Hair tutorial: the basics of pin curls

Pin curls have been around since the 1920s and form the foundation of many vintage women’s hairstyles from the 1920s through to the 1950s.

In an era that is obsessed with hair-damaging curling irons, straighteners and hot rollers – pin curls are a wonderful way to create volume in your hair without damaging it.

Not only are pin curls better for your hair, but they also create a much more authentic curl. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they’re essential to any vintage hairstyling.

The 1920s tended to go for flat pin curls (such as in the video below), while the 1940s went for a stand up pin curl – as seen in these photos of Christine Aguilera.

The stand up pin curl gives much more volume than the flat version, and is generally a better choice if you’re looking for the big waves and curls of the 1950s hairdos. (Think Jessica Rabbit)









There are plenty of videos out there on pin curling, but I found this one to be the best example of precisely how to pin curl – despite the finished product (I like a much tighter curl and normally leave it overnight)



Etsy: a must for vintage gals and guys!

Today’s blog post is on the wonderful e-commerce site; Etsy. (

Although Etsy has been up and running since 2005, I only discovered it last year after a couple of ladies in the swing dance scene showed up with some hard-to-get vintage accessories (handmade snoods to be exact).

The site is focused on vintage or handmade items – but you can also find arts and crafts supplies. All vintage items have to be at least 20 years old to qualify.

Given the mixed criteria there is a diverse range of items on here but the real challenge is not to find what you’re looking for – rather it’s to have some discipline about it.

After perusing for a year or so, I’ve just received my first Etsy purchase and I am extremely pleased with the item.

It was a great price, was exactly as it had been listed and arrived earlier than expected from the States.

Behold!  60s daffodil plastic hair clips –  I look forward to showing them off.


Hair tutorial: victory roll basics

Just in time for the opening of Burlesque Assassins here in Calgary ( ,today’s blog is one for the ladies with a simple video tutorial on victory rolls.

I would suggest this video for anyone starting out with vintage hair as it covers some real basics.

I chose this particular tutorial for a couple of reasons (apart from the music).

The first one is that it shows you a good basic roller set – which will give you a much more authentic curl than with a curling iron. She has used hot rollers to do this style, but I personally prefer a wet set – which is when you use basic rollers (not hot) in wet hair. I find that with my longer hair the curl holds much longer. Note that with the rollers she has sectioned off the front of her hair to get a little volume in there. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, pause the video and take a good look at how she’s set the rollers. This can make a big difference!

Secondly, I like that she’s created a more natural vintage hairstyle and not an over-the-top victory roll – which seem to be quite popular with rockabilly girls these days.

Thirdly, her approach to ‘rolling’ up the hair on two fingers is quite standard and a technique that is good to master.

Ultimately, the best advice I can give you is to keep practising. What may look easy in the video may actually take a bit of practise to get right in your own hair.


Hair tutorial: the suicide roll

I get a lot of questions about vintage hairstyles, but the best thing I can suggest to you is to get on YouTube and try out the hair tutorials.

I am going to post some of the better styles and clips from time to time, and today it’s a forward rolled bang (fringe for the Aussies) known as a suicide roll.

Although this lady is playing 50s music, it’s actually better known as a 40s style. I like her choice of music and I also like that she’s not using a curling iron: pin curls or rollers which will give you a much more authentic looking curl.

Also just a note, it’s not quite as easy as she makes it look – so don’t give up if you don’t get it perfect the first time.

As with most things it takes practice and patience.


Post perm review: was it worth it?

Today’s blog post is a review of my perm from two months ago – and more importantly was it worth it?

In light of the time it takes to pin curl my hair every few days – which is about an hour – I had decided that if it could be avoided for a few months the perm would be well worth it.

Overall I would rate the perm a 6 out of 10. Meaning that it had some effect – but in the end it wasn’t worth it and I won’t be doing it again.

Here’s my top 3 reasons why:

1. I still have to curl my hair to get the vintage style I’m looking for. Although the curls hold better with the perm, they still need to be created in the first place. Which doesn’t really save me any time.

2. The smell of the perming chemicals took a few days to completely leave my hair. And let me tell you that’s some nasty stuff they’re using!

3. My hair looks exactly the same as it did before when it is unstyled – which probably means the perm didn’t really hold in the first place. Not worth the time or the cost.


40s movie inspiration: ‘On the Town’

If you’re looking for some 1940s inspiration, then look no further than the 1949 MGM movie ‘On the Town’.

This Bernstein musical features Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as a couple of sailors on shore leave in Manhattan for one day only.

It’s full of all the usual singing and dancing schnazz that we would expect from these two, but what really stands out is the fantastic ladies hairdos.

This movie is an absolute gem for women’s vintage hairdos.

Having been shot in 1949, this was simply the style of the day and shoes, coats, hairdos, dresses – resulting in every lady having an authentic 40s look.

My mind boggles at how they made it through these dance routines without even a single hair out of place.

They must have lacquered their whole head in place!

I was unable to embed to the video, so if you click the link below it will take you to a video for you that isn’t necessarily the best song in the musical, but it’s fun and it particularly shows off Anne Miller’s outfit and hair.

On the Town video with Anne Miller



How the perm went …

Today’s blog is a before and after on yesterday’s perm experience.

I took a series of photos for you so that you could get some idea of what’s involved with perming your hair, and the end result.

To some of my work colleagues disappointment I did not return to the office today looking like Marcia Brady.

I have somewhat of a wave, that with some attention will turn into a decent curl. Not quite as tight or well-formed as a pin curl, but also a tenth of the time that it would take.

Without further ado, here we go with some photos.

This is the day before the perm – my hair was up in a 50s style high ponytail, but it gives you a good sense of the length and the texture of it. Not dead straight, but not a curl in sight.





















When I first arrived at the salon (The Fringe Hair Company: my hair was washed and cut. Chelsi took an inch off the bottom and cut a little bit of light layering into the back.

Following this she undertook the painstaking process of rolling it onto the pink rollers which would form the shape. This took 2 hours and was the most laborious part of the process.






















Following the rollers, the curled hair was soaked in a stinky chemical that breaks down the hair strand. If you’re ever going to damage your hair, I would say that this is where it would happen. The chemical stays on for 20 minutes to thoroughly saturate the hair strand. Given that my hair hadn’t been chemically treated or abused since teenage years, I wasn’t particularly worried about any hair damage.

Once the chemical had ‘cured’, the curled hair was rinsed while still in rollers. That was followed by a second (non-stinky) chemical solution that stayed on for 5 minutes while I got to enjoy one of those fifties space-age head heaters!












And then the final step in the perm was to remove the rollers and blowdry the hair with a little curling product and some scrunching.




Here is my post-salon hair: Voila!











A great start and in a couple of days when I can wash it, I look forward to turning it into some serious curls and victory rolls.

To perm or not to perm..?

Chances are when you hear the word perm, you feel dread in the pit of your stomach as you are reminded of Nicole Kidman’s outrageous puff from the 80s.

(And let’s face it Aussies – no matter how glamorous Nicole may be these days, she’ll really always be this frizzy drawling teenager.)


But despite the hair atrocities of the 80s, a perm can actually be the foundation of a truly great vintage hair do.












And so after pin curling my hair for the last couple of years, I have finally decided that I’m ready to take the plunge and get my first ever perm.

I’m planning for something a lot like Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.













Though I may decide to keep it a little longer – and I definitely want to be able to still have victory rolls on the front.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how it goes and post a before and after picture for you to compare the difference.