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how to do 1920s flapper hair & makeup
My great-aunt Matilda back in the 1920s ;)warning: girly post!

I love 1920s style, and when our swing dance club holds a charleston night I am all over it like setting lotion on a flapper's head. Tonight I finally got the look just right, and here is how I did it.

The Hair

For hair, I did finger waves. Finger waves were everywhere in the 1920s; here is a 1930s how-to that clearly shows what it's supposed to look like. My own inspiration was a minor character on a BBC Hercule Poirot episode. Can't find a pic or remember the character's name, unfortunately. (Here is another fabulous example).

What you need if you are Roxie Hart, stuck in jail with no supplies but still must look fabulous:
  • water
  • a comb

What you need if you are slightly less talented but have access to a Sally Beauty Supply:
  • water
  • a comb
  • setting lotion like Lottabody, about $3
  • finger wave clamps like these, I paid $5 for 8

finished fingerwaves (close-up of earlier photo)I won't repeat the detailed directions that you can find anywhere (including here) but here is the basic idea:

1. Wash your hair (it doesn't have to be clean, but it does have to be very wet).

2. Spray it down with setting lotion. (Setting lotion is like hairspray in reverse: you apply it before creating your style, then when your hair dries the style is frozen in.) Keep the hair wet until you are done.

3. Part and comb your hair, pulling every strand of it smooth and tight. Get used to this feeling, because it's the key here. You should feel the teeth of the comb down to your scalp, and the comb will be pulling/stretching the hair as fully as possible (not just skimming the surface).

finger wave clamp4. Time to wave! Comb the hair back from your face, hold a finger on it, then comb forward toward your face. pinch a ridge between two fingers. Clamp that ridge (optional if you know what you're doing.) Repeat to make more waves. Make them as big/small as you want, start them forward or back, make them continuous and S-shaped or sharp and C-shaped. All up to you. Check out this expert fingerwaver on youtube to see the fingers in action.

5. It takes me 6 clamps to do the front of my hair. If you have short hair and lots of patience, go ahead and try to match the waves in the back.

what the back looks like6. My hair is shoulder-length, so I rolled it in the back. Here's a video on rolling hair (the back-of-head roll starts at 4:40). She rolls her hair around a rat, which is an optional shortcut.

Another tactic is shown here in Fig. 6. You part your hair ear-to-ear and put the back hair into a bun. Then, do your waves, and finally pin the front hair over and around the bun to hide it.

You can also make a ponytail and tuck it up like Angelina Jolie allegedly does.

UPDATE: The Gibson Tuck would be another option. It's period-appropriate, and way easier than any of the above. (D'oh!)

7. When the waved hair is very very dry (takes an hour or two, for me) remove the clamps. Bobby-pin any stray hairs, and off you go!

The makeup

The twenties were a big time for eyeliner, specifically kohl (which the internet tells me was made of soot, lead, and goose grease). Here's how I imitate the look (ignore my photos, the makeup looks washed out):

1. Apply a skin-colored shadow all over the eyelids & brow bone

2. Apply a dark gray shadow on the lids

3. With the edge of the sponge q-tip thingy that comes with the eyeshadow, apply black shadow all around the eyes, like some raccoon version of eyeliner. Blend it in and pile it on. Too much is never enough.

4. Finally, top it off with black mascara. (Clumpy is fine - the real stuff back then was a type of wax that you'd have to melt yourself!)

5. I finish with red lipstick and pink blush. Face powder would also be appropriate but I don't bother.

flap flap flap
To my boring life by Beth on 2008-11-15.