Hair Basics: Creating a Hair Rat

So what's a hair rat?
Well a nutshell, it's a lump of shed hair (collected over the course of a few months or so) used inside of your roll or bang to give you additional volume. Since it is your own hair, it's the perfect color and texture making it hard to spot.  I normally see it used for faux bangs and side rolls. I've used it in both areas and it's enhanced the style a lot!

I know, you still feel weird about putting something referred to as a rat on your head. I know..don't worry, you'll let that go eventually ;)

Isn't the packaging retro? :D

You can easily go to a beauty supply store (or if they don't have them, Sally's does!) and purchase a hair roll (a new age hair rat) but women in the past were resourceful! I was intrigued about this hair secret but it's not really much different from a clip in hair extension, in my humble opinion.  It's pretty simple to make, so simple, a tutorial just wouldn't be necessary.  Take your shed hair, roll it up in a hair net and then sew it so that it doesn't unravel. It should sort of resemble a sausage! The best thing about creating your own is that it, again, blends in perfectly.

Alright, get started on your project! Up next, I'll be showing you how to create a faux bang with your  hair rat. I'll probably use the one I got from Sally's because unfortunately, my homemade one doesn't have the thickness nor length that it should have...ah..that sounds really dirty. Apologies! ;)

~The Retro Natural

Seeing Stripes

I'm pretty sure this is an 70s/80s does 40s dress because it's got elastic and surged seams. Have I mentioned that I absolutely love peplum dresses? I think it's due to the added curves it gives you. There's something about this little skirt that just makes me smile.  I found this at the Long Beach Flea Market..possibly the LBC's best kept secret!

  belt/Goodwill, shoes/Ross, glasses/Forever 21, snood/Meow, Sun kissed skin/Mother Nature!

Happy Friday!
~The Retro Natural

Wash Day!

I don't really enjoy the process of washing clothes by hand but for the things I'd rather not risk messing up, I'll do it and I'll refrain from complaining that my hands hurt from ringing out water.

Exhibit A:

Oh and in case you're wondering, I use an eco-friendly, biodegradable detergent in liquid form for all my clothing, vintage and non vintage.  You can find various eco detergents like Seventh Generation at supermarkets and in bulk at Costco.  Though I sometimes dread it, eventually, I'll have two really cute dresses (plus a full circle skirt!) that  I can wear and show you all verrrry soon!   :)

~ The Retro Natural

Hair Rolls: Adding Volume

I like my rolls as they are but sometimes you just want an extra boost. You've seen the roll in a previous post but I bet you didn't know I had foam tubing within my front roll.  Many everyday women (of all ethnicities - side note: don't trust auto correct, it will put elasticities for ethnicities. ok I'm done!) and even actresses wore various hair pieces way back when - especially when short on time! When I did my Gibson roll tutorial, decided to do one for the voluminous side roll as well.

Take a large section of hair and hold it out to the side prior. Position the foam tube or hair rat in the center.

Roll the tube/rat towards the back of your head, tuck the ends in towards your index fingers and secure with bobby pins. If you need to, you can pull the hair a bit to cover the tube/rat if it's showing. (The back section of hair was just in a bun, excuse the lack of style there!)

Have you been doing more retro hair styles lately? Have you gotten the hang of one or two that you've been wanting to try? I'm oh so curious to know! :)

~The Retro Natural

The Gibson Roll

The Gibson Roll is a type of roll that is done on a large section of hair, typically the back portion of hair. I've seen the Gibson Roll done with a hair rat or it's faux equivalent and with scarves - no surprise I found the video on YouTube.  I don't know where I found this piece of foam but it fit the shape I needed for my experiment and although my hair was a bit fluffy, it worked out nicely.  Just a little side note:  for those of your who aren't familiar with a twist out, it's a popular hair style worn by women with naturally curly hair, more than likely, African American women with natural hair.  Okay, on with our regularly scheduled program ;)

The Gibson Roll is another option you can choose when pinning up the back of your hair.  To start, I positioned the foam tube in the center of my hair and rolled upward, towards the crown of my head until I couldn't roll anymore.

Next, I tuck any loose hairs near my ears over the foam tube before pinning each side with jumbo bobby pins to secure.

That's about it. You have various options for the front so have fun and have at it! This is also a great style to do with if you're in a hurry or if you just prefer something more simplistic.  I hope you enjoy it!

