What happened to “Formal Hair?”

May 19, 2008

Jenna Bush wedding

The president’s daughter got married. It was an outdoor wedding. OK, so by definition, it is already less formal. Fine. But she is wearing a dress with a train. That’s formal to me.

Do you think her hair looks formal?

Oh, I hear you talking back to me, “I would totally wear this hair to my wedding. I’m not really a formal girl.” Whatever. It is still your wedding day. It is the most dressed up most women will ever be. And there are pictures. Boy howdy are there pictures, and you will look at them for the rest of your life.

Is messy hair really the image you want to remember forever? And do you really not want to look more special on your wedding day than you do in your everyday life?

There are reasons women get “updos.” One of them is the actual art of the hair dressing. Hair that has been dressed can be both a work of art and a feat of architecture. One big reason is that an up style stays put for hours. It will do a better job of withstanding weather than down hair. And let’s not forget that an up style looks more “finished” than a down style.

There is only one time I think that “half up – half down” makes sense. If your hair is down to your waist, it is logical to not try to put it all up. (Unless you are hoping to look taller!)

For the rest of us, we have icons we can turn to to see what is considered timeless, classic and beautiful.

Princess Grace of Monaco wedding

This is the wedding style by which all others are measured. Just say the name Grace Kelly and people instantly imagine beauty, style and glamour.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn is another icon of style and glamour.

“But, Aura, these women were from a different time. I want to look fresh and up to date. ” Fine. Here’s a couple of modern day glamour girls.

Tyra Banks

Sloppy hair, I am afraid, is a symptom of our casual society. We Americans rarely get dressed up the way our parents or grandparents did. People wear shorts to church and jeans to fancy restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong. I love casual. I wear jeans to work and sweats around town on the weekends. But if I were going to the Oscars, you can be damn sure I would dress up to the nines!

This year’s Oscars were the most casual I remember.

I can’t even begin to guess what the hell Cameron and her hairdresser were thinking. This is an adorable hair style for going to the beach, but an abomination for the Oscars (our American Royal Ball.)

cate blanchet

Cate looks like she drove to the Oscars in a convertible and pinned it back on her way down the red carpet. (Maybe she had bobby pins hiding in that necklace.)

People Magazine raved about this hair style. It looks to me like she checked the clock and had five minutes before she had to leave and shoved a clip in the back. Again, it would be adorable anywhere else. It is not formal.

Kristin Chenowith had essentially the same style, but somehow it looks better than Jennifer’s. Must be the jeweled clip.

So, what’s the bottom line here? Are we just so casual a society that we can’t be bothered with getting all dolled up? Is it too much work? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Aura\'s wedding 2003

In case you were wondering if I practice what I preach, this is how I wore my hair for my wedding in 2003.

I am the one in the dress.

And if you want a hairdresser to style your hair messy-casual for your wedding, don’t call me.

Click here for an example of short formal hair.


19 Responses to “What happened to “Formal Hair?””

  1. LMAO!! Touche’, Aura Mae. I will say, though, that Cameron Diaz is a repeat offender of the uber-casual ordinance.

  2. Kjersti Says:

    Oh that photo of your wedding brings back memories of an exciting day!!!! You were Queen for the day. Well, you are a Queen every day, but on that day you had the hair, dress and jewels to prove it to the world 😉

  3. colleen Says:

    I see what you mean about the styles, or lack thereof The only thing I can say is that times are changing. On that note I do have to say that what really blows me away is that these celebrity stylist are making soooo much effen moolah and yet all they can do is put their hair up in a glorified ponytail!It must be nice to get paid to do nothing!Total crap! Im on your side on this one.

  4. Kim Thompson Says:

    After I was in the salon the other day, I wanted to read this. I am totally with you on this one sister!

    However, I do have a question. Spending the bulk of my 20’s (including during my own wedding) I had very short hair. What what you recommend for the short haired gals?

  5. Aura Mae Says:

    @Kim: a little jeweled or flowered clip over one ear can go a long way to “dressing up” short hair. Sometimes there really isn’t a option , but the best haircuts (even short ones)have the ability to be styled a few different ways.

  6. Faith Says:

    Hi Aura,

    Someone I know (who will remain nameless) dyed her brown hair bright red before the wedding. I don’t think this was a good move in general for her look, and right before the wedding means she will remember it for ever. Thoughts on a drastic change right before? We had a backyard “garden” wedding with 15 people in LaConner, so I did my own hair, casually, and I work a less formal dress (no train) While I do agree with you on the formality, I think its more true that the hair should match the dress….no Oscar gowns with icky beach hair!

  7. Aura Mae Says:

    @Faith: I believe it is all about finding the balance and knowing what is appropriate while still incorporating your personal style. If Amy Winehouse gets married in rehab wearing pajamas, she certainly shouldn’t wear a beautiful, tidy chignon.
    As for big changes before your wedding, I say no. no. no.

