The Fifties hairstyles, like Suzy’ Parker’s, were usually achieved through the arduous process of a pin curl set. They didn’t have blow dryers. As demonstrated by Suzy one divided, rolled and pinned the hair, then sprayed it with good old fashioned toxic aerosol hairspray to hold the set. It was a very tedious process that took hours to dry at home. In salons one could go under a hood dryer to hasten the drying process. These were awful ~ loud, hot, and uncomfortable. You were sure to come out with a terrible headache. Most women set their hair at home when they knew they were going to be stuck there for a while. Some women could roll their hair up in pin curls very efficiently on their own. You were really lucky if you lived in a household with other women who could help you. I remember my mother and aunts getting together on Friday nights or very early in the morning on Saturday’s and rolling each others hair so they could get it done speedily. They would let it dry while they read, had coffee, put on their makeup, got the kids fed and dressed, and got ready to go downtown.
I do not remember them having a head full of jeweled bobby pins though! They used regular bobby pins. They had a few of these fancy jeweled ones for styling their hair after they removed the curling pins and brushed it out into soft fancy curls. It looked absolutely gorgeous when they were finished.I doubt that many women set their entire heads with jeweled pins because these were very expensive! You also would not want to spray them with hairspray (usually Aqua Net) because the chemicals in it would coat the stones and damage them very quickly. I think Suzy just used these dressy rhinestone bobby pins for the demonstration photos so that she could look as glamorous and pretty as possible while showing us how to do this.
You have to make sure your hair is completely dry before removing the pins and brushing out the set. If you don’t your curls go flat immediately and the whole process has been a waste of time. If your hair took a long time to dry you would roll and set it the night before, cover the entire production with a sturdy hairnet and sleep on your pin curls or rollers. Attempting to sleep on rollers or pin curls was living hell. It was terribly uncomfortable and you got very little sleep. I have tried it and I cannot do it. As far as I am concerned it isn’t worth the effort! It hurt my neck as I wriggled around trying to get comfortable enough to sleep and I had terrible dark circles under my eyes in the morning from not getting adequate rest! I did not look beautiful after that experience. Thus I recommend doing this when you are going to be at home while the pin curls are doing their thing.
During the Fifties some women (certainly not Suzy Parker & Dorian Leigh! who were far too elegant to do anything like this,) tied a scarf over their heads, with the pin curls or rollers underneath and went out shopping and doing errands. I suppose this can be done in a pinch or emergency if you really have to run out to get something or rescue someone. However, I think it destroys the elegant look I want to present by going to all this effort to run around town in the curlers. I advise against it.
When your hair is dry, you simply remove the pins, carefully, one by one so the curls don’t get tangled. I recommend spraying each curl again with hair spray to really hold the curl. Let the spray dry, then style your hair, and, finally spray it again to hold the set. If you are going to put a jewel or accent in your hairstyle do so at the very end and don’t spray the hair decoration. Spraying your hair accessories, bows, ribbons, combs, barrettes, will ruin them.
Your set should last a couple of days if:
1) you keep steam and water off your hair by wearing a shower cap when bathing or showering.
2) you sleep with a hairnet on, (not very attractive)
3) you avoid getting caught bareheaded in the rain. Remember those funny plastic rain bonnets they used to carry around in their purses and put on if it started to rain?
4) You don’t go swimming and get your hair wet!
I think these hairstyles were darling looking, but very restrictive. And so much upkeep!It required a tremendous amount of self-discipline to take care of your hair like this consistently. You also had to have it cut and colored every month. I read an interview with Vidal Sassoon who did Suzy’s hair for important shoots in the 60s. He said her hair was naturally stone straight. So she was curling it all the time. Literally, because she was never seen or photographed with straight hair.
I remember reading an interview with Suzy in a magazine that was done after she had married, retired, and had three children. She was living with her family in California. She was asked how she maintained her beautiful hair. It still looked exactly the same as it did while she was modeling. She said that she went to her local hair salon twice a week and had her hair washed and set by the same lady who had been doing it for years – ever since she moved to California which was sometime in the 1960s! She also maintained the auburn color throughout her life.
This was a woman who was truly incredibly disciplined about her hair! She also talked about her years of modeling in the 50s when the models were expected to do their own hair and makeup for all their jobs. She was perfectly adept at doing it herself. She certainly did a beautiful job! Her hair looked amazing throughout her career no matter who did it! Unlike the models and actresses today the professional models and many other women were very well dresses and turned out whenever they went out in public during that time period. They took their looks very seriously.