Let's talk about 1940s hairstyles for a bit!
We're all familiar with the face-framing, often elaborate hairstyles of the 1940s, especially during WWII. Perhaps the most iconic form is the victory rolls. But while victory rolls are lovely and often one of the easiest to re-create for someone into vintage styles, we may forget the wide variety of hairstyles that were all part of the fashion of the day.
A lovely example of one of the most iconic hairstyles of this era - victory rolls, here done asymmetrically.
They could also be centered on the forehead and vary in size from small to enormous.
It's amusing to me that sometimes the simpler hairstyles are actually harder to do correctly, since the hair has to be cut and curled properly - while victory rolls and a snood, for instance, can be worn by ladies with more modern or longer hair styles - which is good news for anyone who needs it!
Not everyone wore elaborate styles. Many ladies parted their hair on the side and simply had it brushed out for a simple look. This is true of many movie stars of that era, like Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, and Hedy Lamarr, who wore their hair almost always the same simple style throughout their various roles. However, for many women hairstyles varied according to what flattered her face, and according to the day's events. Fancier styles were often worn for an outing, dance, or party.
Anyway, here is a roundup of vintage photos of ladies from the 1940s sporting their lovely 'dos, for your personal inspiration.
Long Hair in the 1940s
Starting with some long-hair styles (believe it or not, there were some quite lengthy styles worn). Here Ginger Rogers has her front and side hair in large rolls, and the rest of it smoothly brushed, with the ends cut in a U shape and curled under. A rare style with almost straight back hair.
This lady has a little more of the curled layer look, only long instead of shoulder length, and her top hair is probably shorter.
This lady has a much simpler style - a side part and headband. Her hair is still cut in the layered U shape, but the curls are loose.
Rita Hayworth here shows what is probably the closest to a "tousled" 1940s look. Longer hair, more ringletty at the ends than the one above, brushed across her forehead and held with pins - a sort of faux bang style, though her hair is shorter at the top.
A Bevy of Up-dos
Updos are also great for ladies with long hair. The lady with the daisies has her hair center parted (probably also center parted down the back) and in braids across the top. This might look like Sound of Music costume-ish, but if you pair it with hair flowers like hers, you definitely have a 1940s vibe.
Here's a rolled up-do with bumper or faux bangs. You can make these with long hair if you section off the top front of your hair and roll it around a rat. The side rolls hide the ends of the bang. And those handy little flowers sure help when it comes to adding the finishing touch while disguising an otherwise unsightly roll end!
It probably looks similar to this in the back. I could never keep mine smooth, when I had longer hair, so kudos to you if you manage it!
Another way to do bangs, or faux bangs if your hair isn't too long.
Lucille Ball wears a gorgeous puffy upswept hairstyle here, with many small rolls. This would have been more of a formal hairdo, and might be sprinkled with rhinestone combs or pins.
Another rolled up-do, this time rolled all the way around over hair rats with the ends becomingly curled over her forehead. This time instead of flowers or a headband, you can see a taffeta bow.
This one is more of a piled look than the tight rolls of Lucille Ball's hairdo above, and it holds one giant rose.
Side and front of an elaborate hairdo, for shorter hair.
And one more from Lucille Ball, this time with "fuzzy" combed out light bangs and the rest pinned in curls to the back of her head instead of the top. More flowers...I love this placement.
You can also do a structured half-up hairdo, like this lady with 4 rolls on the top and sides, and her back hair gathered with a ribbon.
Back view of a similar hairstyle, with victory rolls and ringlets. This looks like it was done with at least medium length hair.
A formal, almost up, hairdo. The pompadour is higher here, and the jewels comb holds the side hair in a puff. The back is probably brushed curl under and held in a net.
This one is cute, because it shows you what to do with the ends of your top hair when you brush it back like this lady in a small pompadour.
But as I already said, elaborateness was not always the order of the day. Here are a few short, well brushed bobs. The top one has a side part and the hair is brushed away from the face but with no visible pins or rolls. The bottom one also has a side part, with the hair brushed to the side and down for a flatter top. These are the kinds of hairstyles that you simply have to have the right cut for in order to be convincingly accurate - no fudging here.
Simple and short, with a center part and headband that keeps the hair away from the face, as opposed to the previous 2 photos.
The simple, brushed out style could also be worn long, though perhaps it was more common worn short.
More lovely flowers, a side part, with the heavier section held back by a comb. The curls are brushed down and under, more like a pageboy.
A more tightly curled short version of a simple look, worn by one of my favorite actresses - Myrna Loy.
Katherine Hepburn wears a style that is not so round-the-face and takes less layers. More of a straight bob instead of the usual U shape cut. Side part, the long front hair is brushed back and held by a clip or small barrette.
Wrapping it Up
Hopefully these images have given you an idea of the variety out there when it comes to 1940s hairstyles. You'll never need to feel in a rut again. You can wear your hair long or short or very short, up or down, in tighter or looser curls. The top can be built up (brushed over a rat), rolled in various ways, brushed forward over the forehead, made into bangs, or worn in a simpler "flatter" style from a center or side part. Brush all the curls out into waves, save some as ringlets to arrange as pin curls. Lots of accessories can be used, from flowers to ribbons to clips and combs. And for a bad hair day, there are always snoods and turbans that can be paired with every dress code from house dresses to street wear to formal. If are happy with your back hair but not the front, wear a tilt hat which will cover the front. If you like the front but want to camouflage the back, wear a hat that sits on the back of your head.
The nice thing about these hairstyles is some of them can do double duty and be borrowed for other eras. The shorter, tight-curled styles, or the up-dos with plenty of pin curls, can also work for the 1930s - especially late '30s. The simpler bobs, minus the hair flowers, can look very 1950s too. The more elaborate, high hairstyles are pretty strictly WWII era fashion, however...they went out of fashion within a year or two after the war's end, to be replaced by a non-face-framing, simpler side or center parted hairstyle worn longer and with looser waves over the shoulders - which in turn evolved into the short, sculpted waves of the 1950s.
I'll leave you with a photo of one of my own attempts at replicating one style in this fascinating era of hairstyles.
Come to think of it, digging up these images has inspired me. Time to do some experimenting and get out of my own rut. :-)
Please note all vintage images are not my own and believed to be in the public domain.