Sculpted Pompadour and Chignon 1940s hairstyle inspired by film noir classic Mildred Pierce

1940s wave updo hairstyle on woman wearing leopard print jacket

The 1945 classic Mildred Pierce is one of my favorite noir films of all time. And it is a wellspring of inspiration for 1940s sculpted hairstyles.

What is the best way to describe a 1940s hairstyle?

Describing what separates 1940s hair from other decades is both simple with photos to explain, but hard to put into words. A wise person once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” That perfectly encompasses the challenge of describing vintage hair by the decades.

But here I will attempt to give you a little taste of its nuances. The hairstyles during this time period could be described as curly volume. The elements and focal points lifted away from the head in poofs, tubes, mounds and waves. Where as the 1930s hairstyle could be considered close and curly, the transition in styles to the 1940s grew in size.

The hairstyles of Mildred Pierce

Joan Crawford plays the title character and the film’s hair department did some amazing work on her hairstyles and the styles of the rest of the female cast. Here you can see the quintessential 1940s curly poofs of hair and sculpted cylinders and mounds. The shapes are just magnificent.

ann blyth joan crawford mildred pierce hairstyles
Ann Blyth and Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, 1945

Ann Blyth plays the daughter Veda and her hairstyles are just as sculpted and beautiful as Crawford’s are.

Tip: In the book Vintage Hairstyling, I have a hairstyle tutorial called the Veda inspired by the continuous roll hairstyle Ann Blyth is wearing in the image above.

Eve Arden play the sassy friend and business associate and she looks chic throughout the movie. This braided crown and smooth pompadour from the party scene is swoon worthy.

Eve Arden on telephone Zachary Scott Ann Blyth Mildred Pierce movie party scene
Eve Arden, Zachary Scott and Ann Blyth in Mildred Pierce, 1945

You might also like: A 1947 4-Pin-Curl Formula for vintage waves tutorial

In the final fateful night of the movie, Joan Crawford wears these volume, curl shapes again with this low chignon with waved top. And that brings us to the 1940s hair lesson of the day.

Garry Owen and Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, 1945

Drene’s Pompadour and Chignon hairstyle of 1943

For today’s 1940s vintage hair lesson, here is a waved pompadour and simple chignon called “Sophistication” from December 1943 Modern Beauty Shop magazine. It looks much like the hairstyle Crawford wears in the dramatic ending of the movie.

This hairstyle article was part of a series Drene Shampoo created for special advertisements in the magazine every month.

Drene Shampoos Hairstyle advertisement 1940s chignon

Here is a quick break down of how to style the volume chignon part.

  1. Comb the back of your hair straight down and take a strand of hair from both sides at the nape of the neck and tie in a knot in the middle.
  2. Use a bobby pin to help hold this knot.
  3. Tuck the ends under the knot.
  4. Divide the hair sticking out of the bottom into 2 sections. This hair can either be set in stand-up pin curls for a truly vintage hair-do or use a curling iron or hot rollers to achieve the bend in the hair strands for easy manage.
  5. Roll the hair over, to the side, and under to form the continuous bun and pin in place.

Pompadour Style

1940s wave pompadour updo hairstyle on woman wearing leopard print jacket

The wave of the front of the hairstyle is a little trickier. But you can style a more simple version of it using the directions in this video on my YouTube channel.

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  1. Oh my goodness, can’t believe I missed that! Thanks bunches, and can’t wait to see what else you discuss from the film.

    Eve Arden is a scene-stealer in that, too. She sparkles so much at some points one almost (almost!) forgets Joan is still on-screen.

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Welcome to the Bobby Pin Blog! I am Lauren Rennells and as a hairstylist, makeup artist, writer, and generally artistic over-achiever, the Bobby Pin Blog is my outlet for thoughts and research about vintage hair and makeup trends and how to recreate them today. Thank you for stopping by!

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