~The Retro Natural

Vintage Style: Skirts

I think my favorite articles of vintage clothing are dresses and skirts. I think it's because of how nicely they fit.  Of course there are modern pieces that are retro inspired that you can also add to your wardrobe. I'm not a snob about what era a garment is from, as long as I like it, anything is game.  I found this red high waisted A-line skirt (maybe 70s/80s but I'm not 100%) at a local thrift shop for about $6.  It was in great condition and it fit like a glove so I grabbed it. I usually got for vintage or retro inspired skirts in 3 styles: pencil skirts, circle skirts, and A-line skirts.   These skirts showed off the waist and skips (excluding circle and A-line skirts witch have open hip measurements).  Here's a visual of each, the photos are from Etsy vintage clothing stores.

pencil skirt, $34
Photo Credit: Glam Star Vintage

Full circle skirt, $48
Photo Credit:  Cats & Crickets Boutique

A-line skirt, $28
Photo Credit: AllGreen

I'll be showing your more of my various skirts in the future, but hopefully this little visual guide can help ya out when you're out looking for a few key pieces! :) 

~The Retro Natural

Mad Menmatizing - Yep, I made that up!

One of my favorite past times is making up words. It's just a fun way to say "Screw you English dictionary powers that be!" I Mad Menmatized myself. It was such a cute and fun process too! Is everything more fun when it's got a retro flair? Mad Menmatize yourself here! :)

You gotta have one for night!

Happy Friday everyone!

~ The Retro Natural

Shrinkage - The Nice Kind!

Shrinkage (noun): the result of one's hair showing half it's length due to drenching your head in water and squeezing out the excess. Very prominent in the African American natural hair community.

I saw a post on Black Girl with Long Hair and could definitely relate to the comments as it pertains to the oh-so-interesting shrinkage factor. I don't wear my hair shrunk down so much because I do love my retro styles but it's a breath of fresh air from time to time - having a lot of hair can get awfully sweaty! My hair in the second photo isn't completely blown out but you get the drift!

Looks can be deceiving, no? If you're a woman with shrinkage, enjoy it! It's great to go from short to long. If you're a gentleman with shrinkage... well cover up already why don't you! ;)

Ta ta for now!

~The Retro Natural

Hair Settings Option #2: Curlformers

Hello, folks!  As promised (albeit a bit late!), I'll be presenting to you, my Curlformers hair setting video.  I use Curlformers from time to time to set my hair.  Normally I prefer to use these when I don't have to sleep on them (i.e.when I have time to sit under the dryer on a nice Saturday morning with tea and a book) but sometimes the only time you have is after work and you're forced to wear them to bed.  Here's a list of women with natural hair putting in the Curlformers in case you're curious.  I used the usual Giovanni leave in conditioner and coconut oil but I think I should have used more coconut oil. I couldn't decide on what to do with my hair after  I took them out and after a bit of rushing, I had some sort of...roll thing on the side..definitely not a victory was a roll all of it's own I suppose.  The back got fluffy/frizzy - my fault though, a bit too much rushing (the previous night) and brushing (the following morning!). This wasn't a 100% successful set but not bad for giving it a go on a weeknight. I sat under my vintage hair dryer for a while and let them in over night..maybe the back pieces weren't 100% dry.   In the end, I was alright with how it came out. :)


~The Retro Natural

Nautical Fashion: Part Two

I left my thumb drive at the office so I couldn't upload my curlformers video. So in the mean time..these are some photos from the birthday party near the Queen Mary at Parker's Lighthouse. There are a few better detailed photos too. I found this dress at the flea market for $10. The purse is from a Goodwill and the shoes are from a local marketplace commonly known as a  "swap meet" for $16. The dress did have a few tiny holes that I patched up fairly well and it wasn't lined so maybe that's why the price was lower than other dresses. I didn't mind though, I like a challenge! Click to view the photos larger. :)

~The Retro Natural

An Ode to Spring

 Sometimes it's just fun to strike a pose!

I like Spring. I like Spring colors.  Sea foam green, peachy orange, sky blue.  They remind me of the movie, Bambi and make me say, "awwwww".  While I was slumming it a bit yesterday, I did wear some cheery Spring colors. My bottom half isn't all that interesting. I just wore jeans and comfy shoes. This eh.."top" is a vintage lingerie piece from Pandora by Chic - yeah, how cheeky! I know some out there probably hate the lingerie as daywear trend that became perhaps a bit too popular a while ago but I'm mildly fond of it...especially when it's warm out.