  8. Becci Says:

    Your blog is absolutely great! I have had many of the same thoughts about how the women who seem to be our role models are looking so sloppy with their hair styles. I am not liking the styles I see for the dressy occasions that are suppose to be special for us…
    Also why don’t I see people wearing the super cute dresses and clothes I’m seeing in the stores? Do they just buy them and let them hang in the closet and just wear their jeans out? Isn’t a Saturday night out to dinner at a sit down restaurant a good enough occasion to look pretty? I guess jeans are safe…
    And their hair! At the higher priced restaurants I’ve gone to I’d expect to see some awesome hair cuts and styles but I don’t. WHY??? I know I try so hard to teach my clients how to fix her hair and then I see them out and about and they look like they got out of bed a few minutes ago. They say comments like “oh I just didn’t want to take the time this morning to fix my hair today”. What’s with that?

    Have a great hair day! Becci
    Oh yes to be clear…I really didn’t like Jenna Bushes hair at all!

  9. Aura Mae Says:

    @Becci: We have become a very casual society here in the US. Getting dressed does seem to be a lot of work. We like how we look when we do and we like the positive feedback we get, but something seems to be holding us back. I am guilty of it myself. I look much cuter when in a dress, but I hesitate to buy and wear more. Maybe part of it is the care required? Pressing pleats or spending money on dry cleaning also seems like a bit more effort than many of us are interested in investing in our wardrobe. The great thing is it makes it super easy for someone who wants to dress up just a little to stand out from the blue-jeaned crowd!

  10. Becci Says:

    I spent this week talking to my clients about this topic…The comments were all on the same line and that was that most feel we as a society have gotten super casual and that they wished they could dress up more. I decided I am going to practice lookin’ nicer when I go out for dinner, go to work and even around the house. So I went to Dress Barn because one of my clients who I think does look great all the time says that’s where she has been shopping with good finds…(I was thinking to myself really?) I found 3 cute dresses and I’m telling you they are casual cute and look really good on me and I barely spent $100.00! No dry cleaning bills later either! Today I wore one of the dresses with some cute but comfortable sandals and I got compliments all day long! Yes it does feel good to get compliments and yes it was a little uncomfortable at the same time. I think this may be one reason we don’t dress up more and that’s the attention we get that we may not be use to. Anyway, one of the younger girls I work with said she liked my dress and asked where I got it. I told her Dress Barn. She says, “don’t they have old lady clothing in there? I said thought so but I found that they had some real cute things.. I said either they have a new buyer or I’m starting to like old lady cloths Jamie replied oh no, that’s not an old lady looking dress at all…she said she would wear it! HA! I guess I was reliever I didn’t look like I was wearing an old lady dress!

    Have a great hair day! Becci

  11. Aura Mae Says:

    @Becci: Yea! I do think that we feel better when we make an effort to look better. Congrats. I am curious to see if you notice bigger tips when you dress “better.”

  12. michelle Says:

    This truly struck a cord with me. I have very fine, thin long hair, and on my wedding day I was unfortunate enough to go to a woman at Gene Juarez who paid no attention to the fact that my hair does not hold curls (no matter how much product is used). My hair looked great for about an hour, and then it was just a half-up half-down sorta wavy mess, which needless to stay was *not* glamorous nor pretty. I wish I would’ve gone to Aura!

  13. Karen Says:

    You are so right on this. I am really into the old hollywood glamour (you’ll know by my website).
    I do hair and up-do’s are an opportunity to get really creative and make something beautiful and original. I love it when showing the finished style and the client is oohing and aaahing over how they look!
    I cannot do a messy style. It goes against my DNA.
    I have Levis. They are good for fitting in and not being noticed, but when I want to look great I wear a dress and I do my hair and make-up. People will comment…but its not a bad thing to get used to!

  14. […] sent me some great shots of some work he did this week. You may have read my previous post What Ever Happened To Formal Hair? One ofe the comments that received was the question “What about short hair?” Well, my […]

  15. Zee Mathews Says:

    This is a great writing Aura Mae. Thank you for taking the time to share with us.

  16. Zee Mathews Says:

    This is a great writing Aura Mae. Thank you for taking the time to share with us.


    Zee Mathews
    The Salon Mangers Academy

  17. Liliana Says:

    I live on the north shore of Lake Michigan, the 90210 of Illinois and here updo’s are considered trashy. The elimination of the glitz and extraneous additions to anything here makes the wearer look that much more classy. I have not been to a wedding around here where the bride has worn a updo in ten years. Even the girls at prom and graduation don’t wear updo’s or over the top dresses. Simple is classy. She is simply portraying herself and not a gaudy updo or a huge sparkly wedding gown, she keeps it classy and simple which makes her look all the more beautiful.

  18. Andrea Says:

    I wore my hair half up/half down for my wedding and looked fabulous and perfect all night. Not everyone loves updos. I think they make you look like you’re trying to relive prom. Me and Jen Aniston…we will always show off our long hair styled down!

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