Haute Couture Hair: Hairstyles for The Rise of the Avant Garde

The Rise of The Avant Garde

Significant changes are brewing in the fashion world as we speak. Since the 2010 suicide death of the influential fashion designer Alexander McQueen, the fashion community has witnessed a landslide of his iconic ideas, tidily sweeping away the banal, and replacing it with brilliance. It’s The Rise of The Avant Garde….and it has yielded endless unique and exquisite ways to adorn yourself, coming from the grave of a visionary. I am especially fond of embellishing ‘from the neck up,’ ie.–the head and the face….whether it be with fabulous Face Lace or exotic facial jewelry, dramatic feathered lashes, or my favorite trend, the headwear craze….

Haute Couture Hair

But today we’re going to talk about hair. Your hairdo is critical and can make or break your look, as evidenced in the photos in this article. Here I will show you my top picks for some fabulous “Haute Couture Hair,” as I call it, and advise you on how to achieve it. Enjoy.

Heart shaped updo

Desperately Seeking Drama

The first thing to aspire to, when trying to achieve memorable, haute couture hair, is…..Drama. High-fashion clothing needs to be matched with an equally epic hairstyle, and you’ll definitely want an exaggerated effect….how much depends on just how much chutzpah you have. Consider your event or the activity that you will be doing, and strategize for the clothing ensemble so the look is cohesive. After all, an updo can look very average…..dowdy and matronly, even….or it can stop people dead in their tracks, like the one above, a fanning, heart-shaped display with a dramatic white streak and thick blunt bangs. I adore this do! It is so unique and awe-inspiring….sexy, yes….a sublime confection that will definitely not go unnoticed!

Drama in your hairdo exists through many factors, including texture; length and volume; cut and proportions; the silhouette; and finally, color. It is important to remain realistic and realize that you will never be able to re-create some of these looks–even if you are a talented hairdresser–without the use of fake hair and other materials, so you might need to familiarize yourself with both a wig shop and an art supply. According to expert stylist Edward Tricomi of the prestigious Warren-Tricomi Salon in New York City, an art supply is a great place to score materials for creative hairstyles. “You can find pastel chalk to color the hair and all kinds of other interesting things, like aluminum wire. You can create updos with that,” he explained.

Giant hair bow

The giant hair bow above is a custom piece made with wire and synthetic hair. If we were to see the model’s head from the back, we would probably notice that her own hair was tucked into the center “bellybutton” of the bow, and this bow is a custom hairpiece created by a talented stylist or perruquier, also known as a wigmaker. So if you are dying to recreate this style, set forth to interview a few experts in the field to find out who is capable of creating a giant hair bow like this one, which would be engineered to easily slide on and off a high ponytail/bun with little gripping combs built into the structure of the hairpiece. It would probably also include a drawstring tie to anchor such weight securely on your head. I would make it a little smaller for the real world, but not by much. Keep it oversized. The size is exaggerated for the fashion editorial, but in real life, you would need to scale it down a bit. I think this look is elegant yet edgy, and that stark contrast makes it memorable—this is a true couture coif. And now let’s examine some other styles and discuss.

The Updo


The beehive above is the result of a sleek blowout in the salon, after which the hair would be ironed straight with a flatiron, then anchored on the very top of the crown of the head in a high centered pony….and finally, it is alternately teased and then smoothed until it reaches new heights as a perfectly conical beehive….it’s created almost like the cotton candy you’d get at a carnival. The model is probably wearing a hairpiece for height and structure. The hairpiece is most likely a faux ponytail that was attached at the crown, and then mixed with her own hair to achieve that super high, narrow shape. The beehive was popular in the 1960s, a decade ripe with sexy hairstyles that require a lot of time and patience, and of course a lot of hairspray!!!

lace front hair replacement systems

Here is another updo, a bit more casual than its ancestors. I would imagine that this model is using at least one hairpiece, maybe more, and probably a hair rat or two. You can find hair rats in your specific color on Amazon online. Note the fringy tendrils that were cut to frame the face for this particular look. An experienced stylist would be able to recreate this updo. But you should always book a trial appointment with your stylist to ensure that you will be satisfied with the end product. And for every trial with a hairstylist comes the bill. They are not going to give it to you free. This can really eat up both time and money, but there’s no greater buzzkill than to be entirely prepared for a lovely event or beautiful engagement, just to find out that your hairstylist is a newbie–green cosmetology graduate–or that they simply don’t know what the hell they’re doing, which is often the case. I’m not going to lie to you—finding a talented hairdresser is no easy feat. And when you do find one, you had better treasure that relationship. It was actress Joan Crawford who said, “I think that the most important thing a woman can have–next to talent, of course–is her hairdresser.” Touché, Joan. Touché!

I’m continually shocked by the lack of mastery that lurks in many a salon these days. So please, do your research. The best way to find an amazing hairstylist is by referral—that is, word of mouth….of course, however, you must be listening to the right mouth! So find the savviest fashionista in your circle, or ask a well-heeled woman whose look you admire. You can also do some detective work online and interview your prospective hairstylist prior to the appointment. Ask poignant questions, and it wouldn’t hurt to see a portfolio of their work, if they have one.

