Updo Hairstyles of the '40s

Updated April 17, 2017

During the first half of the 1940s, World War II was being fought by U.S. troops overseas while women remained in the states working and rationing goods. As a way to escape day-to-day life, many women idolised movie stars, such as Joan Crawford, and sought to emulate their styles. A popular, cost-effective way to mimic star style was to recreate hairdos. In the 1940s many up-dos were in fashion, including the chignon, the pompadour and victory rolls.


Like today's chignon, the classic chignon of the 1940s consisted of a knotted bun worn at the nape of the neck. The look could only be completed with shoulder-length to long hair since the wearer would need to be able to pull her hair back to form a bun. To recreate the '40s chignon, pull your hair back into a low ponytail, secure it with an elastic band, then twist your ponytail into a bun and secure it with a second hair band. The chignon gives its wearer a refined, elegant look that can be styled with a flower or jewelled barrette and worn as an up-do to a formal event.

Victory Rolls

To celebrate the end of World War II and the United States' success in combat, women donned "victory rolls" as a way to make a fashion statement. Creating one's victory rolls was an elaborate process that had to be partially done before the wearer went to bed. Before bedtime, the woman secured twirled sections of hair to her head with hair clips. The next morning, the wearer left the curls pinned in place but brushed up the sides of her hair to give the curled up-do body. The elegant look was popular with women celebrating the return of their soldiers from overseas.


Pompadours were a popular up-do style in the 1940s, but the name "pompadour" was actually taken from 18th century noblewoman Jean Antoinette Poisson, who was known as the Marquise de Pompadour. Stars like Joan Crawford and the Andrews Sisters wore pompadours, which many women copied. The pompadour consists of an elaborate arrangement of curls and waves on one's head, with the hair above the forehead combed high up and back, creating a poof in the front.

Side Bun

Side buns, a variation of the chignon, were a fashionable up-do hairstyle option in the 1940s for woman. To create a 1940s side bun, pull your hair back and to one side, securing it in a low ponytail just behind your ear. Twist your ponytail into a bun and secure it with a second elastic. The side bun should be visible when you look straight into a mirror. If you are unable to see it in your reflection without turning your head, start over and make sure to secure it farther over on your desired side. Once you've achieved placement, spritz the bun with hairspray to set the look. Adorn your side bun with barrettes, jewelled clips or a flower for a more formal style.

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About the Author

Crystal Vogt has been an editor and freelance writer since 2005 and has had her work mentioned on MediaBistro, Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money, among other outlets. She received her M.S. in journalism from Boston University and holds a B.A. in English from UC Santa Barbara.