My hair's pinned in the back as usual and in the front, I've got this reverse roll which is a victory roll that's ...well, reversed! I'll show you how to do one in a more detailed fashion in an upcoming post but before we get to that, I also set my hair last night on Curlformers, a newer invention (I think that's the best term to use) for creating curls without heat.  I haven't worn my hair "out" yet so to speak, I've just used them to get my hair smooth. It takes longer to put the things in but the results are nice! So that's next. See ya then lovies!

~The Retro Natural

My Vintage Earrings Dilemma - Solved!

My earrings look very innocent but they're not. I was a bit more bohemian and hippie-like before with my style (actually, I still look like a hippie every now and again!) and also with my choice of ear adornments (read: slightly stretched lobes) but lately I've wanted the best of both worlds - the ability to wear larger gauge earrings whenever I like but also the ability to wear a simple pair of rhinestone studs. My ears are only at an 8 gauge size, but it took me a while to find size 8 amongst the other sizes that were more easily available. Didn't think it could possibly be done until I stumbled on these little heaven sent earrings!
 photo credit:

I've always told myself, I'm a master Googler (sounds a bit dirty eh?) but it's true, after months of trying to come up with different ways of saying "larger gauge stud earrings" I finally found the perfect pair that allows me to keep my lobes at an 8 gauge size but still wear a nice and simple stud. This is a nice way to They're sold individually so make sure you order two! It's sort of like, professional in the front, party in the back - kind of like mullets? The next pair I get will probably be from Naughty Girl Boutique, these are adorable! :)

I like vintage earrings but I don't really own any because they don't really "fit". I can use older style backings (thanks @LukaLomi) with the large plastic circle on the back (but my lobes may shrink a little over time) or I'm thinking I can purchase larger gauge studs and attach vintage earrings. That should solve my little problem from here on out. I do feel like I may be "messing up" some of the vintage earrings I may come to own in the future but it's better than having none to wear at all!  If you've struggled with choosing larger gauge plugs over vintage earrings, I hope this helps you out! :)

~The Retro Natural

Using Bobby Pins to keep Waves

  Me at ye olde desk at work.

Hello lovies! Just wanted to show you something I do sometimes to keep the wave pattern. I put bobby pins in where the waves dip in to help keep the look alive throughout the day. Do try to hide them if you can, it looks a bit better that way, in my opinion. Sometimes they show, sometimes I do a good job at keeping them more in the background! :)

~The Retro Natural

Me yesterday wearing a retro style shift dress (that some of your may remember from a certain web series that never really made it past episode #1 haha!) that I found ages ago.  It's not vintage but it does has a retro look, it's from Gap but I forget what thrift shop I found it at. It's short (and I no longer do "short garments" with the exception of shorts unless there are tights involved) so I wore it over straight leg jeans and low brown faux suede pumps - apologies on the lack of photos showing such!   This is also a friendly warning: this is what happens if you use too little leave in conditioner and coconut oil...poofy 30s inspired waves! Ah rushing. Haste makes waste but que sera, sera!

~The Retro Natural

One of the Greats: Happy Birthday Herbie!

I listen to 88.1/kjazz on my morning drive to's a great station and I love that they play mellow jazz tunes and more so big band on the weekend mornings! They announced Herbie Hancock's birthday and I thought it'd be nice to highlight some of the great musicians, composers, singers, performers, etc from the past. Plus he's decked out in retro attire here. So, happy birthday Herbie! :)

Looking awfully cool in this very old photo!

All Aboard the Queen Mary - Nautical Fashion

I didn't actually board the Queen Mary but I was nearby (can you see it behind me?) attending a birthday party for my beloved's grandmother. She celebrated her 75 years of being on this planet, a milestone if you ask me! For the party, I went with the side swept 30s inspired style and wore a nautical navy and white pleated dress. I'm not sure of the era of this dress. It has some serged seams which were introduced around the late 60s, it has a hand stitched hemline and it has an elastic waist band  so...perhaps late 60s, or perhaps not. take a guess!  You can't always be 100% sure, but I say, if it fits the bill, who cares? The sweater is Free People but I found it at a Goodwill and didn't pay Free People's price :P

I'll photograph my accessories in detail but I chose D'orsay style satin heels with a bow and rhinestones, a large rhinestone clustered ring (costume jewelry all the way!), rhinestone studs and a simple silver necklace. The belt actually didn't come with the dress, I had it already and while the blues aren't identical, it goes along pretty well.

