A Little Chat About Victory Rolls

I recently took over as admin for a Facebook group called Authentic 1930s and 1940s Hairstyling for Ladies. As you know, I am passionate about creating an authentic vintage look with my clothing, makeup, and hair. I’m hoping that this group will serve as a valuable resource for those who are seeking ideas, inspiration, and strategies for creating authentic hairstyles within these eras. If you are interested in joining the group, please click the link below and answer the membership questions to join, we’ll be happy to have you.

Authentic 1930s & 1940s Hairstyling for Ladies

In the group, I posted a question asking which hairstyles or techniques they struggle with and I noticed that a lot of our members (36%) cited victory rolls as the style or technique they had the most trouble with. It didn’t really surprise me as most ladies starting out on their vintage journey see victory rolls as the ultimate vintage hairstyle.

This blog post, while I hope will be helpful for you, is not, in fact, a tutorial on victory rolls. Instead, I want to provide some guidance that will hopefully build a better foundation for you to eventually get to the point that this style becomes easier for you. Or will broaden your horizons on the many other amazing hairstyles of the 1940s.

I’ve had a very frank conversation with several professional vintage hairstylists and they all agree with me that on a scale of 1-10 of difficulty, victory rolls lands at about a seven or eight. Of course, this depends on your general skill level and expertise with doing your own hair in general. But it seems that most people who are just starting out learning about vintage hair are desperate to master this hairstyle first and foremost. The fact that they just can’t get the rolls right, time and time again typically results in disappointment and frustration and in a lot of cases giving up on the whole idea of vintage hairstyling. And this is something that I do not want to see happen.

So, from my own experiences (and recommendations from the aforementioned vintage hairstylists) here are some of my suggestions:

Learning how to properly set your hair in curls is the absolute basic foundation for just about every single authentic vintage hairstyle. Curling the hair whether with a wet or heat set – using foam rollers, pin curls, rag rollers, curling iron or hot rollers – was the essential first step for ladies during the 1930s and 1940s. Once you have mastered your set, you will have a much firmer foundation for doing almost all hairstyles.

Foam/Sponge Roller Pattern

My most recent wet set pattern – 2020

Pin Curl Tutorials

The Primrose Pin Curl Set

The Vintage Vanity Basic Pin Curl Set

I know that it’s difficult to evaluate ourselves, but doing so can be very freeing and gratifying. We weren’t all born with hair that does exactly as we want it to, so we need to learn what our hair needs to give us the best sets and styles. I, for example, have incredibly curly and dry hair, so sleek styles such as the pageboy will always elude me. So if you have thinner hair, maybe you need to learn some teasing techniques or use a hair rat for some volume. If you have curly or dry hair like me, you might need to learn what products work best to hydrate and smooth the hair. Have a real heart to heart talk with your hair and let it “help you help it”.

There are many different hairstyles that resemble the silhouette of victory rolls without actually making the rolls. This was actually how I began my journey when I was 15 or 16. I learned how to twist my hair and use hair combs or bobby pins to secure my hair in a way that gave the same silhouette as victory rolls without the fuss and frustration.

This is the basic silhouette of victory rolls

Examples of styles that mimic the victory roll silhouette without the rolls

I have my own feelings about this style and it’s not one that I wear often as I attribute it too heavily with the pinup fashion that I personally do not care for. I have not found many photos of “regular” women sporting this hairstyle. I’ve mostly seen it on celebrities, pinup models and other women directly related to the war effort who were using the hairstyle for the “V for Victory” ad campaigns. When I have seen victory rolls in authentic photos, they are generally smaller and lay flatter on the head. The very large voluminous rolls are typically a modern pinup interpretation (especially when they are paired with cat-eye/winged eyeliner). I don’t personally find this style representative of an authentic 1940s hairstyle. There are many others that serve this purpose better.

It took me years to fully understand the anatomy of a victory roll. When I was learning how to style my hair, there was no YouTube and certainly no vintage hair tutorials on the internet, and neither was there in the 1940s. So, it all comes down to trial and error. You need patience, determination and time to really get the hang of styling your hair in any vintage style.

I will reiterate the importance of a strong foundation, i.e. a good strong set, for all of your vintage hairstyles. I urge you to practice your sets, figure out what works best for your hair/texture, try different setting lotions, different patterns and see how they change the curl pattern. With a little work establishing your knowledge of the basics you’ll be on your way to broadening your repertoire of hairstyles, including victory rolls, in no time.

And remember, I’m available to answer questions if you have any. You can reach me here, on Instagram or in the Facebook Group.

Love~

Christine

 

 

The Life Cycle of My Wet Set ~ Day Four

 

 

DAY FOUR

As you can see my curls are really starting to fall and some of the volume has flattened. This will probably be the last day that I wear my hair down this week. I have to admit that I had a difficult time figuring out what I wanted to do with my hair today. Sometimes at this point, I would use a few hot rollers on my fringe or do a dry pin curl setting with my curling iron. But I really want to show how my hair evolves throughout the original set.

Today I just sectioned off my fringe and created a front roll, pinned it inside the roll and off to the side. Then I did a small pin curl on the smaller side. I added two small hair flowers to finish off the look. I prefer to do rolls like this on day 3 or 4 hair. As you can see the curl at the end is still pretty stable, but the rest is smooth.

