How to – Vintage hair



For the last 12 months I have in my opinion, been ultra lazy with my hair and style (and I’ve enjoyed it immensely).


I ditched my curling and straightening tongs back in Jan 2012 and went vintage style with bobby pins and strange apparatuses (that I call hair-do prosthetics) to give body, hold curls and complete bold styles…. Super easy and quick to do, hence why I refer to these styles as being lazy – I can’t be bothered spending hours on straightening my horse mane of thick black hair and I’d rather chuck my locks up into a quick and glam look and get out the door to start the day.

This is a very different style post for me. I don’t usually feature myself in my posts cause I feel that’s a little narcissistic. But I keep getting asked how to achieve vintage hairstyles and I decided it would be easier this way. So in this post I hope to pass on a few tricks and tips which may, or may not be new to you.

Be warned this is a Vintage Hair Spoiler Alert. If you’d rather the illusion of perfect vintage beautiful hair styles held up with sass and hairspray – you need to STOP READING NOW.

First tip I want to share is how to make a bumper faux bang ‘prosthetic’ known as a hair rat and how to get that vintage rolled Bettie bang look.

What is a hair rat?

I can tell you what it’s not………

It’s not this – ew

Its also not this – eweewww

A hair rat is a spongy tube that can be made from a variety of materials and it helps you achieve certain vintage hair styles by acting as an insert. If you want vintage hair you need a collection of hair rats among many other magical things.

Making a hair rat.

Hair rats are available for sale on a number of sites on the net. They are available in a variety of colours and sizes, and usually have snaps on the ends so they double as hair donuts/chignon forms. The commercially made hair rats are made of mesh. When it comes to hair rats, you can buy one, or you can make one. Some people make them out of socks, some use their own hair retrieved from their hairbrushes, or you can purchase mesh chignons which are more widely available and make hair rats out of them.

I made one out of two mesh chignon forms brought for a handful of coins (approx $4.99) from Ruby Shoes. You can use one chignon to make a hair rat but it’s not as firm as I like. I prefer the form to be firm so that the hairstyle has more integrity and wont be tempted to move during the day. My instructions are how to make a firm no nonsense hair rat from two chignons – if you prefer the softer, more malleable rat you can get good instructions here at Va-Voom Vintage using only one chignon.


Materials include:

  • two chignon forms matching your hair colour
  • clear nylon thread
  • sewing needle and scissors

To start you want to cut the first Chignon form and then reinforce the stitching down the length of the form before stitching closed one end.


Cut the second chignon form and measure the length you want for the hair rat by holding the two together and checking in the mirror for the shape and look you are trying to achieve. Cut down the second chignon form to size and stitch along the length of this piece and one end closed.


Take the two unstitched ends and match together and stich, trying not to create bumps and lumps in the form. If this is unavoidable just keep stitching around the seam pulling in a little more mesh at a time to smooth out the seam. You’re all done.


Here are some ways to wear a hair rat:

Here is how I use my hair rat in a horse shoe U shaped Bettie Bang style. My fringe is only ‘just’ long enough to wrap around it. If you want to create this style it would be best to have longer bangs than I do…


Click on the picture below to be redirected to a fantastic tutorial from The Cherry Dollface on Youtube on how to create the bumper bang look.

Cherry DollFace

How do I get that perfect bun look?

I also have a chignon form my mum gave me that belonged to my great grandmother. I wear the chignon form all the time to create the perfect bun and teem it with the hat rat, or hair boostias to create different looks. Perfect hair in 5 minutes and it is sure to stay that way all day.

Here is a pic of my great grandmothers hair donut, it’s a little in need of some TLC as it’s been in a dusty draw for the duration of the holidays. yuck. Not sure what it is made of, my mum reckons it’s horse hair…….. It’s great for creating that perfect chignon, or bun.


and…. here is how I wear the hair donut with the hair rat.



If you don’t own a hair donut, you can use a sock with the toes cut off to create this look using the following picture tutorial.

Or if you do own or are thinking of getting a hair donut/chignon form the process is even easier.

Bouffants and Beehives

Now it’s important to note at this point that you can use or do a few different things to achieve the Bouffant, or Beehive look.

For example I own some hair boostias pictured below which can be substituted in these styles by a hair rat. It all depends how big and what shape your going for.

Styles that can be achieved by using a boostia or hair rat.

How I use my hair boostia


Beehive padding

If your going for the late Amy Winehouse huge beehive to rule all beehives look – a rat or boostia is not going to work. You will need a hair pad, aka beehive sausage or beehive rat. I don’t own one of these because I prefer the lesser look. But this is what they look like and they are available to purchase on Ebay.

Simple make up


I have almond shaped eyes so I don’t need to accentuate the slant much to get the swooping vintage wing. But I follow the same rules as the image below.

That’s it, easy peasey.