I saw the kiddie cars and I couldn't resist.

After the party, I visited retro row (finally!) in Long Beach which is a block of vintage much fun to be had, so little time! I did pick up a few things though. Photos forthcoming! woo hoo!

30s Inspired Side Swept Waves

Hello my retro enthusiasts! Remember seeing those Hollywood bombshells in their pretty satin robes with their hair gracefully swept to one side with tons of gorgeous waves? I know I do! Well, I'm back to give you a more detailed tutorial on those oh so glamorous waves that women wore in the 30s. I was so excited after having that "ah ha!" moment with the flexi rods because it was the perfect solution to my desire for waves rather than coils. I can get coils anytime but waves, BIG waves, were another story. Not anymore!  I'll be going to a birthday party for my sweetheart's grandmother tomorrow and I plan to wear this hairstyle with a very simple but very cute navy and white pleated dress.

 See my tutorial below for the glamour shot look. (I would have worn something more siren-ish but it's reallllly cold here near the beach and I needed to dress accordingly! I think I get points for still getting in a skirt with brown tights and faux suede pumps lol)  Maybe I'll play dress up over the weekend ;-D)

Hope you like love it!

~The Retro Natural

Getting the Retro Look: My Makeup Must-Haves

I really like makeup, but I can't say that I go gaga over it and buy the whole store. I definitely could (given copious amounts of money and no daily agenda) but I've weened myself off having a bunch of various eyeshadows, liners, lipsticks, etc. I do really well with a minimal palette of supplies.  Getting a retro look involves a few must-haves: Red lips, defined brows, matte makeup, and black liquid liner. Here are a few products that I always use when prettying up in the mornings.

I've used Bare Minerals for years now and I just recently found out that they carry a matte foundation. I've tried it and I like it more than the old "deep" foundation I used in the past. I don't use concealer, I mix my golden deep matte with an unscented moisturizer and use it where it's needed most (usually the forehead and cheeks) and then put a layer of powder form foundation on top. Works out very nicely!

I will always love my Bravo but in the past few weeks I've been using Razzberry, an unfortunately discontinued color, and I like it well enough.  I plan to try out a color from Urban Decay because that means I can walk in (into my local Sephora, that is) and walk out - instead of ordering online and having to wait. I hate waiting for makeup in the mail!

For my brows, the brow wax is thick enough to stay put for the day but it tends to be a smidge too light so I often use a black eyeliner pencil in addition to the wax to create a darker brown color. 

For that cute cat eye look, you can use whatever black liquid liner you prefer.  I currently have one from E.L.F. that I don't like that much because the marker-like tip gets fuzzy.  I plan to try Arbonne's liquid liner, they specifically state that it has a non fray tip! These are just my more important staple products.

What products do you absolutely need for achieving your retro look?? 

~The Retro Natural

Making Serious Waves

This isn't about surfing, I tried that once. It was scary..probably because I can't swim very well. Anywho..this is about hair, but I bet you knew that! I love deep waves..I wasn't sure how to acheive them at first. I needed something to give me a smooth wave and most rollers give you a smooth coil. I tried putting flexi rods in a different way and ta da, it gave me the perfect look!  Check out the video below on the setting method. 

Once you remove the flexi rod, you're left with a big, wavy, section of hair that you can pin up or leave down. I normally pin it up in a slightly messy fashion...that's just me though. I'll show you what I do after I take down my whole head of flexi rods to get a really glam style in the next post! :)

Til then!

~The Retro Natural

Creating Multiple Rolls

Today, I'm wearing the same style but with 2 additional rolls (and a hat!)  You can really change the look by adding more or sticking to very few.

I used the same products (leave in and coconut oil) and did the usual front section roll and then took a chunk of hair from my right side and separated it into two sections. Following the same steps from the previous post, I created one roll and then another one below it and somewhat towards the back of my head.

