This post is a little uncharacteristic of my normal political, economic, and sci-fi related blog, but...
I have a new hobby which is sort of uncharacteristic of me. Or, rather than calling it "uncharacteristic", perhaps I should just say that I'm changing and exploring new interests.
So here's my confession: for the past three months, I have been experimenting with hair and makeup styles from the 1940s and 50s.
I've always appreciated the look of vintage styles and fashions from this era, but I've never been into dressing up, doing makeup, or putting much energy into my appearance at all. This probably has to do with a subconscious belief I held for a long time, and only recently identified: that being "pretty" or putting energy into how I look would detract from my mental self-image as an easy-going, friendly person, as well as an intellectual. In the mean-girl infested environment of middle and high school, I wanted to dissociate myself with those girls who formed cliques based on looks and popularity, who made snide comments to anyone not in the in-group of the moment, and who never allowed themselves to be seen cracking a book. I studiously avoided styles of dress and behaviors that would make me seem like "one of them". No makeup, no hair decorations, no latest fashions. To be fair, I never really liked the latest fashions, anyway.
So I've basically been wearing jeans and t-shirts for the past twenty years, until I started to branch out just a little bit a couple of years ago by purchasing a couple of dresses that I really liked from Goodwill (where I get the majority of my clothes). They weren't vintage, but they did have a vintage feel to them, and I wore them only occasionally, still avoiding makeup and always wearing my hair in the same simple way.
But little by little, piece by piece, I added more "nice things" to my wardrobe, until about a year ago I began to specifically seek out only "vintage-looking" garments when I shopped at Goodwill. There was something about the 1940s and 50s style of clothing in particular that I loved. For one thing, these styles seemed custom made for my body type--thick, short, and curvy. Whereas most contemporary women's clothing styles seem made for tall, skinny people. For another thing, there's just something wonderful about the cuts and fabric patterns utilized in the vintage styles, something lovely about the lines and silhouettes. My wardrobe continued to evolve, slowly.
And then, about a year ago, I began to order vintage reproduction clothing online.
To find good deals on these articles of clothing, which can often run up to $200 or more for a dress, I joined some Facebook groups where ladies from all over the world sell and swap their slightly used vintage repro items. And that's where I began to fall in love with vintage hairstyles and makeup. People post these gorgeous pictures of themselves all done up in a 1950s pinup style dress with carefully selected accessories and beautiful hairstyles that incorporate all kinds of curls and rolls and things I'd never even thought of doing to my hair. I became engrossed.
I've learned how to do pin-curls and use foam rollers, what types of hair tools and products to use for molding my hair into those distinctive mid century styles, and how to make a "wet set" last three or more days, even with my stubbornly straight hair.
(My mom tells a story about how when I was little, she tried a few times to curl my hair for a church event. She would roll it wet into foam rollers and I would sleep on it. In the morning, she'd take out the rollers and brush the curls to separate them. Most of the curls would disappear as she brushed. Then she would take the curling iron to my hair and give it a healthy dose of hairspray afterwards. By the time the church service was halfway through, my hair would be "straight as a stick". So you see what I've been working with.)
I had a steep learning curve.
I'd never really even done anything to my hair except brush it and put it up in a pony tail. Maybe a simple french twist if I was feeling fancy, held up with a large barrette. I started looking at YouTube tutorials on how to do victory rolls, suicide rolls, poodles, and bumper bangs, and trying to recreate the styles on my own (uncooperative) head. It's been frustrating at times, but I kept with it, trying new styles two or three times a week. I got a lot of encouraging support and advice from the other women in the Facebook groups, which was nice because I was secretly scared that they might be mean girls!
I still have not mastered a single style or roll, but I've gained a bit of skill and had a lot of fun trying. My family and friends have stopped looking at me like "who are you and what have you done with Starr" and I've gotten a lot of compliments for my efforts.
And I've been able to let go of that silly belief that one can't be a cool person and a pretty girl at the same time. I love vintage styles of clothing, hair and makeup. Recreating them is an art-form, and often a big challenge, but a fun one. I'm glad I've allowed myself to venture into this new hobby.