Tuesday Tutorial – Film Noir (1940’s) Style Hair and Makeup

Save the festival-style braids and beachy tousled hair for next summer!  This fall and winter season is all about 1940’s sophistication and glamour.   Here’s how to get the sexy femme fatale look for hair and makeup.


While a french twist or chignon is always a good style for retro 1940s and 50’s inspired fashion, this sexy Veronica Lake style, with its soft and bouncy pin curl waves, is sure to be a head turner.

SPECIAL THANKS to Sarah Hamrick of Regis Salon at the Charleston Town Center for her help with this tutorial.   She is not only one of THE most fashionable and elegant women I know in Charleston, but she is an absolutely fantastic hairdresser and stylist.

To start, you will need:

  • “Day old” hair (no freshly washed tresses, ladies!)
  • 5-6 hair clamps or “claws”
  • 10-20 metal hair clips, depending on the amount of hair you have
  • 1 large “duckbill” clip
  • Fine tooth comb
  • Brush
  • Thermal Setting Lotion or spray gel (if you are not using the iron).
  • Soft Hairspray
  • Optional: curling iron

Note: if you are not using a curling iron, it is best to start with damp, but not sopping wet, hair and let it air dry after your go through this process.

Crack those knuckles!  Time to get started……

Step 1

Make a side part and section off the crown of your hair in a triangular shape off the crown of your head.  Twist up and clamp with a hair



Step 2

Section off the remaining hair into four sections:  two at each side of your head (one section at the top and one below).  Clamp each section with a hair claw.




Step 3

Start with the one of lower sections at the back of your head first.  You may need a little help from your BFF if you aren’t adept at hair curling behind your back (like me!).   Take a small piece of hair at the nape, approximately 1 1/2- 2 inches wide, and spray with setting lotion or gel.  If you are using a curling iron, start mid-shaft and curl under and towards the face.  Hold for a few seconds.  Then, roll the curl towards the face and pin with a metal hair clip.  Position the clip upwards so it catches the full curl.  If you are not using a curling iron, spray with spray gel and form a smallish loop, rolling towards the face.  Repeat this process for all of the hair in the first lower hair quadrant.




Step 4

Then, do the same with the other lower side of your head, keeping in mind that you need to be pinning the curls towards the front of your head.  This means you will be switching directions with your curls.

Step 5

Do the same for the upper sections on each side of your head: section off, spray, curl, and clip.  However, for the upper side sections, you will be directing your curls under.


Step 6

For the front triangle, divide into no more than 3 pieces. Repeat the process of spraying, curling under, and clipping the big loopy curls towards the front. Spray, spray, and spray with hair spray.  Let it dry and cool completely.




Step 7

Comb the crown section out with your fingers. Then make a C-curve at the crown with your fingers to creates a wave at the side of your face.  Secure that wave with a large duckbill.  Spray again.  (Ugh! Maybe I should have put a mask in the list of items you will need for this tutorial.)




Step 7

You may wish to take a little hair from the other side of your face and, using another duckbill or clamp, form an additional wave on this side.


Step 8

Take a break! Whew! Those arms will be tired.  Have a cup of tea, do your nails, read that third installment of the “Hunger Games.”  If you are “hand-rolling” those pin curls, it will take a while for your hair to dry.  You can expedite the process with a hair dryer provided you have a diffuser attached to it so as not to disturb all those curls you so meticulously made.

Step 8

Take out all of the clamps (except the duckbill) and comb out out the curls gently.  Touch up with a curling iron, if need.  Using a brush and soft hairspray, flip-up the ends and adjust the hair to look like this……


Take out the duckbill clamp.  Give a slow, dramatic shake of the hair ala Rita Hayworth in the movie classic “Gilda.”   Voila! You are one smokin’ dame!




If, after reading this, it wears you out just thinking about all this sectioning, spraying, curling and clamping, call Sarah at Regis. :-)




This style of makeup is actually quite easy to do and very sexy while still appearing natural.  However, unlike recent trends favoring the sultry smoky eye, the film noir look focuses on a flawless peaches-and-cream complexion, perfectly plucked eyebrows, and bright ruby lips.

Photographs: left, © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis; right, by Murray Garrett/Getty Images

Photographs: left, © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis; right, by Murray Garrett/Getty Images


Rita Hayworth promotional picture for the movie, "Gilda."

Rita Hayworth promotional picture for the movie, “Gilda.”


Here is what you will need:

  • Matte Foundation (Don’t get anything darker than your skin color.  If you cannot find a perfect match, opt for something slightly paler.)
  • Translucent Powder
  • Concealer
  • Tweezers
  • Eyebrow Pencil that is slightly darker than your eyebrow shade
  • Good mascara. My favorite is Benefit’s “They’re Real.”
  • Liquid eyeliner in charcoal or black
  • Highlighter stick
  • Optional: Fake eyelashes.  Check out Autumn’s tutorial to learn how to apply them.
  • Optional: Eyelash curler (This really makes a difference if you have one).
  • Bright Red Lipstick or lipstain with a blue undertone and matching lip liner.  My favorite for this look is Revlon’s Just Bitten lipstain in Gothic or Revlon’s Colorburst in Red Velvet.  If you use a lip stain, a liner is not necessary.
  • Pale pink or rosy blush, preferably cream.  Pick one that has no shimmer or glitter in it.   A good one I found is ELF’s Pink Lemonade cream blush stick.

Step 1

Tweeze hairs from underneath your eyebrows and particularly focus on defining the arch.  Put a little highlighter right under the outer eyebrow, starting from the arch outward,  and blend well.  This makes your eyes look more “awake.”  Fill in your eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil.  Use an eyebrow brush, if you have one, to ensure that the color is distributed evenly.

Step 2

Apply foundation with a sponge.  Keep the application light.  Use concealer on the eyelids to even out color variations and under the eyes, if needed.

Step 3

Apply very light-colored blush on the high area of the cheek.

Step 4

Apply translucent powder all over your face and eyelids

Step 5

Apply a very thin line of eyeliner only on the upper lids.  If you are not good at precise lining, skip this part.

Step 6

Curl your eyelashes.  Apply two coats of black or dark brown mascara, using the “wiggle” technique, where you start at the very base of the eyelashes and wiggle the mascara wand up to the end of the lash. Apply false eyelashes at the outer corners of your top lid. Click here for Autumn’s tutorial on how to apply them without blinding yourself.

Step 7

Line your lips, slightly exaggerating the top lip by lining just a hair about the outside line and accentuating the cupid’s bow of the lip.  Blot.  Apply lipstick.

Note:  For a nighttime, look use a darker lipstick and make the eyeliner a little heavier and apply a peachy eyeshadow.




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1 Comment

  1. Tracy Herz - September 24, 2013

    We get to do this again? Really? Gonna be watching a lot of Turner classic movies!

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