Margaret Vinci Heldt, who became a hairstyling celebrity after she created the famous beehive hairdo in 1960, died Friday at a senior living community in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst at age 98, the AP reports. The beehive became a cultural phenomenon during the 1960s and evolved into a style worn for decades as Hollywood's stars walked red carpets. Heldt created it on the request of a hairstyling magazine that published images of it in February 1960 and called it "the beehive" because of its conical shape. Heldt said the inspiration for the hairstyle came from a little black velvet hat, shaped like a small bump and lined inside with red lace. Heldt went downstairs one night while her family was sleeping, put on music, and started working with hair on a mannequin head to come up with her creation.
Heldt grew up in Chicago and loved hair as a child. She won a beauty school scholarship in high school, but her family couldn't afford to buy her a hair switch—a piece of fabric with long hair attached so students could practice—so she cut her mother's long hair into a short bob and sewed that onto burlap to use in class. She passed the state board exam in 1935 and opened her own salon, Margaret Vinci Coiffures, on Michigan Avenue in 1950. She won the National Coiffure Championship in 1954. The magazine article that originally described the hairdo mentioned it as a "tall wrap-around crown, creating a circular silhouette with high-rise accents." Over the years, it was worn by cultural icons including Amy Winehouse, Audrey Hepburn, and Marge Simpson. "I have lived a charmed life," Heldt told the AP in 2011. "The opportunities opened to me and I said, 'Now it's up to me. I have to make it work.'" (Read more obituary stories.)