Well-Tressed

Somehow, I have gotten to my mid-to-late-twenties without knowing how to properly braid hair. I know it’s not rocket science, I just don’t really know how to do it. I mean, I guess I do, but I’d probably only be able to do it on someone else, and forget about this magical French-braid business. These are the sorts of things that worry me irrationally, like in a what-if-I-have-a-daughter-and-I-don’t-even-know-how-to-braid-her-hair sort of way. Hair braiding being only the tip of the iceberg, I feel somewhat clueless when it comes to coiffure. But just like keeping this blog has made me hone my style preferences, (now if I only had the cash to take advantage…), it has also made me more interested in the “finishing touches” – the elements of personal style that take a look from meh to WHAM, from hm to DAMN. A signature accessory, artfully applied makeup, great hair. Those Mad-Men-era wiggle dresses? Not so cute with a frizzy ponytail.

Washington has undergone cultural, social and sartorial shifts over the past few years, I think hair is just starting to quietly hit its stride. For years in Washington, the hallmark of feminine “stylishness” has been the hairstyle equivalent of the oft-joked-about Ann Taylor look: a smooth, preppy blowout that is professional, reliable, and free from distracting ethnic flourishes. A while back, I contributed photographs and interviews for a street-style-hair feature in Washingtonian’s “Great Hair” issue, and, later, helped weigh in on some salons competing for an award or place on a list. I was astounded and, honestly, annoyed, by the number of salons who sent in photos of their “best” work: all long, blown-out locks that said very little about style or innovation or hair texture. It used to be hard for me to walk into a salon in this town with my naturally wavy hair and not be sent out the door with it ironed straight, with a cut that looked best when forced into such submission.

But I have to say – the times, they are a-changing (even Ann’s getting a makeover). Washington women are getting more interesting about how they dress, and hairstyles are following suit. Hot new salons like Immortal Beloved and Ted Gibson are opening up shop with fashionable opening parties. Yelp.com is holding a Hawt on Yelp promotion from November 2-8 with half off services at salons like Toka and Parlour and The Mandarin Oriental Spa. Salons like one80 and PR at Partners are offering how-to sessions and makeover parties for groups of girlfriends. I found myself in attendance at one of these parties recently, in the capable hands of Jacqui Davis. I’d heard about Jacqui from several different well-coiffed friends, and before you could say hairspray, she was showing us how to perfect the artfully wavy, textured side-swept bun. It was like having your chic older sister – or the woman with perfect hair you see at Starbucks – sit you down and confess the tricks (one included an *actual* rubber band and two bobby pins).

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Call me crazy, but to have a stylist take the time to explain – and then have you do it yourself (minus the braiding…babysteps) – felt nothing short of revolutionary. I have to say too that Lauren, my stylist at Fiddleheads, is also amazing with this sort of approach (she’s painstakingly walked me through the product application/diffusing process many a time).

I’m loving this easy style. There are a few iterations of it I’ve noticed recently, in the form of smooth, forties finger-waves at the Allison Parris (I attended her fall show; she’s now being sold at Hu’s Wear in Georgetown) Spring 2010 presentation…

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Their music was a remix of 40s Andrews Sisters music. Now they had hairdos!

After-a-roll-in-the-hay retro waves at Costello Taliapietra Spring 2010…

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Photos via style.com

Elegant and not-too-done on Scarlet Johnasson at the Tribute to Cinema event…

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Photo from LIFE archives

…and on me at the Corcoran’s Fall Fete on Saturday!
And you know, I did it all by myself. I’m a big kid now….

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Photo courtesy Stephane Janin

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