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Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

A Practical Guide to Decorating Your Natural Hair

From Billie Holiday to Solange, glamorous women have long adorned their curls with flowers, bows, and more.

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Ever since I got the big chop almost a year ago, I always look for cool ways to decorate my natural hair. I've found a whole world of accessories to decorate my teeny weeny Afro — from scarves and flowers to bows and headbands, my gorgeous curls are never boring.

When you add a pop of color, braid in some flowers, cover up with a colorful scarf, or adorn with a cute headband, you’re showing your style, showing yourself, and showing your natural hair some love. You’re also part of a great tradition.

Decorating natural hair has a history in the arts. From musicians like Billie Holiday to artists like Frida Kahlo, many women of color have turned to chic accessories to decorate their cute curls.

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Let’s start with style icon and legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Holiday was the queen of the flower power look. She adorned her famous white gardenia by complete accident at first. Rumors say that Holiday burned her hair with curling tongs before a performance one night and did not want her singed hair to be noticeable. A fellow performer did some quick thinking and remembered there was a flower shop right next door, so she brought a bouquet of white gardenias for Holiday, who then pinned them in her hair. Holiday loved the look so much she was rarely seen without her flowers at any other performances.

You can recreate Holiday’s iconic look with a white gardenia of your own. You can find a real white gardenia and clip it behind your ear with bobby pins like Holiday did, or buy silk flower clips for affordable prices at Etsy or Amazon. The white gardenia look is perfect for weddings, easy to wear, and stunning. You're sure to draw comparisons to the icon — and who doesn't want to be in that company?

A modern-day version of Holiday’s look would be the beautiful Solange Knowles at her wedding to music video director Alan Ferguson, where she donned baby’s breath in her voluminous afro. On the morning of the wedding, Beyoncé placed the baby flowers in her sister’s hair so they would bloom over the course of the day. Their sisterly love had us swooning.

The Knowles women all rocked baby’s breath that day, paying tribute to soul and jazz singer Minnie Riperton. Riperton can be seen displaying her plumage of baby’s breath in the music video for her 1975 song “Lovin’ You.”

You can feel free to just place baby’s breath delicately on your ‘fro, but the most common way to wear it is to braid or twist it into your hair so that it holds in place. You can also buy baby’s breath wreaths here.

The presence of white gardenias or baby’s breath in curly hair is a beautiful sight. It will really make your curls pop and bring attention to your lovely natural hair. Another way to wear flowers with natural hair is colorful flower crowns, which work well with braids, curls, buns, and everything in between. A flower crown is easy to style around and makes a simple but bold statement.

It is quite easy to rock the “queen of flowers” look in your natural hair. Here is how: Go to your local florist or favorite garden (ask first!) and look for flowers that are hearty-looking, both a wide variety and in a texture and scent that you’re drawn to. Use small scissors to cut the flowers, and then make sure to keep them in water in a cool place until you are ready to do your hair. When you are ready, trim the stems down about one inch for small flowers and two inches for bigger ones. Grab some large and small bobby pins.

Your hair should be clean and dry, but the second or third day after a wash is the best time to put flowers in your hair, since your hair will hold them better. Add whatever products you use to put moisture and shine to your hair before you begin.

The beauty of a floral afro is the imperfections, so get a wide-tooth comb to make big sections of your hair; let it be rough around the edges for a more natural look. Start adding flowers when your hair looks how you want it to look. Start with the big flowers first, using bobby pins to secure the stems to your hair. Make sure to pin the stems underneath a layer of your hair so that it does not show through.

Photo: Driely S. for Racked

Continue doing this with the smaller flowers as well; you may not need to pin these at all, as long as the stems are long enough for your curls to grab onto. Kinky, curly hair can hold onto just about anything, so that is what makes the floral afro so ideal. When you have added all your flowers, give your head a quick shake to secure any ones that come loose.

You can also rock a floral mohawk by using a little more product to tightly comb your hair from the temple to the crown of your head first. You should then criss-cross the bobby pins to hold the hair up in place and add flowers and ferns starting from the front and working toward the back.

For longer natural hair, the asymmetrical rolled look with flowers is simply lovely. Begin with a heavy side part, twisting the hair back and adding hair to it as you twist toward the back of the head. Secure the twist behind your ear with criss-crossed bobby pins, doing the twist again on the opposite side of your head to offset the hairstyle. Add flowers wherever you please!

Other cute ways to decorate natural hair are with headbands and bows. These accessories are cheap and can be found relatively anywhere. Pick the ones that suit your personality the most and feature them in your everyday look! The more dramatic the pattern and colors, the better, but if you prefer a more muted, natural look, that works perfectly as well.

Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

A popular trend in the natural hair community is wearing hair wraps and scarves. This not only protects your precious curls, but also adds a touch of style and color to your look as well. The best places to get authentic head wraps are The Wrap Life, Diva Headwraps, Fanm Djanm, and Constant Covering. There are many, many ways to wrap a headscarf, and this video by Finally Fiona demonstrates how. Find your roots and rock a headscarf this winter!

Whether you rock flowers, headbands, bows, barrettes, or scarves, make sure to love your Afro, curls, braids, and natural hair to the fullest. Don't be afraid to show off your true self and express yourself in any way possible!

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