How To: Create A Bohemian Fishtail Braid

The Info—Stylist: Yesenia Guinea of Ketér Salon in Berkeley / Photography: Hart & Sol WestMichelle Govang / Venue: The Box SF / Flowers: Green Snapdragon Floral Design /Dress: Little Borrowed Dress / Jewelry: BrideBlu Vintage + Handmade Jewelry

Our new beauty tutorials are finally here, APW style. Cue the excitement!! Here at APW our fundamental philosophy is that you should feel empowered to do things you want to do for your wedding affordably and easily. There is a whole industry out there yelling at you that, “You better hire a professional to do it, and buy lots of really expensive products to do it, or you’ll screw it all up and regret it.” And we’re trying to counter that cultural noise by quietly saying, “Of course you can do it on your own, with whatever amount of money you have.” So, we’re beyond thrilled that we got to partner with P&G Beauty to bring you a whole variety of tutorials (and APW community models!) over the next month for wedding hair and makeup you can do yourself, using affordable products you can pick up at any drugstore.

We’re starting with the most complicated of the hair tutorials (which is still totally something you can get a friend to do for you), but don’t worry, they’ll get easier from here on out. We took all your hair and makeup questions and requests from a few weeks ago, and are going to try to answer as many of your questions as we can (In fact, P&G Beauty is sponsoring a personalized APW question asking session…. tomorrow… full details coming in a few hours. EEP.) But now, let’s dive in.

I’ve been seeing fishtail braids everywhere of late, from HBO’s Girls, to Pinterest, to walking down the street. So today’s tutorial takes this style and dresses it up for a wedding (or a fancy night out). My stylist was Yesenia, who I love (talented, funny, stylish), and she has the following tips for you:

Create Looser Curls:

Notice how Yesenia isn’t actually curling the hair with the curling iron? For looser curls (and curls without that weird “curling iron” shape to them) you just wrap the hair around the barrel of the curling iron, hold it there for a few seconds, then pull the curling iron out before pinning the curl to your head. Once it’s set and hair-sprayed, the result is really pretty loose waves that look nothing like your old prom pictures.

How To Properly Use Bobby Pins:

You’re actually not supposed to open bobby pins when you put them in your hair. Instead slide them in close to your head (if it hurts for a second, but that means you’re doing it right, whoops). This will prevent them from stretching and falling out later.

Using Affordable Products (Properly):

Yesenia prepped my hair with the smoothing serum and mousse (and frizz cream, because my hair is very thick and somewhat curly). Remember, a little goes a long way with smoothing serum; Yesenia used a dime-sized amount. Also, note that she holds the hairspray away from the style to spray it… but not over spray it. To avoid crunchy prom-like hair, eight inches usually does it.

The products we used to create this look were: Herbal Essences Honey I’m Strong Shampoo and Conditioner and Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Frizz Crème. We also used Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Smoothing Serum and Herbal Essences Set Me Up Stylers Mousse (for body) and Max Hold Hairspray.

And Relax (& Ask Us Questions):

Practice the style in advance with a friend. Modify it however you want. But mostly? Relax. You’ve totally got this.

But while you’ve got us, ask a question. Wonder how to modify the style for your hair, or how a step worked out? General hair questions? We’ll do our best to answer them in the comments, and @PGBeauty is standing by on Twitter to answer any stylist questions you’ve got. Let’s do it, ladies.

Download a PDF of the shopping list for this look here.

**This post was sponsored by P&G Beauty. Thanks P&G for helping make the APW mission possible!**

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  • Catherine

    P.S. Meg, you are the cutest little pregnant lady!!! I know it’s not your thing to gush about pregos… but, I just had to tell you that you are gorgeous!

  • Bella

    I think this is a great tutorial, but it would be good if you explain how to create a french braid as well. I know how to braid in many variations, but there are lots of people who don’t. And, in fact, looking at the ridge on the braid, it doesn’t look like a straight french braid. I think that step needs more explanation, because if I ‘french braided’ that step, it wouldn’t look exactly like that.

    As I said though, great tutorial, looking forward to the rest of the series.

    • One More Sara

      yeah I was wondering how to make that sideways braid. I’ve been seeing it everywhere but I don’t get how it works.

      • Lauren

        It looks like it’s a braid where you only incorporate new hair from the bottom half of the braid, the top half is just a normal braid.

        • Usually the way I side braid (keep in mind that my beauty training consists of singing Beauty School Drop Out while I cry at how fine my hair is) is to incorporate hair from the side/bottom and directly under the braid. So for instance, if I’m braiding down the right side of my head, the section of braid closes to my ears gets hair that’s incorporated by pulling strands in from side of my head. The section of braid furthest from my ears incorporates hair from directly under the braid. That way it anchors the braid to my head (very fine hair!) but also looks like a french braid.

