Edwardian Pin Curls (and bonus hairstyle tutorial✨)
I thought I'd venture into the wonderful world of hairdressing for this one with an Edwardian-era method of curling hair, pin curls. I've made a little video, or if you prefer step-by-step instructions (as I do) you can find them below.
Pin curls are called thus because they are created using hair pins, the strands of hair wrapped around the pin repeatedly to create an almost zig-zag shape. I’ve long been in the business of curling my hair and I’ve tried so many methods over the years; heated rollers, curling wands, bendy rollers, papillote curls and rag curls. I’m surprised it took me as long as it did to find out about this method! It randomly came up on my Pinterest feed (this amazing post which has lots of references and another great tutorial) and it was a lightbulb moment. How had I never heard about this??
It's a super easy method for adding texture to your hair (which my hair needs as it’s dead straight) but it’s easier to brush out than curls and it’s also relatively quick to do.
If you already have hair pins you can skip this bit- but if you don’t have hair pins you can very easily create them yourself out of stuff that you already have around the house (if you’re a hoarding creative like me!).
To make 'pins' to curl your hair around, you will need:
Wire cutters (I have pliers that include wire cutters)
A tape measure
First, cut 9” of wire.
[Optional] Sand down either side of wire so there are no sharp edges- not sure how much damage this could actually do, but it may save your fingers and maybe some unfortunate strands of hair in the long run.
Find the 4.5” mark and bend to make a horseshoe shape.
One hairpin completed! The Edwardian instructions recommend only curling the front of the hair with 8 pins, four on either side. As all of my hair is straight and impossible to work with, however, I curled all around the circumference of my head, so I made slightly more than the recommended amount!
Creating the Curls
(This is probably the only part where watching the video will be more helpful than written instructions)
Separate the front of the hair so you have two puppy dog ears on either side and tie back the rest so it doesn’t get in the way. Take roughly a quarter of one of the front segments and either wet it (if your hair isn’t damp already) or if wet-sets don’t work on your hair (like moi), you can use setting lotion instead.
Once your hair is thoroughly prepped, take one of your pins and start winding the hair back and forth around it. Always start winding away from the face so there aren’t any awkward kinks when you get around to doing your hairstyle.
This is what it should look like in the end- it actually looks pretty cool as is! And I did find a Victorian illustration which indicates that this funky looking plait was actually used to create hairstyles on its own:
That’s something to try for sure!
You can leave the pins in for a few hours until they’re dry, or you could probably sleep in them rather comfortably. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but as someone who’s tried to sleep with curlers in I imagine these would be a breeze comparatively!
Then it’s just a case of removing them, which can be done by straightening the ends of the wire and pulling the hairpin free.
You should be left with a super springy zig-zag curl!
So that’s how to do pin curls, an Edwardian favourite. Keep reading if you want a step-by-step guide to creating my take on the classic Gibson Girl hairstyle!
Bonus: Edwardian Pompadour Tutorial
The ‘pompadour’ hairstyle, also called ‘the Gibson Girl’ after illustrations done by Charles Dana Gibson, is now a style synonymous with the Edwardian era along with s-bend corsets and very large hats. It was also a style adopted by the lovely Miss Lily Elsie, a paragon of Edwardian femininity (and consequently the most photographed woman of the era!). I haven’t made the shape of my pompadour too dramatic, but you can give yourself a larger bouffant if you would like, or conform to our modern sensibilities with a more subtle one.
I must admit, I usually get very frustrated when dressing my hair and this style was no different. My video makes it seem as though I did it in a matter of moments, but in reality once I stopped filming I went back and re-did it for twice as long before taking the final shots. There are plenty of pompadour tutorials out there for people with all sorts of different hair so it may be worth searching for hair that coincides with your own in terms of length and texture for the best advice; this is the same person that I referenced in the pin curls section and I adore this lady’s tutorials, but unfortunately her hair nothing like mine so I have to use them as a starting point rather than a full tutorial!
For your reference, my hair is long, straight as a board and slippery as hell. This hairstyle may work fabulously well with your hair first time, or it may take some time to get right as it did with me, so be prepared to be patient!
It’s also worth noting that I am by no means a hairdresser, so if anyone has any tips or tricks to share they would be greatly appreciated.
This is the final arrangement of all of my pin curls- I ended up doing them all around the base of my skull (I know the top of the head is the crown, is there a name for the bottom?) and tied up the rest of my hair into a small bun. I had roughly 11 in total, four on either side, two at the back and one at the centre front- I thought it might help to remove my centre parting that my hair clings so desperately to. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
Once all of the pins have been removed, fluff the hair out.
Take the front section of hair and pull it up and back. You can add volume by backcombing or adding a hair rat (I will make a tutorial about making hair rats at some point!), then smooth out the hair using a brush or a comb.
To secure the hair you can use all of these methods or a combination: tie the front section to keep it together, then add a comb or pins to keep it in place. I ended up pinning the comb in place so it didn’t slip out!
In all of the other tutorials I read they simply pulled the front and back section together to meet at the top. For whatever reason that didn’t work with my hair, I was left with a gap in volume at either side, so I’m pulling up the sides separately.
Gather a left and right section of hair, then brush them up and pin in place.
This is how the back looks- some pins visible, but we’ll hide them in a moment!
Take the rest of the hair and start twisting upwards, pulling at the bottom of the twist slightly so there’s a little bit of volume. Keep twisting until you form a bun at either the back of the head or slightly higher, depending on the look you want.
Pin in place at regular intervals until the bun feels secure.
The finished Edwardian pompadour hairstyle! The shape doesn’t look all too extreme from the front but from the side you can definitely see the Gibson Girl look I’m going for.
If you do try this out please tag me in any pictures you share (perfectlittleparcel on pretty much everything) or message me, I’d love to see! And let me know a hairstyle you’d like me to cover next!
Until next time,