I couldn't help feeling pleased as I watched Mrs Brown walk through the museum in her elegant purple floral dress. Teetering on T bar heels, her powdered face broke into a smile as she took in the exhibits, showcasing her red lips and fluttering lashes. It was like meeting a pen friend I'd never seen before but finding she fit my imaginary picture of her perfectly.
It was Monday and I was in Stoke to photograph the dressing room set from my collaborative project with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, but on this visit I had brought my friend Layla with me to model as the mysterious Mrs Brown, the flighty bored young housewife of 1951, a woman whose pursuit of happiness could land her in hot water.
The previous day I had met with Layla to set her hair into pin curls, a very popular style from the forties which had continued to evolve into the fifties creating a new generation of waves and curls seen on the likes of Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. After watching a wonderful video tutorial by Vividmakeup found on youtube (see last post) I had also found evidence in a contemporary article detailing the techniques of how to set your hair fashionably. What struck me most was the effort that went into the preparation for a style that was worn by most women whether they were film stars or just going to the shops and doing the housework. This was serious high standard hair.
Here's how I set Layla's hair:
Firstly I dampend it with water and added a little setting lotion. After combing it through I took a one inch section and coiled it away from the face around two of my fingers, making sure not to twist it. When I had coiled as far as I could get, I pinched the coil off and secured it flat to Layla's head using FLAT hair pins to create a cross.
Here's how it looked as I was working my way around the head. I left the front section loose as this required a different type of curl. Once I had worked my way all around the hair it looked like this;
The crown was left flat so the curls would sit in an authentic style of the early 50's and the front fringe section was curled under and secured in an elevated curl, not flat to the head but sitting proud of the face. The curls were left to set over night with a scarf tied around them for protection. When we got to the museum the next day they were still in place if not a little fuzzy;
We used a dressing room which Princess Anne had used when she came to visit the museum a few years ago. It was in this room I finished the hair styling and applied Laylas' make up. I went of a classic 1950's look, very matte and powdered; soft brown eye shadow all over the lid with a darker brown in the socket.
I lined the upper lid with black liquid liner and added some flirty tipped lashes for a glamorous effect and drew the eyebrows in with a pointed arch. The whole thing was of course finished off with obligatory red lipstick! I went for a pointed look lining the lips first to get the peaks as defined as possible.
Next it was time to finish styling the hair. I unpinned all the curls and brushed them through with my fingers to seperate and loosen them. As you can see from the photo, the pin curls really did their job creating large sausage curls positioned perfectly around the crown.
To create fifties waves I took a barrel brush and began to brush the curls under. Unlike normal curls which should never be messed with, pin curls are designed to be manipulated. They are also very resilient and snapped into place as I brushed them. I used my palms to sculpt the hair as I brushed it under and round, I then pinned the hair back behind the ears for a very feminine style. Lastly I brushed the fringe, whisking it up and back to create a 50's flick that blended in with the rolls of sculpted hair around the sides of the face. At last Mrs Brown was ready for her photo shoot.
The makeover was lots of fun and it was important to get it right as creating an authentic look was just as important as the shoot itself. As Layla stepped into the dressing room set I felt really pleased because she looked like she belonged there. Layla enjoyed working amongst all the vintage items, being a bit of kleptomaniac of vintage items herself, and it was so satisfying to have the right person for the job who understood the brief and looked so perfect for the story. Find out how the shoot went in my next post!...