          I hope that . . .made sense.

    • Maddie

      Ah, good catch! That’s actually an inverted french braid, also called a Dutch braid. To create it you take three sections of hair at the top of your head as you would start any braid, then instead of passing the hair OVER each other, you pass it under. As with a regular French braid, you’ll be incorporating new hair into the section that you are passing under as you go.

      That said, I think this particular style would look just as good with a regular french braid! The inverted (or Dutch) braid just makes it pop a little more.

      • One More Sara

        I know how to do the inside out braids (we used to call them dookie braids in middle school because of how they sit on top… hehe) but the one pictured here looks more sideways and twisty. I can see that the hair on the bottom side (closer to Meg’s ear) is going over into the braid, that’s the part that confuses me…

        • Maddie

          Oh you’re right (sorry, this is what I get for trying to pretend I’m not the staff member who has hair shorter than her husband’s).

          You can really use any variation of a french braid for that part of the hair tutorial, but if you want to see how that twist is accomplished, check out this YouTube tutorial (it explains better than words can). Start at about a minute in though, I think the first part is just talking.

          • One More Sara


    • Lynn

      I agree! It pains me to say this, but I’m not really a visual learner–which means that I can’t just look at a picture and get it (we won’t go into the recent conversation I had with my mother about a sewing project. I totally didn’t get it from the picture OR the explanation. However, once she explained it…I felt incredibly stupid for having missed what was happening, but that incredibly stupid feeling is what I get when I see a lot of cool things on the interwebs).

      Pictures and detailed words together help me a lot.

  • “We’re starting with the most complicated of the hair tutorials (which is still totally something you can get a friend to do for you), but don’t worry, they’ll get easier from here on out”

    I’m glad yous said that because I was thinking “wow, this is complicated… it looks great, but normally APW tutorials are simple, like making the ombre runners. Is this ‘simple’ wedding hair to most people?” lol

  • Jes

    Totally used herbal essence hairspray on my wedding hair! My friend Breanne fixed it for me. :-) That hairspray worked like a charm! Hair didn’t move through a bath, a nap, a wedding AND a bbq!

  • Denzi

    This looks awesome. I am lusting after Meg’s blue top badly.

    On the other hand, I love you guys, but that is totally not enough detail (pictorially or word-wise) for me to have a *clue* how to do a fishtail braid. I am still puzzling over how you do a braid with just two sections of hair, and if you only take part of the section at a time, when do you add more parts? Help me out here?

    • marbella

      Fishtail braid: you separate into two sections, then take a small piece of each section over to the other side each time. You will start to see the braid forming.

    • Maddie

      Confession: Sometimes I think maternity clothes are way cuter than non-maternity clothes, and I have a few times I’ve even been tempted to convince myself it’s totally OK to try and pull off maternity-wear. I haven’t gone through with it yet, but I’ve come CLOSE.

      As for the tutorial, we try to show you guys how to put different elements together in our how-to’s, but always assume that you’ll look up the basics if you’re not aware of them already (like when we did our table runners, we assume that if you don’t know how to sew, there are plenty of sewing tutorials out there that will show you technique way better than we can). If you are looking for more information on how to execute the different kinds of braids used in this tutorial (or even alternatives to what we used) I recommend checking out some of these YouTube tutorials (they do a much better job of showing than I can).

      Fishtail Braid
      Twist Braid
      Inverted French Braid

      • Laura M

        Youtube is the way forward for learning how to do hairstyles (for me at least). Fair warning for anyone attempting to do fishtail/herringbone braids on their own hair: you will need arms of steel! I tried it once and then never again, just not worth it for me. And my final braid was totally skewed towards the shoulder I ended up finishing the braid over… so having it deliberately so combined with the French braid is certainly a good idea.

        • meg

          Also, with all of these, we’re assuming that you’re going to have a friend help you with your wedding hair, like I did. Doing your own hair in complicated styles is a WHOLE other skill that takes, well, years to learn.

      • A rumor was spread around my new small town that I’m pregnant. I’ve been told it’s the tops I wear that make me look pregnant. (I just respond that it’s my naturally round belly that makes me look pregnant, except NOT. I just look round-bellied.) Part of me wants to punk people and start walking around like Beyonce did (hands on belly), and part of me freaks out and wants to get rid of all my tops and get new ones. The actual pregnancy tops are sooo cute, though. I always end up in that section at Target, a few items in my basket, before realizing that I’ve drifted.

  • My whole life, I’ve never used a bobby pin properly. Oh, the things you learn!

    • Maddie

      Me neither, lady. Me neither.

