So Your Set Failed – Now What?

You spent at least half an hour last night meticulously setting your hair. You made sure the curls were even and you used setting lotion. You let it dry all night. But then you woke up this morning and looked like this.

Holy mother of god.

No matter how much you brush, you still have hair like the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons. Or maybe half of it is curly and the other half is straight except for one wave that sticks straight out. What do you do? Well that depends on just how your set failed, but luckily there are many options and I’m here to save the day. Because I have experience.

1. Everything worked except one or two curls.

Dampen the failed pieces and put them back into pin curls (Even if you don’t normally do pin curls, just use a mascara wand to roll around if you find it difficult) and leave it to dry for an hour or two before taking them back out. Alternatively you can use a very small barrel curling iron or hot sticks.

2. You’re dealing with a weird half and half situation.


Instead of pretending you’re some two-for-one creature out of Greek mythology, use hot rollers on all of your hair to even things out. They shouldn’t be hot enough that they pull apart the curls that worked, but they will curl up the looser side to match.

3. It curled just fine, but nothing is going in the right direction.

You wanted a page boy and ended up with a flip. Or something equally not to your taste. This is the time to use the curls to your advantage in creating a rolled updo. Start off with two or three victory rolls, then keep rolling the back into rosettes. Glamorous! See also: #6.

4. Nothing is curled, it just looks like a very interesting case of wavy bed head up in here.


Take a flat iron and just concentrate on smoothing out the wonky bits, holding it at an angle to encourage a bit of curl instead of making it straight. I’ve woken up looking like a crazy person and in just a couple minutes of flat iron adjustments I ended up with something quite luxurious, if in a totally modern way. Until the wind got it. Fuck. See also: #5.

5. OMG it’s a bad afro.


If you misjudged the size of your curls and ended up looking like an electrocuted 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 circular headband placed OVER your hair, and tuck the ends up, over, and into it at the base. This is a beautiful and sophisticated look that can even be done on the bus without a mirror, as I have had to do. I also like the Goody Modern Updo pin for the world’s easiest messy chignons. Basically what it all comes down to is to throw it up in a messy romantic sort of way, however you choose to do that.

6. You have curls, but they’re just a little blah


Or they’re uneven. Or you feel like getting a pretend hair cut and going all out Great Gatsby style. This is almost the same as the style mentioned above, but slightly reversed. Put the headband (or scarf, if you’re fabulous), under your hair at the nape like you normally would, and again tuck the ends into it. Nobody will know you’re hiding below-shoulder length hair in that old-timey bob.

7. It’s hopeless. Hopeless I tell you!!

What the living hell is this!!

What the living hell is this!!


Same camera. Also same me. I shit you not.

For when nothing else will do, or you’re just not in the mood for any of the suggestions above, or it’s windy, or rainy, or any number of situations. When you think “I’m screwed,” use a snood! It’s easy, it’s fool-proof, and you will look just like the awesome kind of vintage fashionista you were trying to look like when you set your hair in the first place. They come in a ton of different styles and colors to suit your mood too, so it’s a good idea to have a little collection of them. You can do victory rolls or a pomp in the front, add a flower, and presto!


Option 2 – The beehive! Separate the front of your hair from ear to ear. With the back portion do either a french twist or a ponytail at the crown. Backcomb the shit out of it until the very sight of yourself makes you laugh your ass off. Smooth it out VERY gently, pinning down loose ends. Lightly backcomb the back of the front piece you left out and gently sweep back to cover the poof ball. If you don’t have enough hair to make your poof ball as big as you want it, use some fake hair stuffed into a hair net as a rat to fill it out. Tuck in the ends and pin. Super easy, super cute. And it can last 2-3 days!

8. Fuck it.


There are actually curlers under this bandanna

Alternatively if it’s a casual day, make a pomp or roll in the front, throw the rest up, and stick it in a bandanna. This is a great idea for days when you can’t look that fancy, like when you’re painting, gardening, or roller-coaster-ing. This is also perfect if you would prefer to just re-set it and start all over again, because it will cover it up. It is after all what you do at night. I know you don’t go to bed lookin’ like no grandma.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!

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