Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The eternal quest for curls: product review 'Stay Set' setting lotion

I've just launched my etsy shop (blatant plug: look here! http://www.etsy.com/shop/VintageSallyBoutique ), so really I should be promoting all the lovely things on there, but instead I'm going to complain about my hair.

My perfectly-in-fashion-in-2013 poker straight hair. Because, of course, I want anything BUT straight hair.

Ever since I was a child it's been a pain - fine, thin, tangles easily, won't take a curl (my Mum was desperate for me to have curls!), resists any styling and naturally a little unruly.

Modern styles, including layering, which it seems impossible NOT to get a hairdresser to do to it, plus the wonder of straightening mean I can get a pretty good modern straight, sleek look when I want. However, that is of course not what I want. I want vintage hair. And, in most eras, vintage hair means curls.

My hair won't take a curl - it drops out after about an hour, if it takes at all. My Mum even home permed my hair once, when I was due to be a bridesmaid, and it didn't take at all. I did have curly hair at one point in my teens, from a professional perm, but it was one of those horrific nineties corkscrew perms. Lets try not to dwell on that one too much...

So for years I've been searching for an effective way to curl my hair, and I've tried almost everything in the book - ceramic curlers, a wide variety of different products and rollers and so forth. Results have been hit and miss, sometimes it's worked out (with a ton of hairspray!) but if atmospheric conditions are even slightly moist, it all disappears in the blink of an eye.

The one thing I hadn't tried was old fashioned setting lotion. I had of course read about it when reading up on vintage hair styles, and from tips from other vintage fanatics (this post by Retrochick is particularly helpful: http://www.retrochick.co.uk/2013/05/29/hair-curling/ ). Now I'm prepping for a 1930s themed event (of which more lately), and so I decided to finally take the plunge and try out setting lotion - well it was either that or get my hair all cut off into a shingle!

I used Stay Set Extra Firm Hold setting lotion, available at Boots and Superdrug (http://www.superdrug.com/hair-styling/stayset-setting-lotion-extra-firm-100ml/invt/206505&bklist= Weirdly Boots sell it in their stores but don't list it online), and at £2.19 a bottle, it's fairly cheap compared to other hair styling products - however I did get through a lot of it in just one use!

I didn't do anything sophisticated with this as I just wanted to see whether it worked. I used Boots sleep in rollers as I knew a good 12 hours setting time would increase the chances of it working. The hubby had been out with his mates that evening and had a bit of a shock when he came home to fid me in rollers 'like a fifties housewife' as he put it!I just wetted by hair, towel dried, applied lots of lotion, and rolled it up in a pretty basic set. I did buzz it with the hairdryer on a gentle worm setting a few times to make sure it wasn't overly damp before bed.

The rollers, whilst soft, were a bit weird to sleep in, but I did still get a good night's sleep.

The next morning, I applied some hairspray for good luck then took the rollers out.

My first comment would be that the combination of lotion and sleep in velcro rollers isn't great. Most of the curls rolled out OK, but some got hopelessly tangled, causing me pain taking them out and leaving very little curl after struggling with them. I think this is mainly the fault of the velcro, and could be avoided by doing more traditional pin curls, which I will try next time.

The overall result was pretty nice and curly though. A bit crispy initially, but they softened up with a bit of brushing with a bristle brush:

After brushing

I tried the look out with a few of the hats I'm planning on wearing:

It had turned out to be a pretty damp day - the ultimate test for curls in my hair! So I took some images on my phone through the day (with apologies for the poor phone quality selfies!):

after two hours

All in all I was pretty pleased. By the end of the day, they were unsurprisingly falling out, and I didn't get the several days of curls others manage with setting lotion. But on my hair, for curls to last that long is probably the best I've managed so far!

After about five hours: still a hint of curl left!
However, there are down sides. Most obviously the smell - it's not a great smell, very chemically, and it stays with you. The feel of it on your hair isn't great either. I came to the conclusion it's really good for those occasions when I really need that curly hair, but I wouldn't use it regularly. There are now a range of setting lotions by more expensive brands, and these might be worth trying out just to see if they've found a way round the smell problem!

But, if you have trouble getting a curl, and want an authentic vintage style, it turns out the old school way, using setting lotion, really is the best!

Next, I shall be trying out finger curls using the lotion. These have never worked for me, ever. Wish me luck!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Shop preview: late 1950s Cream Evening Dress

I am about to launch my Etsy shop, VintageSallyBoutique, where I will be selling handmade jewellery and, of course, vintage clothing. In the run up to opening the shop, I will be blogging about a few of my favourite items up for sale, providing some more detail about each item and some of the background to each item. As well as being useful for prospective buyers, blogging about each item gives me the chance to record the details of each piece, which hopefully shall make it easier to let go of each piece! Because it turns out, when you love vintage clothes, it's actually quite hard to let go of the ones that you love, even when you've bought them specifically for sale and they don't even fit yourself!

The first item I want to share with you is a stunning example of an evening dress from the late fifties/early sixties - 'very Mad Men', as people are wont to say these days. It's a beautiful column dress designed to give a lovely, statueque, house glass figure. From the front, it appears quite a simple, elegant dress, a long silouette allowing the focus to stay on the wearers gorgeous hour-glass figure and on the beautiful cream satin embroidered with beige and gold fabric.

The really  striking feature of the dress is it's back, with a dramatic V shaped plunging back that meets with a large square bow at the waist, which then leads into a double train that drops to the floor. The train gives the impression of the tails of an over-exaggerated bow, but in an elegant way! The bow cleverly disguises the zip closure down the centre back. Behind the bottom of the train ends is a slit to allow enough room to walk. However, from wearing it I can say that the skirt is slinky and tight enough that it does put a certain Marilyn wiggle into the way you walk!

Speaking of Marilyn, I've always associated this kind of statuesque column dress with her 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which is one of my all time favourites. Here's a few images of Monroe sporting the style:

However, I think this dress is somewhat later - late fifties to early sixties, and I would place it as such primarily because of the square neckline and the V back and feature train, which are quite distinctive. It really does put the dress smack bang in the middle of that Mad Men transition era from the 1950s to 60's.

1960s McCalls pattern

In terms of construction and condition, the dress appears to be well and solidly made, but there is no sign of a brand label, which suggests that this was originally dressmaker made, as would many evening dresses of this era. The dress is fully lined, and has an interesting way of doing up, just to make sure that you're fully enclosed! On the inside waist is a band which you do up first _ think the purpose of this is to make the dress hug even tighter to your waist. You don't need to have this one done up to wear the dress, it just improves the line and fit. Then the zip goes over the top up the centre back. Then the Bow closes over the top with several poppers, to hide the top of the zip. It makes for a pretty and very finished effect.

The exterior of the garment is in good condition with no visible marks or flaws, but the inside lining does show it's age upon closer inspection, with some light staining on the inside of the bodice and armholes - about what you would expect for a dress of this age that has been worn a few times. The split at the bottom has pulled apart slightly, although this is not visible on the outside. There are also some slight pulls on the satin of the inside lining at the very bottom of the trains.

I think this dress would have originally been intended to be an evening dress rather than a bridal dress, but it would work very well as a chic, stylish wedding dress for a more modern bride looking for something different, or with a Mad Men themed wedding!