Sorry you had to go through another bad hair cut. It really is kind of a gamble with curly hair, isn't it? I agree with your idea to keep away from damaging thermal processes. I like L2LMC's idea to take advantage of creative styling and makeup/earrings if you are so inclined.
Can recall styling with wide, cotton headbands after bad cuts. Or some sort of fun, classy looking headband or scarf. Even hats on occasion.
A little more involved idea for elongating your curls is to section your hair (while wet) and execute some finger twist curls. You might "fuse" some of the shorter hair into that long under-layer of your hair that you say looks straggly. Then, you could just let it all dry that way. Once it dries you could even take those dry twists and gently pull them apart into more elongated curls. (A modified "twist out" style.)
I bet you'll figure out something that works for you. I know it's tough, especially at first. Some of us are battle worn from all the bad cuts we've racked up. Sorry you're part of our club but thank God hair grows back, right?