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Lulu B's Little Vintage Beauty Parlour

14 May 14 words: Bridie Squires

Unbeknownst to many, there's the sweetest place to get your barnet sorted - fifties style - in the middle of Hopkinson...

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Miss Whitley-Belle and Lulu Brandy

I've been an admirer of Hopkinson for a while now – three storeys of pure, vintage goodness, with an art gallery sitting neatly on top. After getting lost among the trinkets, Tupperware tubs and attic smell for a fair few hours before, I was gleaming to receive an invitation from Lulu B to visit her recently opened beauty parlour, hidden in the depths of the old-school knick-knacks.

I'm not really a heels and highlights kinda gal. I like trainers, pints and doing massive burps. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a ceramic hair-straightener and a face full of foundation, but am very much stuck in my ways when it comes to my grooming routine. Every so often, girls like me break from the confines of our bean-stained joggers, tame the barnet and whack on a frock. Lulu offered up the perfect opportunity to do just that, with a spray of the fifties holding my excitement firmly in place. I was having a particularly bad hair day when my appointment came around, so I ventured down a rainy Station Street to get mesen sorted.

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I stomped up the stairs feeling proper scruffy, like a soggy, panting dog walking into a posh restaurant to shake mud all over everyone. I eased my way through the door, which had a cute “Open” sign hanging from inside the glass, and my apprehension quickly faded as I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes from Miss Whitley-Belle and Lulu herself. We chatted about the upcoming transformation, and I sheepishly admitted my uselessness, putting my potential beauty in both of their hands. Lulu went off to find an outfit and Senior Stylist, Miss Whitley-Belle, wrapped me in a baby pink hairdressing gown to get the ball rolling.

Miss Whitley-Belle's real name is Emma, but she uses a fitting alias while in the parlour. She slotted into the Grease décor perfectly, with her hair taking the form of a tidy bun above a retro outfit, a polka-dot pinny resting on her hips. “I've been hairdressing since I was eighteen,” she told me as she sectioned off chunks of my hair and curled them with expert precision. “I've always loved these kinds of styles, I used to sneak them into my hairdressing course whenever I could.”

Lulu returned with a selection of dresses to choose from, clearly a lady with an eye for the prime. A grafting entrepreneur, Lulu has her hand in a few businesses, but antique jewellery and accessories is where her passion lies. She spoke about the parlour in its “pop-up” form and how it's appeared at various events all over the country – they've even been to a vintage car and motorcycle fair. “A lot of people who come to us can be very shy and after undergoing a makeover, take on a new, animated persona – it's great to see that,” Lulu says, and it's true. As my hair took all kinds of twists and turns, I felt myself moving with it – something about changing your exterior look so drastically can be seriously uplifting.

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As well as solo appointments, maybe for a date or night out, Lulu B's Little Vintage Beauty Parlour also caters to larger groups like hen dos, prom attendees, weddings, baby showers, and even kid's pamper parties. The pair told me about how they host private sessions with decorative cakes and tea served in china cups. It was quite an intimate setting, with just the three of us in the room, and as the old, red record player spun Elvis Presley and Doris Day tracks in the background, I imagined the bustle of ladies with curlers in their hair, flitting around the place, and it all made sense.

“She turned round to me one day and said 'Emma, I've got an idea.' Two weeks later, it was happening,” Miss Whitley-Belle cooed, back-combing the top of my hair. “I had been planning it for a while,” Lulu replied. “You know the 'beauty school drop-out' scene from Grease? That's what I wanted to recreate.” She's done a grand job of it too. The black and white chequered floor sits beneath a row of old, salon hood hair dryers and chairs made from massive Coke bottle tops.

My curly hair was pinned into rings, positioned on one side of my head with a sweeping fringe, and the duo explained that back in the day, what side your hair was tied indicated whether you were romantically involved or seeking partnership. Also, the size of the rings mirrored how much commitment you were after – mine were quite small, but with no nooky proposals as I walked down the street, it seemed that that's a tradition firmly left in the past.

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It was a new and strange experience having someone else do my make-up, but after seeing the results, it's definitely something I could get used to. Miss Whitley-Belle had a look of complete concentration on her face as she drew Cleopatra flicks onto the lids of my eyes and carefully filled in my lips with a bright red lipstick.

After changing into a glamorous red get-up, the finishing touch of a black feather clip was fixed to the side of my bonce and, dare I say it, I felt like a new woman. No longer a wiping-nose-on-sleeve tomboy, I craved a steam grate to giggle on top of and a dance hall filled with rock 'n' rollers and lindy hoppers. Lulu and Miss Whitley-Belle snapped away with their cameras, giving me loads of lovely compliments, and I lapped it all up.

It broke my heart to take out the million hair grips later that evening. The “do” was my favourite aspect of the look, a bed of roses cemented to my head – I kept catching glimpses of myself in the mirror and actually smiling for a change. I'd never really considered getting something like this done before, but after paying a visit, I'll be sure to return for a special occasion cos you don't just get a pretty set of locks at Lulu's, you get the key to your inner Queen.

You can check out the rest of the photos here.

Lulu B's Little Vintage Beauty Parlour will be popping up at Cobden Chambers for Vintage Reclaimed's bi-monthly vintage and antique fair, which starts Saturday 17 May.

The Little Vintage Beauty Parlour on Facebook
Hopkinson website


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