Day 4 - 4 Day 4 - 2 IMG_6368 Day 4 - 5 Day 4 - 1 IMG_6369Day 4 - 3IMG_6373

 

HOW-TO GUIDE

 

CLICK HERE FOR DAY FIVE

The Life Cycle of My Wet Set ~ Day Three

DAY THREE

Today was a very uneventful day, so I just brushed my hair into a more sleek style. As my set wears on, you can start to see how the curl falls a bit, especially in the front of my hair. I pull my hair back into a pony tail when I shower and put my makeup on in the morning and when I wash my face at night. This pulls some of the curl out, but it also smooths my hair, so I’m ok with it.

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CLICK HERE FOR DAY FOUR

The Life Cycle of My Wet Set ~ Day One

I have been wanting to do a series like this for quite some time. Now I can dedicate the time and energy to do a series like this justice. This is quite an undertaking for me as I normally do not take outfit or hair photos every day. But I am excited to share this information with all of you.

I was first inspired to do this post by a wonderful vintage hairstyle group I am in on Facebook. Many questions are asked about how to do specific styles, what products to use, definitions of terminology and how long a wet set might or should last.

So I’ve decided to create The Life Cycle of My Wet Set. Notice that I say MY wet set. My set and styles work for me and my hair. I truly hope that the information I provide can help you out, but please don’t dismay or give up if your set only lasts a few days or the products or techniques I use don’t work well due to a different type or texture of hair. Please note that I am not a hairdresser, I was not trained in styling hair. I am simply an enthusiast of vintage hairstyles. I practice AND FAIL a lot, and hopefully learn from my mistakes. I challenge myself regularly to learn new hairstyles and over the years I’ve really learned a lot about my own hair and style. I know what silhouettes flatter my face, I know the limitations of my hair and what products to use to achieve the different styles I love.

For this series I will only create styles that utilize my basic wet set as the base. I won’t really be using any additional styling tools accept my flat iron occasionally. I have naturally curly hair and sometimes I have to use the flat iron on my fringe to relax the curl that happens after I shower.

DAY ONE

I typically wash and set my hair once a week. The curls I create with this set are the basis of just about ALL of my styles.

Here is my typical wet set pattern and the one I used for this series. Please check out my previous post here for the products I use to set my hair.

Day 1 Wet SetDay 1 Wet Set - 2

I don’t re-curl or re-set the curls at night. I simply brush out my hair each evening with a wide-tooth comb and then figure out what to do the next day.

Here is the finished style. Day one is usually a simple brush out using my Denman brush and I tease the fringe a bit then sculpt it into an “S” curve. I place a small bobby pin to secure the curl and that’s it.

Day 1 - 1 Day 1 - 3 Day 1 - 5 Day 1 - 2 Day 1 - 4

Easy alternatives or additions:

  • Add a hair flower
  • Bring sides up and secure with hair combs
  • Make front fringe into a pin curl

 

CLICK HERE FOR DAY TWO

My Sponge Roller Wet Set

I’ve been asked several times to do hair and makeup tutorials. As I’m not able to do a proper video tutorial as of yet, I thought I’d at least do a photo tutorial of my typical sponge roller wet set. My hair is shoulder length and cut in the traditional middy cut.

My hair is naturally curly. You can see the curl even on my wet hair. For this set I simply used LottaBody Olive Oil setting lotion concentrate mixed with water. I used two different sizes of sponge rollers. For the back I used 1 1/2 inch rollers and for the sides and bangs I used 1 inch rollers.

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I start by sectioning off my hair in 4 sections.

1 – bangs/crown
2 & 3 – sides from end of crown section to behind the ear
4 – the remaining back section

IMG_1812I start with the back section. There will be three rows of rollers. The first row is rolled down, the second is rolled up and pinned with a pin curl clip (explained below) and the third row is rolled down. This sequence will create a nice wave effect. I also use my rat comb to smooth down the top crown then place duckbill pins to hold it down. Since my hair is so curly this will help to create a nice smooth effect from the crown down.

 

imageedit_2_7022628847Since I rolled the hair upwards in the second row I need to secure the plastic portion of the roller in place by using small pin curl pins or bobby pins, otherwise the roller will just flop down – you know gravity 🙂

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Now for the sides and bangs, I roll the hair down in the traditional fashion. However, I don’t like having a crease in my curl which happens when you secure the plastic clip in place.

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To remedy this, after you secure the plastic clip, take the bar and pull it downwards your head.

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Once it’s sitting against your scalp, clip it with a small pin curl pin or bobby pin.IMG_1824 IMG_1825 IMG_1827

I continue with is on the other side and for my bangs. So here’s the finished set on all sides.

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Now I will sit under my bonnet dryer for about an hour on medium heat and then 15 minutes on cool to set. Make sure that your hair is COMPLETELY dry before you take the rollers out. Since LottaBody is a lighter setting lotion I can get away with 1 hour under the dryer. Sometimes I use a combination of a straightening balm and anti-frizz serum which is thicker, then I need about 2 hours to dry. Sometimes I’ll even let it dry naturally and just put a silk scarf on like this.

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This is my typical wet set and I do this once a week. I usually don’t need to re-set or curl my hair for the rest of the week unless I’m doing a very specific style or the humidity has reeked havoc on my hair. At that point I might use my hot roller set or just do a hot pin curl set with curling tongs depending on what style I’m trying to achieve.

A quick bush out to form the curls, throw a flower in and VOILA! 5:14:15
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