess.

So at any rate, I take however much hair I feel like and put it in a fine hair net (the 50 cent kind from Sally Beauty) and wrap it tightly.

To start the roll, gather all your hair in your hands and hold the roll in front of the hair.  Slowly drag the rat down to 4" or so from the bottom and wrap the ends around the rat.  Roll the rat and hair up to the scalp. (On long hair, this gets increasingly more difficult, especially on yourself!)  Once it's by the scalp, start smoothing the hair, tucking all the flyaways in and smoothing it evenly all along the roll.  I do this about 10 times, so expect to do it even more at first! ;-)

 Start pinning it in place starting with the center.  Cross 2 bobby pins in an X, catching both the scalp hair and the roll. 

Then pin the ends.  These take some fiddling to arrange pleasingly, but just keep smoothing!  It gets easier with practice. :-)  Finally, pin the sections between the center and sides.  For this rat, I pin a total of 5 places.  When I had a longer one, I pinned it in 7 places.

Finish off with hairspray- and there you go!  A very versatile, simple style that can be adjusted for the
1940s and 50s!

I realize this tutorial was rather long-winded, so thanks for bearing with me! :-)

Let me know if you have any questions or comments, and I'd love to see your results!!

· Photos by my Ever-Amazing Photographer, Kathryn :-) ·


  1. Thank you SO much! It's a beautiful hairstyle!
    And no, I am not freaked out because of the hair-rat. In fact, I'm rather delighted to see people still use them. I always thought it was something Edwardian. :-)

  2. Great job, Lily! It all makes perfect sense -- thanks so much for sharing!! :-)

  3. Ohhh thank you for the tutorial!!!! I always wondered how you did your hair. I usually roll/twist my hair around a headband for wearing hats, which gives the same kind of "roll" look, but it doesn't make much volume at the top. And, half the time it does. not. work. So I am excited!!!
    Off I go to collect hair... :-)
    I was wondering what pattern you used for your lemon and fruit dresses. They're SO beautiful!! Thanks, Lily!!

    1. I hope this hairstyle works out well for you! :-)

      I used Simplicity 3706 (a reprint, but now out-of-print) as a base for both of the dress bodices. Since it's a loose-fitting 3/4-length sleeved blouse, I ended up altering the body quite a bit. The fruit dress has short kimono sleeves, but the lemon dress has set-in sleeves (due to fabric constraints ;-)). For both of them, I just attached a simple gathered dirndl skirt.

      I hope that helps! :-)

  4. Thanks so much for posting this Lily!!! I'm not very good at doing my hair either, especially pin curls, so seeing your "sloppy and not exactly proper" pin curls was a refresher for me, since I always think my attempts look so, um, well, unsophisticated. Your hair always looks lovely and suits you so well! If I ever grow out my hair, I will certainly try this tutorial out.

    the Middle Sister and Singer

    1. Thanks! And it's nice to have company in the "Pin Curl Challenged" camp. ;-)

  5. Lily, thanks for showing us. I 'am going to give it a go for my cousins wedding next week.
    I absolutely love your dresses, Iam a pear shape so I always look for fuller skirt bottoms.
    I was wondering do you dress this way daily, even on a day filled with chores? You must
    often get complemented when you go out.
    So nice to see a well dressed lady out about. Wish there where more like you.
    From one dress lover to another...

    1. This would be a great hairstyle for the wedding! I'd love to know how it turned out! :-)

      Yes, this is my normal attire. Granted, I don't live a very active/messy life, but I still wear my vintage dresses to do hiking/gardening/etc. ;-)

  6. I can't wait to try this out! (Hopefully my hair is long enough.) : ) Thanks for sharing! One quick question - Do you have any layers cut in your hair? I do & I think it might cause some grief. : /

    1. No, I don't have any layers. I'm not sure how difficult it would make it, but it probably also depends on how short your layers are! I'm guessing that your hair might be a bit too short though. :-/ But let me know if you try it! I'd be curious to see! :-)

  7. Thank you so much for this tutorial and for taking the time to write up all the details! Thank you also for the details about the hair rat. I've never heard of a hair rat before but it seems like a vital tool in getting this hairstyle. I will start working on making one myself :) I'm really happy to have all the info on how to get this look. Your hair always looks so great!!! :)

    1. In the meantime, you could try cutting a mesh chignon and using that instead of a real-hair rat. If you do end up trying it, I'd love to hear your results! :-)

  8. Great job! I think you covered everything I wanted to know. And I love step by step like that! =)

  9. Yay! I'm glad you all liked the tutorial! :-) I can't wait to see your results- so be sure to let me know if you try it out! :-)

  10. LOVE that you put up a tutorial, especially for the front swoops and curls, that's what I have trouble with. I look forward to trying this out sometime... :)!!!


    1. So glad you liked it! :-) Can't wait to see your results!

  11. I Love it!! but I have one question did you make your hair rat? or did you buy it? if you made your own, How did you do it?

    1. Thanks Esther!

      I save all the hair from my brush after each use and put it in a ziplock bag. (although a hair receiver would be much more pretty and period-appropriate! ;-)) As there's more, the hair starts to mat together into a cohesive pile. When I'm ready for a new rat, I just pull off as much as I want and wrap it tightly in a lightweight hair net. The rat does eventually change in shape a bit, but wrapping it securely minimizes that. :-)

      Let me know if you have any more questions! :-) By the way- I loved looking at the pictures of your recent trip!!

  12. And I just checked out YOUR blog, and I love yours, too!!! This is a great tutorial. I've had trouble with that back roll shape, and I think I'm going to have to buckle and make a hair rat. I've tried a fake one, and it really doesn't work very well. Slippery, and it sticks out color-wise. I think you've convinced me.

    And now I'm following you on Bloglovin'. :)

    1. Thanks for your sweet words! :-) I hope the rat works well for you!

  13. Haha, the rat thing cracked me up! I'm freaked out by hair when it's not on a person but hey, the end result is gorgeous and you don't have to worry about that odd-colored synthetic stuff poking out. Love your blog, just found you today!

    1. Thanks, Brittany! I've been a big fan (if rather silent- shame on me!) of your blog for years! :-)

  14. re: the hair rat..brilliant! I've hear my mum mention them in passing when she described bouffant type hair styles of years past, and I knew they were basically lumps to pad out your natural hair. If she'd explained I could have made one from my OWN loose hair, I'd have done so years ago! I somehow thought you had to buy one form a wig maker

    1. Teri, thanks! Glad this could help! :-) Hair rats are sooo helpful for so many eras!



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