Actual conversation that recently occurred in the O magazine beauty department:
Jenny: "For the adventures story, why don't we try the Braid Bar at the John Barrett Salon? You can choose from a menu of braided styles, and they'll do it right on the spot!"
Alessandra (tossing her long, lustrous black hair): "I'll try it!"
Val (tugging on a particularly short strand of her medium-length layered cut): "Ale's no challenge; let's see what they can do for me. Mwahahahaha!"
I took my sinister self over to the salon, where Kayley Pak, my stylist, seemed completely undaunted by my hair's length and layers. After trying a few cornrows at my suggestion (and then—at my more urgent suggestion—removing them), Kayley teased the hair at the crown of my head, pulled it back, along with the hair on the sides, and began weaving a loose French braid, layers and all. She worked so quickly and expertly that she fashioned the complicated-looking confection you see (in the photo at left) in ten minutes (using about 30 bobby pins). Admiring her creation in a hand mirror, I felt very Downton Abbey: I assumed my most regal posture, accompanied (I thought) by an aristocratic grace born entirely of my high-class hairdo.
Sadly, I soon discovered the Downton Abbey effect worked only from behind. The moment I caught a glimpse of myself from the side, the braid magic stopped. My complexion had not assumed the milky glow of a woman whose face had profited from a lifetime of parasols, nor had my expression the cool authority of wealth. But wearing the braid did inspire an abundance of lovely compliments—enriching enough, in its way. ($45; johnbarrett.com) —Valerie Monroe