It is an empowering feeling to be armed with knowledge, and knowledge is something that no one can strip from you. So challenge yourself and do your homework! It will pay off in the end.

Braided updo

Another useful tip is to check out some books from the library on hair from different eras….For every time in history, there are different looks which reflect the society and its people. I love the hair from the 1960s, it is so sexy and big, and it’s making a comeback.

You can also look at cosmetology industry magazines–hair journals, that is–that focus on all kinds of different styles. Look online by doing a google search, and pick a hairstyle that is completely unique. It might even have step-by-step instructions on how to create the look.

Cute topknot with white eyeshadow

And remember, even if there are instructions, you should still schedule at least one trial before the “big day,” whatever that may be—the wedding, a fundraiser, a gala, New Year’s, a special night out, or your ex-bf’s funeral.  😉

She Bangs

Black bangs

Another haute couture hair element is severe bangs. Bangs often signify youth and are very flattering on many face shapes, but they are extremely high-maintenance and if you have one ounce of natural curl, you are going to regret making the cut.

Blunt blonde bangs

It really is best to work with Mother Nature, because, my darlings, she will always win. To maintain a perfectly straight, thick curtain of bangs like the ones on Cara Delevingne, above, you must have compliant and naturally straight hair.

Blunt blonde geisha cut

This is the biggest mistake that I see women making in their beauty routines: don’t fight Mother Nature. Work with what you have, not against it. Besides, there are plenty of sources for clip-in synthetic bangs, or wigs with bangs, that would supply you with the look you are trying to achieve without the growing pains of a regrettable haircut.

When Short is Chic

 Short but chic

The styles are always changing, and one year short hair my be in and the next year, it may be out. If you are hankering to make the cut, there are still many options for shorter haute couture hair. Remember that for your daily do, you want something that works with your natural texture, not against it…..something more low-maintenance. We all have too much to do in this complicated world than to worry about waging a war on our hair every day. Special occasions are different, but if you are not sure what you want, and are feeling undecided, I strongly urge you not to chop off your hair on a whim, because you will regret it.

Choppy short do

Hair grows at an abysmal rate of a half-inch per month……that’s only six inches in a year! Talk about a long-term commitment. There is nothing more frustrating than those awkward stages of hair growth in between layers or bangs.

Short bob with bangs

The drama in a short cut is usually attributed to its overall silhouette. I love the geometric lines of a Sassoon cut, above, but again, only those with naturally straight, smooth hair need apply. Don’t be fooled by how another woman’s hair may look. You have to work with your characteristics and lifestyle, not hers. So curly girls, this look is not for you. One drop of rain–or five minutes outside in humid air–will cause your curls to kink up and revolt against Vidal Sassoon, who would most certainly roll over in his grave, the poor man.

 Such a Tease

Sexy 1960s hair

Backcombing, or teasing, as it is affectionately called in the industry, is a great way to build volume and create a sexy silhouette like the photos above and below. It’s also a great way to break the hair and destroy the healthy smooth cuticle on your strands. For this reason, I do not recommend teasing your hair every day, or soon you will have very little hair to work with. For an elegant night out, however, I am so fond of these looks.

Braided teased mess

They’re both half-up, half-down hairstyles with a slightly disheveled look that I like to call “Bedroom Hair.” You want it to look like you just took a tumble with someone and almost got caught. A little dirty, yes, but that’s what makes it so drop-dead sexy!!! Live a little!

Orange hair tucked in

The look above is serious haute couture hair…..Notice the way the fashion stylist for this shoot put the model’s hair underneath the garment to peek out. I love this technique because it is very unusual. I’ve actually never seen another woman do it, other than myself. It’s kind of like you’re playing with the clothes and challenging traditional notions of how to dress oneself. I think it’s very creative. You can do this with jewelry in lieu of the fabric—especially if you have a gorgeous large statement necklace. It just looks so cool and unique to tuck the hair beneath the necklace or weave it in between the gems, something like that. Very avant garde.

Heavily teased beehive

And finally, the French twist above gets its own twist when you backcomb it for a bigger end result. I love the look of a French twist, and many women can do them on themselves, so give it a try and practice teasing the hair before you assemble. Check online for tutorials. They’re all over the internet.

Elegantly Wasted

Messy mess

Sometimes, the best solution for a problem is the opposite of what you might have expected. Such is the case with “Elegantly Wasted” hair. The contrast looks so hot, I think. It’s young and hip and modern. Just look at our striking model above. Her messy hair looks great when worn with sooty rockstar eyeliner and a shiny nude lip….pure seduction!

Giant teased mass

I also like “Elegantly Wasted” updos. They look great with couture.

