Styling hair was big business in the 1950s. Families had more money in the prosperous post-World War II years, and women and girls spent much money and many hours getting permanent waves and setting their hair in rollers to get the curly and wavy styles of the day. For a special occasion such as the prom, hairstyles ranged from everyday looks to fancy up styles.
Short, curly hairstyles were all the rage in the '50s. For prom, young women with short styles set their hair in rollers and pin curls all around their faces and along their neck in the back of their hair. They often parted these styles in severe side parts. They then neatly arranged a halo of curls to frame their faces. For an occasion like a prom, they worked for hours to achieve a style that looked simple and understated, even sleeping in curlers.
Some young women in the '50s wore their hair longer, to their shoulders. Curls were still the look of the day, but girls with longer hair most often opted for loose waves as opposed to tight curls. They based these longer styles on the looks of some of their favourite Hollywood starlets, such as Sophia Loren. To wear their long hair down for prom and still be formal, girls combed their hair neat and straight from a side part to just below their ears. From their ears down they would wrap their hair in many rollers and then comb out the curls a bit to achieve loose waves.
High ponytails came into style in the '50s and were a favourite everyday hairdo for many teenage girls. A simple ponytail was too casual for a formal dance, but girls did wear variations on the look to prom. They pulled their hair up in high ponytails at the crown of their heads and then tucked the end of the ponytail under and pinned it, creating a chic, high bun. Other simple updos for a '50s prom included chignon buns wore low at the base of the neck and simple, vertically rolled French pleats.
As the '50s progressed, hairstyles became more elaborate and updos grew to outrageous heights. Women and girls went more often to the hairdresser, and for a dressy event such as prom, young ladies went to the salon to get their hair teased up into high styles. Bouffants and beehives were trendy updos for proms after 1955; hairdressers teased and sprayed the hair to stand up tall and high and placed small decorations such as ribbons to match a girl's dress at the base of the style.
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