So now, you can see 3 rolls and my simple low bun. If you add a hat, you'll complete the look! Rolls done on natural hair won't look like the ones you see when you do a Google search. There are too many coils and each of our strands of hair kinda has a mind of it's own, don't you agree? But not to worry, this is just the nature of naturally kinky, curly hair. Work with it, not against it and you'll be far better off!

Enjoy and see ya soon!

~The Retro Natural

Hair Setting Basics and a Simple Everyday Style

So you've already made the decision to shift from modern to a more retro style and you're thinking, "Where do I start?"

It can be overwhelming to go full out vintage because there were so many different factors to incorporating the looks from the 30s, 40s, 50s, etc.  It can be a bit much to incorporate the hair, makeup, clothing and shoes so for the sake of making it a bit easy, we'll start with the hair and then go to makeup before getting to the style.

I think the most difficult section for African American women with naturally curly hair is of course the hair styling because you do have to set your hair to achieve some of the signature looks from past eras.  For my everyday, basic style, I start with hair that has been set in large braids or plaits with a front section of hair on a flexi rod roller.  This helps stretch and elongate the hair making it much more easy to style.  My hair is super thick so all the bobby pins in the world wouldn't hold it together if I for went the hair setting process! 

 Two large braids (plaits) give me nice big waves!

The products I use to set my hair are products I've used for a long time.  My leave in conditioner of choice is Giovanni Direct Leave In Conditioner and my hair moisturizer is organic virgin coconut oil. I apply the leave in first, then the coconut oil and smooth my hair with a simple plastic bristled brush.  Applying these products leave my hair soft and very bouncy.  You can allow your hair to set overnight or if you're pressed for time, sit under a dryer, you'll get the best results if you leave them in overnight though.  Focus on next say hair that's bouncy and smooth.  If you're starting with freshly washed hair, your hair will be more fluffy the next day.  If you plan to start on 2nd or 3rd day hair, you'll have more smooth and defined hair.

 I usually fold my hair upward towards the top of my head and pin in place.  Then I pull back the side pieces and pin those in place. This is really similar to the Southern Tease by Mane and Chic.  The last step is to create a victory roll with the front section of hair. Use what products you need to so that your hair is smooth with minimal flyaway hairs. I don't mind them that much but if you're meticulous about them, that's okay - you're just passionate! ;)

The way I go about creating a victory roll is to pull the section of hair out to the side and begin wrapping it around my pointer, middle, and ring fingers making sure to roll upward. Keep rolling until you reach your head and use bobby pins to secure it. Be sure to pin inside of the circle where your fingers were so it doesn't look flat - we don't want flat, we want volume! Next is umm...well, that's it! :) Easy right? Okay, maybe not but you do have to practice so hop to it and in the next post we'll be looking at incorporating multiple rolls to give you a different look.

Have fun with it! :)

~The Retro Natural

Greetings but First Things First!

Welcome, my lovies!

I've officially let the world - or at least the YouTube & Twitter world - know about this new blog and I'm really excited. I've got a few pictorials lined up and a video or two as well. Vintage hair is interestingly intricate and very beautiful.  Since I've started wearing my hair in retro styles, I've noticed that I get way more looks from people when I'm out and about. The older people tend to smile at me and I think it's because they acknowledge my hair and style as a visual blast from the past. So it's very sweet and always welcoming and I'm excited about showing the elegance and style I've picked up from my elders! There are a few sites I've found during my little stint of research that showcase photos of people of color from the 20s through the 70s and they're beautiful!

Online, upon the many searches I've done for vintage hair styling guides, photos, tutorials, etc., I've found very few have been designed for African American women or women of color in general (if you know of some let me know!). I haven't found many by us either although there are a few videos that are helpful on YouTube. If you do a search for "vintage hair" on Google, the first page only has one image an African American woman with a retro hairstyle and it's Tyra Banks. While gorgeous, she's got straight hair and on top of that it's probably a lace-front wig.  If you think that doing a search on "African American vintage hair" will get you better results, you'll probably find one black and white photo that shows a retro African American beauty salon (woo hoo! not bad but one photo?). Along with that you'll find some beautiful masks and an African American barbie doll albeit with straight hair. I'm sure you see my dilemma as a gal with naturally kinky curly hair.

So, I said to myself, "Self! Let's start a blog about it!" And me, myself and I did just that.

I hope you enjoy the posts to come!

~The Retro Natural