  • Ambi

    I am totally going to try a fishtail braid for going out with the girls tonight! Nothing as fancy or complicated as the (beautiful) wedding style you did, but just a simple side fishtail – that will be something new for me!

    Since you encouraged questions/suggestions, here is one: Would you mind mentioning in future tutorials how to modify the products and steps based on different hair types? For example, my hair is VERY thin, fine, straight, and flat. Curls fall right out of my hair. Frizz is not a problem for me. I don’t need smoothing products, and in fact they weigh my hair down. What I generally need, in order make my hair look nice, it additional body, thickness, and heft. So, I have learned that, whenever I get an updo for a wedding or do my own hair for any event, I always load it up with thickening/volumizing products (including dry shampoo or hair powder at the roots), tease it a little bit, and set it in hot rollers before I even attempt to style it. That’s just what works for me. My best friend, on the other hand, has super curly thick hair – I am assuming that she could do this style with her hair in its natural curly state, or would she need to straighten it first?

    There’s no need to answer my specific questions here – as much as I love this style, neither me nor by BFF will have any reason to rock it any time soon – I just bring it up to point out that it would be helpful to give product/styling info for different types of hair – if possible! But, really, that would just be icing on the cake. These tutorials are AWESOME!

    And Meg, you look so pretty. It may be cliche, but the whole boho look really compliments your current pregnancy-happiness-goddess-mother vibe (I’m not trying to white-wash pregnancy and make it seem all glowy and goddessy, but you really look beautiful!).

    • meg

      We can’t really modify each hair style for all hair (each tutorial would be ten miles long), and it’s not really the APW way. Our actual stated approach (we think about this a lot as a staff) is to give you a good overview, with the idea that if you’re interested, you’ll go out and do the research you need to figure it out how to do it your particular way. Until we started making our own, I always HATED How-To tutorials because they were so detailed that I got bored and gave up. I wanted big picture, small picture I could figure out.

      BUT! BUT! What we are doing is having different models in each tutorial, with different hair types. So, we’ll tell you what we did on each model’s hair. That way, if you want, you can apply the tips from the fine, straight haired model to this style and BA-BAM, you’ve got it.

      And thank you, but ha. Pregnancy is absolutely nothing like that for me, but the makeup and hair sure does look good right? So I’ll totally take the complement. I am kind of boho, pregnant or not :)

      • Ambi

        Oh, I totally get that! I specifically thought of it in terms of products, since P&G might want to recommend different products for different hair types – but I COMPLETELY get what you are saying. I’ll watch for product suggestions when y’all feature a model with fine thin straight hair. :)

        • meg

          They are totally coming for ya!

      • Class of 1980

        Yay boho!

        Ever noticed that every time they pronounce boho dead, it only gets stronger than before?

  • Christina

    I love that profile shot. I wish my hair was long enough to do this, I see people wearing all sorts of braids these days.

  • Can I just say that I would LOVE to look like Princess Leia on my wedding day?

    Great tutorial! I, too, have been using bobby pins all wrong.

  • Taylor

    Ok, beyond the gorgeous hair, can we talk for a second about that dress? and the flower crown?! Stunning right? I already have my wedding hair decided so now I need to come up with an occasion to replicate that entire look

  • iammarchelle

    Meg, you so pretty!

    This is gorgeous. I’ve been a-braiding since I started going natural, but getting any good at it has been a slowwww process. So, can I have Yesenia with me every morning to sort me out instead? Yes? ;)

  • Did you start with a belt and take it off? Because if so, bravo.

  • monica

    I’m rocking this braid at work today, I love it!

  • So in a fit of lunacy I attempted this entire hair-do for dinner tonight (minus the flower wreath cuz that’s weird at casual sushi night) and… it came out great! I had to modify it a bit for my hair texture and the fact that I did it alone, but I think I did pretty darn well.

    So thanks. I’m always on the lookout for easy (relatively) hairstyles to change-up my look!

  • Helen

    Love this! I tried it out yesterday (without the flowers, my life isn’t that fancy) and it turned out beautifully. It held up really well through an afternoon of running errands in sweltering heat even though I scaled back a bit on the product.

    For the record, I found the level of instruction to be perfect! I have had long hair most of my life and like to put it up in buns and braids ut nothing super fancy and I’m certainly no hair stylist. I found the pictures clear and the directions pretty easy to follow.

    So thanks! I’ll definitely be adding this style to my daily arsenal!

  • Elizabeth

    I have always wanted to learn to do a fish tail braid but was always intimidated. Your tutorial inspired me to just give it a shot and in 10 minutes at my desk with no mirror I have a braid that looks pretty darn good! Can’t wait to try it this weekend with the wrap around french braid addition. Thank you!!!!!