Talking Vintage Hair – Interview with Lauren Rennells
DC: Tell us about your background in beauty and styling.
LR: Growing up, I was always interested in fashion and beauty. I use to pose my Barbie dolls and take pictures of them. I thought I wanted to be a photographer, but realized after I got out of college that it was the styling part I enjoyed so much. Nothing is more fun than playing dress up.
DC: How did the book come about?
LR: I have always loved classic styles. And I wanted to copy those styles just as they did back then. But when I tried to find detailed descriptions of the hairstyles, there was very little available. Most of it was very vague and I am a visual person that needs detailed images for direction. I figured there had to be one book out there with detailed info and found out in a frustrating search that there wasn’t. There were many old books that bits and pieces could be drawn from. So I said to my friend sitting next to me one time during a web search, “When I figure this stuff out, I am going to write a book, so no one else has to go through this.” And so I did.
DC: It’s been a while since vintage fashionistas have had access to a vintage hairstyling guide. What do you feel makes your book unique?
LR: The most unique thing about it is that it is all brand new. Because all the images were taken for the book, I was able to show every step in great detail so that even the girl who has no experience can get it. It truly is the book I wish I had available to me when I first started.
DC: In Vintage Hairstyling, you show vintage techniques with modern products and tools. Is it easier now to obtain a vintage hairstyle?
LR: Modern tools help get the feel of the style faster. But the style does not last for days like the wet sets of the past. The true vintage style made with pin-curls is not any easier with modern tools, but lasts for days if done right. The book is designed to show how to get the look with faster modern means and also shows how it was done back then. I tried to be as thorough as possible, so that no girl would be disappointed.
DC: In the book, you explain how to make a “rat”. Do you feel a natural rat is better than some of the synthetic ones sold at beauty supply stores? How about a foam roll?
LR: The biggest draw back to a foam rat for me is that it very hard to get a bobby pin to stick in it. With a natural rat, it is more like working with the natural hair and blends in better.
DC: Which is your favorite decade for hairstyles? Why?
LR: Overall, the 1940′s were the most fun for hairstyles in my opinion. Women grew out of the shorter styles that were so popular in the 20′s and early 30′s. Their longer hair provided for a lot more options. For the war effort and its restrictions on hair length women really got creative with ways to wear it up. But then at the same time, girls loved having the long curls for bouncing around on the dance floor. The 40′s provided so many options.
DC: Which actress from the past had the best hair?
LR: I don’t think I could ever pick one actress who had the best hair. They all had such amazing styles. But I can say that the actress who gets my vote for the greatest effort for beauty was Rita Hayworth. She was obviously stunning, but few people know that she was actually of Spanish heritage. Her hair was naturally black and her hairline was very low on her forehead. She appeared in a few films in very small parts as her true self Margarita Cansino, but the studio decided to change her image. Her hair was lightened and she had to go through very painful electrolysis to raise her hairline, so that she could play the part of the All-American girl.
DC: Which vintage hairstyles do you recommend for work?
LR: The biggest concern for work is easy. When you are getting ready, you do not want to spend forever on your hair. If you want to have this look on a daily basis, I would suggest wet setting your hair in pin-curls and not washing for a few days if you can handle it. Otherwise, any style that uses hot rollers is going to be easiest. The Pompadour Twirl or The Homemaker style from the book are fast. And with a little practice, you can get fun results that are different every day.
I have the ratting part down, but I never know how to get the tangles out when I am done. Should I just brush thru it, regardless of pain, or is there a better way.
If you are looking to smooth the top of the ratted part of the hair, then just use small, short strokes. And don’t stick the teeth of the comb down too far in the rat or you will comb the whole thing out. If you are trying to get rid of the rat at the end of the day, start comb it out at the ends of the hair detangling there first and working your way up the hair shafts towards the scalp.
I’ve been trying to reproduce a pincurl look with HotStix. Even with wrapping the ends and using a setting lotion–I can still never get the curls to lay into nice waves. It always seems to get into a bushy mess of tight curls that takes forever to start to relax. Do I need more setting lotion? Am I just not patient enough brushing it out? (I guess that is 2 questions!)
If you are getting the curl then you are using plenty of styling product. If you are trying to get a nice tight wave, then you need to be patient. And there is definitely a technique to brushing the hair using your fingers and the comb to form the hair into the wave. Just brushing without purpose will create a fluffy curl. You need to move the comb down the hair shaft in a wave pattern following the curl and use your fingers, hairspray, and pomades to hold the wave in place while you form it. A lot of girls have found the chapter of the book on the comb out very helpful. If you are trying to get a big wave like Dita, then the HotStix may just be too small. For a bigger sultry wave, try medium-large hot rollers.
What direction would you go if you were a woman that modeled vintage clothing of all eras. Is there a great basic vintage cut, or could there be such a thing? I figure the median year of what I sell is about 1962, and I sell items from Victorian to 80s. What is an adaptable cut in your estimation?
I would probably suggest a shoulder length cut or a little longer that is still long enough to do an up-do on. When you give yourself the freedom to pin your hair up, then there a lot more options. Then you can fake a lot of hair lengths. For me, the key to getting the look is copying the silhouette of the time period properly. If you want a flexible style, then you need to be able to do both long styles and pin it up to fake short styles.
What is the best way to keep your hair healthy when regularly wearing vintage dos? (My hair is especially prone to heat damage and breakage.)
A good conditioner is the most important thing you can do for your hair. It is the one thing that I suggest all girls splurge on. Go ahead and wear cheap make-up and use cheap hairspray, but spend money on conditioner and use a leave in conditioner and thermal styling product to protect your hair during styling. Joico K-Pac is my personal favorite line of conditioners right now and it is available in salons. Matrix Biolage makes a very nice thermal styler that is more hydrating then others. If your hair is breaking a lot, it is time to take good care of it.
I like 1950′s updos, though I can’t say I’ve ever really done one well. My problem is that my hair is very straight, so it’s hard for me to create the waves and volume I’d like to have. Is there anything I could do other than ratting it? I have enough length to try something interesting.
Try getting your hair towel wrapped damp and setting your hair with setting lotion and 1/2″ curlers. Let your hair dry completely on the rollers, either overnight or with a hood dryer. After you brush your hair out, the roller will give you better volume and a nice strong curl. There are many choices for curlers and my personal favorite are velcro rollers. Your local beauty supply will have many choices, but a word of caution ladies. There is a new type of curler out right now that is similar in that it grips the hair with teeth, but it also collapses for more comfortable sleep. Avoid these at all costs if you want to avoid cutting them out of your hair later. They grip way too much!
What do u think of widows peaks..I know plenty of people have them, but mine has always made me self conscious.
Widows peaks are amazing! It’s like having a heart at your hairline! Some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood had them. Ava Gardner, Barbara Stanwyck, and Marilyn Monroe all had them. But the best and most well defined belonged to Laurette Luez, an exotic beauty from Hawaii. Incorporate the peak into your style by styling it up in curly waves to soften.