It takes a lot of primping to look ’50s-fabulous.
Before each season of Amazon’s "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," stylist Jerry DeCarlo curates a 1,000-page book of photographs that helps serve as inspiration for Midge Maisel’s evolving look.
"One section is usually photos of real people," the series’ Emmy-winning hair department head says. "Another is straight out of modern magazines from the ’50s, then Hollywood stars, children and men’s haircuts."
DeCarlo, who crafted period hairstyles for the series’ first and second seasons, is responsible for Midge’s (Rachel Brosnahan) signature do, a curled "pageboy" reminiscent of styles worn by Marilyn Monroe, Rosemary Clooney, Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy.
Brosnahan — who portrays the housewife-turned-comic lead in the Amy Sherman-Palladino series — shifts between three wigs (which DeCarlo jokes have personalities of their own) to achieve the look that’s coifed to perfection.
"If Midge really went to a beauty shop in 1957 or 1958, she would spend an hour and a half in a salon getting her hair washed, curled and dried," DeCarlo says. A similar process goes on behind the scenes before each day of filming.
Brosnahan spends nearly the same amount of time with her hair and makeup team to become the "Marvelous" Midge. For hair alone, DeCarlo breaks that time frame down to about 30 minutes of wig-cap prep, 15 minutes of last-minute primping during makeup application and 10 minutes of glue and placement.
"I don’t feel complete until I have a wig on, my hair did, lipstick and the corset [on]," Brosnahan says.
Each of her three hairpieces is a lace-front, hand-tied wig, priced at $7,000. When one wig is with Brosnahan, a second is being washed and a third is being set with pin curls.
"The wigs are identical, but they each act a little differently. I’ll say to Rachel, ‘I’ll give you this wig today, it’ll work better in the humidity,’ " he jokes.
Midge’s hairstyle changed slightly season to season, shortening a few inches in season 2. DeCarlo says the shoulder-length hairstyle we meet Midge with is more commonly found in the early 1950s, whereas her above-the-shoulder bob with defined curls brings her later into the decade.
DeCarlo works directly with series costume designer Donna Zakowska and Patricia Regan, the makeup department head, to make sure Midge’s coif matches her day or evening look.
"Jerry and myself usually meet up early on each project and share our knowledge of the beauty industry and popular looks of the period and place in which the script is set," says Regan. "We work closely to always stay true to the authentic look."
Two parts of Midge’s signature style — a red lip and vibrant bonnet — set the tone for the rest of her ensemble. DeCarlo, for example, pins the wigs in a low curl with a flat crown to leave room for any headpiece she may wear, whether it be a headband in the Catskills or felt hat in Manhattan.
"Hairstyles were designed specifically to accommodate hats, even going back years," he says. "It went hand-in-hand. If you look at the ’20s, the hair is very flat to accommodate cloches. In the ’30s, it’s asymmetrical because the hats were on an angle. The ’40s had tight rolls, for military envelope hats. In the ’50s, the crown wasn’t curled."
Regan, keeping her deep makeup colors true to the decade, works with Brosnahan to swap out lip shades to find one that "truly completes each outfit."
Though DeCarlo is not handling season 3, which is set for a Dec. 6 release, he teases a "Maisel" approaching the 1960s may have a bit of a style change.
Tips to recreate Midge’s "Marvelous" look
To primp your own "Marvelous" makeover, follow these tips from DeCarlo and Regan.
In the ’50s, hairstyles were created using pin curls or small curling irons. To reconstruct the look, DeCarlo suggests using contemporary tools like hot rollers, or hot sticks, that are the size of your finger.
The hair has to be shorter than shoulder length and layered. "Don’t set the crown. What I see everyone do is put rollers around the whole head of hair," DeCarlo advises. "The perimeter should be set, the sides set, but the back where the crown is should be completely flat."
When it comes to the makeup, Regan suggests starting with a "classic and true" red, rose or coral lipstick. Your face should be dusted with a translucent powder and touch of light blush. For the eyes, outline your brows lightly, add a thin line of black eyeliner along the upper lash only. "Extend with an upward motion" at the edge of the eye. Finish off with black mascara, but only on the upper lashes.