Blonde mess with roses

Add an Accessory

Integrating hair accessories into your coif is a great way to make your style even more dramatic and memorable. I love the bevy of blooms in the “Elegantly Wasted” updo above. Hair accessories don’t have to cost a fortune, either. Synthetic flowers like the ones above are not costly, and neither are chopsticks, below.

Chop sticks and flower

I highly recommend getting a few hair accessories to jazz things up. Chopsticks look great in a simple topknot or back bun, and a flower behind the ear is always fresh and pretty in the summertime.

Pink ribbon

I also love a little ribbon from the fabric store. This type of trim is cheap, cheap, cheap, but as you can see, it looks so sweet and lovely above.

Hair jewelry

Hair gems and jeweled sticks are two more cool accessories that I love playing with, and as you can see, the sticks look downright elegant in a modern geisha updo.

Working With a Hat or Fascinator

Black lace veil

The headwear craze is surging through fashion right now at a feverish pace, and I could not be any more thrilled. I’ve always loved hats, and the new creations, by so many talented milliners, are so creative, wildly imagined, and artistically executed. Headwear always elevates an ensemble to newer, more avant garde heights, but if you are not sure how to wear your headpiece, here are some tips.

Slicked back with leather hat

When wearing a hat or fascinator, you usually cannot go wrong with a simple bun or elegant chignon at the nape of the neck. Sweep the rest of the hair back for a smooth look, and then put on your headpiece.

Slicked with fascinator

As you can see, the hat or headpiece takes center stage and a bad hair day is nullified.

Floral fascinator

You can also perch your headpiece atop a French twist…

Red mink fascinator

…or wear it rakishly on one side with a high pony!

Christian lacroix 2

I love to see creativity in dressing. It makes the ultimate imago more memorable, so try integrating the hair with the headpiece, as shown above on the catwalk at Christian Lacroix.

Christian lacroix

And remember that you can combine elements for a really beautiful outcome. Wear a long synthetic ponytail with some ribbon or a flower, or both! Hair accessories integrate faux hair with your own hair seamlessly and make the partnership even more believable.


Keeping Track of Trends

Long loose braid

Keeping track of trends insures that your hairstyle will look cool and current and cutting-edge. Fashion is forever changing. And if 2014 was the year of the braid, above, then 2015 is primed to promote the pony!!!

All ponytails

The runways at Fashion Week were positively permeated with the popular pony!!! Above, from left to right, the pony appeared, in different incarnations, at: Monique L’huillier, Herve Leger, Fendi, Carmen Marc Valvo, and Chanel!

The pony popped up at both Dior and Carolina Herrera as well. At Dior it was a sultry rendition by stylist Guido Palau, and at Herrera, Orlando Pita styled the pony low and sleek and wrapped with silver leather!!!

The Power of the Pony

Formal ponytail

I positively adore the look of a ponytail with couture. You’re challenging conventions and redefining elegance. Rules are meant to be broken. Trust me, life is way more interesting that way. So the next time you contemplate your hairstyle for an haute couture moment, consider a high pony like the one above. You can buy the synthetic ponytail at wig shops on the cheap, so they are an attractive option for Haute Couture Hair on a budget. In addition, they are easy-peezy to put in, and instantly transform hair from drab to drama! I like to use my own hair to wrap around the base of the ponytail for a similar effect to what we saw at Dior.


Chic pony

The color or colors of your coif will definitely factor into the final look. Bright colors and unusual colors are widely accepted nowadays, and I must admit, I think I have a crush on cherry red, above. If you can find a synthetic pony like the one above, there’s no need to even damage your own hair in the curious quest for color.

Pink knots

Do you see how the bright colors above work with couture? I think it looks unique and fabulous, but experiment and find your signature style.

Cruella 3

Personallly, I’m slightly obsessed with the notion of opposites, and I’m digging this photo editorial above, sourced by my fashionable friend Lexee of Lexee Couture. The model is a witty nod to Cruella Deville. Love it. I’d like to try this in reverse: my black hair with a single, brilliant white skunk stripe! Talk about drama!!!


If All Else Fails….


Slicked with chopsticks

If you’ve run out of money, time, or options, or if the hairdresser screws it up, simply slick your hair back in a tight bun, puncture it with a pair of chopsticks, and call it a day……a Bad Hair Day. See you around. xxx


  • Jane Richardson Mack

    Darling Shannon it’s been too long, would you please contact me.? It’s SFShowcase time want to get you there for press day & most of all catch up & have a pow wow! My hair is quite long now, this post SO inspiring, let’s play,,! Xxxxxx J

  • lynette Pater

    Shannon you are such a gifted writer…such a joy to read
    Absolutely hits the spot
    Love You Lynette XX

  • Lorraine Cotter

    Love the creativity and new ideas…

    I have shaved my head, so I’m looking at options to implement when the whim takes me. Headpieces in particular… Love them, always have, but using them in a unique manner and just doing it, is a dream and achievement, always creates attention that Spurs others to do the same…most done have the confidence.

    I love my bald head – its a good one….so much freedom, expression that makes me…..


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Translate »