When you want to create an authentic period hairstyle or makeup for film or television, there are things to consider to ensure you get the designs right. These things will also help you when doing dailies or a last-minute job. If creating a vintage-inspired look for a fashion shoot or fun, then you have more flexibility – modern twists can be added to any vintage style as you like.
- Research the period thoroughly. And don’t just look at stuff on the internet – information on the web can be really misleading or incorrect. In other words, use various sources to get a more rounded and accurate view.
- Some ideas for research include art galleries and museums – look at the sculptures, photos and paintings. There is also original film footage, books, photographs, talking to people who lived during that era, and so on.
- Understand the era you are working on. Look at life as it was and understand things like where people worked, social structures, family life, who and what influenced trends, etc.
- Knowing what life was like during the period and what was available gives you a greater understanding of why people looked the way they did. This, in turn, will help you create period hair and makeup that is more realistic.
Use Reference Pictures
- Makeup and hair is a visual art and using pictures is vital to keeping you on the right track. It also prevents you from getting carried away and adding embellishments that are not authentic.
- Build up a reference library for each different period and people from different backgrounds and classes. For example, an upper-class Edwardian lady, with her lady’s maid on hand, will look very different from a working-class woman who sells flowers or makes matches.
- There are always variations and not everyone adhered to what was fashionable either. For example, older people may keep the styles known to them in their younger years. Also, high fashion was not necessarily worn by the masses, so look at a variety of ordinary people for more every day styles.
Get the Basics Right
- Consider the basic elements of the face and body. For example, did people shave or pluck hair during that era? Take eyebrows for instance – some periods had skinny brows (like the 1920s and 1970s), whereas other eras had big and bushy brows (1980s) and some had no visible plucking going on at all.
- Look at the common illnesses and diseases found during that era.
- What about teeth and nails? This all comes back to knowing the era and how different people lived.
- Look at the makeup trends of the era, as well as what products and colours were available. The application is also important, as some periods slapped it on, and others were far more discreet.
- It starts with having the right hair for the period – consider the cut, the length and the colour of the artist’s hair. Modern cuts can be dressed into a vintage hairstyle but may need a bit of help. For example, hairpieces can be used to be workable for the vintage style required.
- Length and bulk, if needed, can be added to someone’s hair with hairpieces (backfalls, switches, wefts, or clusters) or by adding hair extensions. For instance, you can’t get a big Edwardian hairdo out of a bob! If someone has completely the wrong hair for the period, then a wig may be the most sensible way to go.
- Be careful with obviously dyed hair and highlights, especially when working in a period when hair colours were limited or not noticeably used. This may need to be covered over (for example by using a hat or scarf) or disguised (by using things like a coloured mousse or an SFX palette to neutralise to more natural hair colour).
- Check with costume if the character is wearing a hat, and what clothing they are wearing. No point coming up with a cracking hairstyle if it’s then flattened or hidden under a hat. Or likewise, your hair creation has to be redressed to accommodate headwear or costume.
Use the Right Tools
- To create an authentic period makeup, use the right colours, finish and textures. For example, don’t use makeup with a sheen to create a makeup look from a time when the products used were always matte.
- Likewise, don’t use thick black mascara for a time when mascara was not invented yet.
- Also, create the right shape and heaviness of application that is appropriate for the period. For instance, rouge used in some eras was applied quite heartily to the cheeks, creating a flushed look that we may find over-the-top today.
- To create authentic period hairstyles, you need to use the right equipment and techniques to create the right set. The right set can then be dressed out to create the style.
- You can use traditional methods as well as modern techniques to create vintage hairstyles. Tradition methods include pin curls, barrel rolls, and Marcel irons. Ultimately, it’s about understanding the finished style and knowing how this can be achieved with the right setting methods and tools.
- Remember that a character is potentially filmed and, therefore, seen from all sides. Check the hairstyle (and makeup) from all angles, not just the front.
Read the Script
- Understand each character including, for example, their job, class, or position in society, what they are doing (are they at home, working, or at an event). All these things dictate what someone would have looked like. Consequently, this helps when creating period hair and makeup looks for each character.
- Of course, there can be artistic interpretations for any period and this can depend on how authentic the director wishes the film to look.