  1. This is great
    You can also create a chignon with the rectangle hair padding, its a pretty change up for the round bun
    People that are telling you this is cheating don’t know their history very well 🙂 Women used to collect their own hair from their brushes and store it in tissues boxes until they had enough to create hair padding for extra puff and to keep their styles in place since the 20s.
    I say use and do whatever works for you to give you that glamor feel in the everyday 🙂
    Keep sharing the vintage love


    1. Thanks for the read and your comment. I never thought about using a rectangle hair pad, but thinking about it that may be an easier option. Thanks have a great day.


    1. Hi, sorry I think I missed your comment as I noticed I haven’t yet replied.

      So, I think it would be relatively easy to do a french twist using a hairy rat by sweeping all your hair across the back of your head to one side and placing a long rat down the centre back of your head, you’ll then want to take the hair that you’ve brushed to the side and wrap it around the rat fully encasing it and then use bobby pins to hold it in place. Or, if you have medium to long hair, taking the hair all to one side you can hold the rat near the ends of the hair and proceed to roll it up inside the hair until you meet the head close enough to pin the hairstyle in place. Hope this makes sense. 😃. I also found this that you might like on how to do DIY a french twist with a sock on youtube enjoy.


  2. Too funny! I am old enough to remember these fashions. They were great! There are two kinds of people, those who have Thrift as their middle name and everyone else. Thanks for stopping at Artsyberger…


  3. Hi, love your blog. Unfortunately I am old enough to remember REAL vintage hairstyles…….My mother used to do her hair in a curl on the top of her head, basically like a catherine wheel, which she then held down with grips. I remember hairnets going over the top of the bottom half, which would be rolled under and again attached with grips. NOW as for the beehive hairdoos, I regard using padding as cheating. No one I even knew used it. Instead you have to spend ages drying your hair in rollers…then you need to back comb it until your hair stands up completely on its own, it has to really stand up. You then apply hair lacquer, and then you smooth it down to get the desired shape and then cover it is tons of hair lacquer again.. You would only wash your hair once a fortnight by the way, or even longer. The concept of conditioned hair was completely unheard of, although you must remember I was growing up in post war Britain. If you want the complete War time look you need to stain your legs brown with tea and then get a mate to draw a line up the back of your legs, as though you are wearing seamed stockings!
    If anyone wants the complete War time experience they can try a recipe I put up on my blog for artificial sausage rolls using fat less pastry. I must warn you that the Ministries recipe for fat less pastry was highly unpopular as it colled rock solid and it cant be made with white flour, which was banned. If you want to challenge yourself you can also try living for a WEEK on the 1941 ration! You can use home indigenous fruit and veg to pump it up. If nothing else you will be guarenteed to lose weight if you kept if up for more than a few days. If you are cold with no such thing as central heating just put your coat on indoors…simples!


  4. THANK YOU SO GD MUCH!!! I’m cosplaying a character with a big bouff of hair, but just got my own long hair cut, so this is a godsend. NOT ONLY THAT but I have long had a hair-styling inferiority complex over that exact Rita Hayworth photo — got plenty of hair, know how to curl it, it’s even wavy so it does that floopy Marcelle thing at the front but for the life of me I could never get the height! I just figured that people had more hair in the 40s and 50s. SO happy to know how that was done.

    Question — having had my hair cut, I now have this 10 -11 inch hank of hair. (Nobody freak out, it grows like a weed. I did the same thing 5 years ago.) Would you recommend making a rat or a pad from my own hair? Or would that be too heavy, you think? Thanks, and thank you for demystifying these lovely styles! -Deb.


    1. You are sooo welcome! I’m glad you liked the post. With regards to making hair prosthetics, I would suggest to use a sock or something similar and light in weight for the core and then tightly wrap it with your hair so you completely cover it, to get it to stay wrapped you might need to get a little creative with some cotton and needle hand stitching. A rolled up sock would be a perfect core for a rat and maybe a few sholderpads stitched together with some lightweight stuffing would do the trick for the core of a pad.

      If your hair is not quite long enough or thick enough to lock in the style tightly in place, you run the risk of seeing the rat if the style moves. The best thing about using a rat made of your own hair is no one will ever be able to tell the difference.

      Hope that helps. 🙂


      1. It does — I might actually end up brushing it out onto a brush and rolling it off of that so it’s nice and tangled together. I also thought of keeping some of it for a braid as a nice accent. For this costume, though, I’ll be spraying my hair an unsettling shade of red, so I think I’ll stick with something synthetic!

