Devastating breakups are a known catalyst for drastic hair changes. Boyfriend dumped you out of the blue? Get a bob. Girlfriend ghosted you without warning? Bleach it platinum. When you can't change how your relationship ended, at least you can change your hair — it's cathartic. But as Jerry DeCarlo, hair department head for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, explains, that degree of agency wasn't an option for Miriam "Midge" Maisel in 1958.
The period drama, which stars Rachel Brosnahan, starts right as Midge's marriage ends and her new stand-up career begins. The audience might expect that a spirited, smart-mouthed woman like Midge would march over to her salon and demand a brand-new look after discovering her husband, Joel, is carrying on an affair with his secretary — but instead, she presses forward with her signature "funny Betty Crocker" style in tow. Turns out, that had a lot less to do with Midge's personality, and a lot more to do with the time period in which she lives.
DeCarlo, who is a 2019 Emmy nominee for Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-Camera Series, tells Refinery29 that, by the late '50s, almost every woman had a permanent wave. Midge's haircut — the pageboy — is a classic hairstyle of that era, better known as the curled-under style made famous by Hollywood icons like Rosemary Clooney and Grace Kelly. "Back then, you'd keep the same style for basically 10 years or beyond," DeCarlo says — as evidenced by Midge's mother Rose's (Marin Hinkle) hairstyle, which is more reminiscent of the '40s.
DeCarlo says that Midge's hair did change slightly from the first to second season, but only in length, and only by a couple of inches. "There had to be a perkiness to Midge," DeCarlo says. "We shortened the wig from the first couple of episode of the show to make it more perky. She has a perky quality as a character, so we wanted the wig to match."
But, for the most part, dramatic hair changes weren't on the menu for women in the '50s — or even style switch-ups, for that matter. "Women in that time didn't change their hair on a daily basis," DeCarlo says. "They had it washed at a salon, or would do a clean curl set and brush it out at home. [On the show] we keep it pretty much the same." One exception is when Midge's hair appears less bouncy and coiled on purpose, like when she's on vacation in the Catskills.
DeCarlo adds that the time frame between season 1 and 2 isn't as long as it seems: Midge has only been separated from Joel for about a year, so the emotional growth that could trigger a hairstyle change hasn't exactly hit yet. "If she changes her look, it would have to be in season 3," he teases (which, FYI, is in production now, and set to air in December). "By season 2, she's still discovering who and what she is. The dramatic thing about her now is that she looks one way, but sounds another." Still, DeCarlo says, our favorite Jewish comedian from the Upper West Side is evolving — just like the times, as the show's storyline inches closer to the '60s...