A 1910s/early 1920s style for every length

Since the hairstyles in the early 20th century were generally fairly short – about shoulder length or shorter – I’ve seen many requests online from women with long hair wondering how to recreate these styles without going for the chop. I can sympathize. I can’t remember where it was that I saw instructions for this style, probably Lisa Freemont Street, but I thought I would try to put it into my own words since trying it myself and seeing great results on the first try. I also want to spend a little time on it since I find it surprisingly versatile.

So here’s the look we’re going for. This is a Gibson Girl, the very first pinup. Personally it reminds me of those really old Edwardian Coke ads. It looks really hard to do. It’s not.

See? This was my FIRST try!

First you want to tightly curl all your hair. It’s up to you how to do this, either with pin curls or rollers. I just did my usual roller set. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t matter if the curls don’t turn out perfect. After you pile it all up there nobody can tell.

If you want to look really Edwardian, part your hair in the middle. You don’t have to, I parted mine deeply to the side the way I always do. Then grab 3 or more side combs. Chunk by chunk, fold your hair in half upwards so that the ends are sticking out from the top, and secure them with a comb. You can do a french twist sort of thing if you hair is shorter and/or you want to keep the sides really neat. But it doesn’t matter so much because you’ll be covering it up later. Don’t you just love styles that involve covering the mess of pins instead of making it perfect?

So keep doing this all around your head until all your hair is up except for some curls that you would like hanging out around your face. The piece in the back should be centered. Now this won’t look too good, so don’t get discouraged. It will be really messy and floppy. Take some bobby pins/kirby grips and pin those floppy curly ends up a bit higher. Leave the very top smooth for a look more like the Gibson girl, but you can just make yourself a big nest up there too if it suits you. that’s what I did. If you did an exceptionally good job this is where you might start to think this looks rather 1930s, in which case you’re free to stop there and enjoy 🙂

Otherwise, grab yourself a very long head scarf. Mine is just a big piece of black satin I cut. This can be either wide or narrow, but I like wide because it covers up more of the pins and odd bits, and you can always fold it later if you want it more narrow. Place it at the top of your head in a way that you like, likely with some curls from the back falling forward on top of it, and tie it at the bottom. You can leave these long ends to trail behind or over your shoulder, or wind them around your head and pin them. The second time I did this I pinned them with a peacock feather hair clip. It was very pretty if I do say so myself.

Now you take the pieces in the front that you left out, and if they’re quite long, pin them up higher with a bobby pin and tuck the remaining loop of hair under the scarf. More pieces looks older, less looks more modern.

Finally, you might want to do a little more arranging and pinning. If the back shows, try to get some curls to fall down over it and pin them in place. If you just can’t get it looking the way you want, go for it again. This is a quick one so it’s easy to get lots of practice.

You might find that with the scarf, this style moves back a little over time. In fact when I’ve done it I’ve seen that it likes to do its own thing, which somehow always ends up looking just as good if not better. As it’s very secure, it doesn’t fall out any more than a few tucks back under the scarf can’t fix. I was finding that mine ended up looking a little Greek, and oddly enough, modern at the same time. So here’s where you have the option of pinning it further back in the first place, and/or switching up the scarf for a couple narrow headbands, or nothing at all if the whole thing looks nice enough to show. You could even use a dread wrap if you want to keep it casual. I ended up with this.

My apologies for the terrible quality.

And accessory-free…

Looking very modern here.

So as you can see this is a great style to try out and play around with. I know I mentioned that this is great for long hair, but you can actually do this with ANY length that you can fit around a roller. More pinning for longer hair, less or even no pinning for shorter. There aren’t too many of those! Also, while this is technically an Edwardian style (the Gibson Girl picture is from 1912), I find it very conducive to the 20s as well. Just like wearing 40s hair with 50s clothes, wearing 10s hair with 20s and even 30s clothes looks just fine. I think I may have a new look for casual Friday in the works!

7 comments on “A 1910s/early 1920s style for every length

  1. I must say i love your blog!

  2. jennyelaine says:

    Love the hair styles!!! I used to be in a Victorian society and also gave “Teas” for large and small groups. I made a Anne of Green Gables outfit but could not get my hair just right. urgh!!

    Say, also…something my Aunt and I were discussing, is that (it seems) that most hair dressers these days are not familiar with the names of cuts from the past….why don’t they??? Like the Farrah Faucet or the Dorothy Hamel? (not sure I spelled their names right) She went recently into a salon and asked for the Dorothy Hamel and the girl did not know at all what she was talking about! Why aren’t they taught these things when they attend school for this vocation? It is frustrating when the hairdresser cannot understand. Another friend went in to another place and asked for a gibson girl and she said it came out awful!!

    Anyway, your site is delightful!

    P.S. I am an artist and am endeavoring to paint/draw young women of the various eras….so I might need your advice sometime soon…. 🙂

    • Thank you!
      I do agree about the hairdressers, I think they’re just extremely focused on being trendy. Eugh. Though I’ve been gathering that most styles are just different versions of very basic ones, so if they’ve at least so much as heard of it or seen a picture they really should know what you’re talking about. The middy is an old hair cut that all modern layered hair cuts are derived from and all hair dressers should know it, but even then some don’t, or are afraid to do something not trendy in case you or someone else doesn’t like it. In my case my hairdresser had no idea what a middy was but was able to accomplish one perfectly and easily once I explained it to her. I know there are hair cutting charts available for the middy, maybe you can find charts for these other hairstyles as well? Just so there’s no question on how exactly it’s supposed to be done.
      That makes me curious, what is the Gibson Girl hair cut? I’d love to see an example of it unstyled!
      And your last paragraph makes me *really* excited! I run themed art events in Winnipeg where aspiring artists of all kinds can come and get inspired, for the most part by models styled completely to theme, and I love portraying various eras. So of course I’ll be on hand for anything you need!

  3. Scarlet says:

    This is the perfect up do! I am really going to have to find myself some curlers.

    I’m currently reading through your back log of posts. Despite being ‘fashioned’ themed I love the wide variety of topics you cover.

    Scarlet Divine

  4. […] chick from the 70s, smooth what you can with mouse and try out a variation of a Greek or Edwardian style. One of the easiest things you can do is a looser version of the gibson roll – take a narrow […]

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