        Thanks again,


    2. I realize that you are probably no longer needing advice on your hair after almost 3 years. My grandmother was one of my favorite people. I would watch her do her hair each day. For years I searched for whatever it was that she laid on her head like a crown and would have all of her hair combed down from the crown of her head. She started in the back. A patch of hair would be tucked and then the ends were put on either side and stuffed down behind the circle around her head. When she got to the front, she made it big so that it was the highest part of her hair- do. About 10 years ago (I am now a grandmother myself),I was reading a romance novel with a1800’s story line. She was talking about her hair rat. Suddenly I knew what my Mamaw had. It was her own hair that may have started as a circle of anything else but as the years went by, more and more of her own hair had been wrapped on it. That was why it was gray just like her hair. On youtube I found “hair padding”. I have been losing so much of my hair in the last 3 years. I am sick and the stress of the disease has taken it’s toll. I have saved all of that hair (It was thick and curly down to my hips.). It is now up to my shoulders and the top is so thin, I am going to need a wig soon. I didn’t cut it. it became thinner and just broke off. The hair padding was very interesting to me. I bought one of the thick hair nets that go under wigs. Actually, 2 came in the box. I have been putting some of my hair in it and when it gets to the width and length I am looking for, I will sew the sides of the net and make it perfect to make a chignon for myself. I never was a vain woman but I am devastated that my hair has fallen out. I have MS that was never diagnosed for 41 years.Just look on youtube and you will find all kinds of ways to make your hair look full again. I have even taken small amounts of the hair from my brushes and placed it under the thin hair in front and comb it over the small amount. Just like someone teasing their hair and then gently combing over it for your style.


  5. Love these neat tips. I have always wanted to know the secret – other than backcombing that is – to getting those bouffant heights. Can’t wait to try some of the hair and makeup tips here.


  6. Before reading your blog I could have honestly said that I would never buy a hair rat….or probably anything pertaining to a rat lol. But, now that I’ve read your blog, I’m ordering a hair rat. I knew there was something behind those old hairstyles and bangs other than hair! Thank you for the information and the help, I’m excited to try this myself 🙂


  7. Ace! I can’t believe it’s not natural hair. All those years I’ve wasted working with my normal hair and everyone else was cheating. Can’t wait to start copying 🙂


  8. Reminded me of my mother’s reminiscing & observations of the various challenges they had faced in their youth in the 30’s & 40’s. She would laugh about how the girls tried to look like Veronica Lake with their hair partially covering their faces.:D


  9. Love this one. Thanks for clarifying the sock bun with the tutorial. I’m hopeless at hair but I will give this one a try!


  10. I love this post! You are hilarious! Thanks for showing us how to take those vintage techniques and use them in everyday, simple do’s, like the sock bun. I am totally inept at doing my hair and completely forgot about the sock technique for a flawless bun! You da best!


  11. I’m loving your blog! I have to say the ugly hairless rat had disgusted but laughing my butt off! Great hair tutorials, I’ve never heard of a beehive rat or a chignon OR a hair donut (guess I’ve been doing it all the hard way)- but I am so grateful for your post and looking forward to trying them:)


  12. Wow, VERY cool! I never really thought about how they did what they did, and now, I never would have thought they would use such cool tricks to get the desired effects!! I wish the picture on how to do a bun without a hair donut was clearer (the one using a sock with the toes cut off), because I’d love to get that effect. I have rather long hair, and my buns never quite come out nicely. There’s a lot that I could do with my hair, but I have never really learned how to do things. But now… I may start looking into it! Thanks!


    1. You’re totally welcome. Here is a sock bun tutorial vid on Youtube that may be more helpful than the visual instruction.

      Thanks for the comment and have a great day!


    1. I love your post! I have to say I haven’t tried finger waves so I can’t comment on that sorry. My hair is very thick and wirey so I would imagine finger waves would be a logistical nightmare to get them to stay in.

      I have a fringe too and yes I agree you unfortunately can’t have it both ways. I am trying to grow my fringe out now so I can use the rat with a little more confidence that it’s not going to fall out.

      Thanks for the comment, can’t wait to see your adventures with finger waves.



  13. Every time I think about making or getting a rat, the annoying voice in my head reminds me of how often I change my hair color. And every time I go to my brush to make a free rat.. I realize I have three years and six hair colors worth of hair in there. (mom would not be proud.) 🙂 but maybe when my bangs get just a little longer I’ll be able to stay committed to a color for long enough to try this stuff out…


  14. Great tutorial, Pepper! Doesn’t help me much, what with short, ‘old lady white’ hair, but you’ve wonderful hair to work with! When I did have longer hair, it was difficult to work with…even a French twist would never stay put without ‘helmetizing’ with lots of spray–UGH! You make it look so simple here…and I’ll bet you gets loads of hits, because I see so many with longer hair who look as if they really don’t know what to do with it, and it just ‘hangs’ there…not a good look, at all!


  15. Very nice 🙂 I have only ever used mine for a mostly perfect neat bun. I like the idea of doing other styles with it. I like vintage and I’m trying to find a new style to do with my hair so thanks for the inspiration :).


    1. I’ve been wearing the vintage style for the last year and now I feel like I need a change. I was pleasantly surprised that I could use the bits and pieces for more contemporary styles. I think I might try a low crown bouffant with messy chignon like the grey and white side portrait above (under bouffants and beehives section). 🙂 good luck with your new style trials!


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