We’ve already reviewed the costumes in Bridgerton (2020), the Netflix adaptation of a series of romance novels by author Julia Quinn. However, there was so much to cover we couldn’t get too in depth into the hairstyles, and they are seriously worth getting into! As we said in our initial review, 1. we loved it, 2. we thought the ahistorical artistic tweaks suited the show’s content and themes, and 3. okay, there were a few things that bugged us. The same pretty much applies to the hair, but let’s get into it!
The hairstyles were designed by Marc Elliot Pilcher, who has worked on a number of productions including, as hair stylist, Cranford, The Young Victoria, W.E., a few episodes of Downton Abbey, The Invisible Woman, Finding Altamira, and Mary Queen of Scots, among many others. Adam James Phillips was principle hair stylist; he’s worked as hair stylist on several episodes of Downton Abbey, as well as Up the Women, A Royal Night Out, Florence Foster Jenkins, Victoria & Abdul, and Harlots, also among many others.
Of course, just like the costumes, the designers referenced a Regency aesthetic but then went wild and wacky. Nonetheless, let’s look at hairstyles of 1813ish England, which is when and where the story takes place:
Several key characters in this series are Black. Women of color are often depicted wearing wrapped scarves or turbans, but certainly followed contemporary trends:
Now, let’s move on and compare/explore the hairstyles show in the film!
The Bridgertons’ Hairstyles
What’s Regency about the Bridgerton family’s hairstyles — specifically Daphne and younger sister Eloise?
Daphne in particular does wear updo’s with the hair arranged on the back of the head:
But key to her look were her short, wispy bangs — which I hated aesthetically, but are acceptable for this period, as I explained in my overly long rant about the subject. However, I feel slightly justified in hating them just-cause when I read designer Phillips explain that Daphne’s hair was:
“…based on Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace. If you look at the images for that film, obviously, it was made in the 1950s, even though, again, it was a Regency period film. Initially, it was just a sort of small, straight bang that went all the way across. But then as we progressed, [showrunner] Chris [Van Dusen] wanted it to feel softer rather than a full bang. So that’s why it sort of got split just to sort of sweep out the way to show more of her face. And then in later episodes, we cut more sort of feathery bits just to sort of loosen it up even more, because he wanted to see a progression of the softness of her as we went through—that’s how they came about. Everyone’s talking about the bangs” (Queen Charlotte’s Extravagant Afro in Bridgerton Was Inspired by Who Else but Beyoncé).
What did DRIVE ME CRAZY was Daphne’s half down, half up hairstyles. She frequently pulled the hair around to one side, in one big fat ringlet. The effect is semi-acceptable, although it really should be one or more side ringlets and not the whole bottom half of her head. But whenever she moved, you got this effect:
Now, this got me to thinking about Eloise, who has a whole scene about not looking forward to putting her hair up (with mom at the dressmaker):
I’ve always wondered if there was such a distinct moment in which one’s hair was put “up” (and hems let down) — my vague memory is of reading about such things in mid- to late-19th century novels, but I wasn’t sure about earlier. So I did some hunting and put out a call to Facebook friends, and we came across the following:
- According to the Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History, Victorian girls “wore their hair down as children, then began to pin it up to show their new maturity as young women. Authors Kate Mulvey and Melissa Richards write, ‘Reaching the age when the hair could be put up was a rite of passage in her life, and often there were several interim stages, where a plait would be loosely put up with a ribbon, to signify the coming event'” (citing Kate Mulvey and Melissa Richards, Decades of Beautiy, pg. 18) — but that’s the period after the Regency.
- According to the pop history book What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, which is a super fun read but tends to conflate the Regency and Victorian periods, girls younger than 17 or 18 were “deemed to be ‘in the schoolroom’; at dinners when guests were present she did not speak unless spoken to and then it was only to answer questions yes or no. ‘A girl not out, has always the same sort of dress,’ observes Miss Crawford in Mansfield Park, ‘a close bonnet for instance, looks demure, and never says a word.” She was not to encourage or entertain romantic attentions from the opposite sex. Then, overnight, everything changed: she was suddenly expected to dress and wear her hair in an adult fashion, and she ‘came out,’ which meant that she was formally presented along with a host of other young debutantes to the sovereign in a formal drawing room at St. James” (pg. 52).
- My friend Sarah Walsh remembered that in Northanger Abbey, heroine Catherine is described as, “At fifteen, appearances were mending; she began to curl her hair and long for balls; her complexion improved, her features were softened by plumpness and colour, her eyes gained more animation, and her figure more consequence. Her love of dirt gave way to an inclination for finery, and she grew clean as she grew smart…”
- And there are similar mentions from later periods in Little Women, the Betsy/Tacy/Tib books, and possibly the Little House series, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Anne of Green Gables, and Emily of New Moon (my and friends’ memories are vague).
If you have any sources on this, please post them in the comments, as I’m interested!
The Featheringtons’ Hairstyles
The Featherington family is where things start to get wacky, primarily on Lady Featherington. Many of us commented that her curled bangs looked either Edwardian or rockabilly, but I think that’s more the case in the scenes where she’s undressed, examining her face, with the rest of her hair unstyled. When up, they merge into these fun high styles:
And this is where things get fun, because both designer Pilcher and stylist Phillips have been posting some AMAZING details and making-of images to their instagrams, and I highly recommend checking out both — I’ll be including some of their images throughout this post.
Daughter Penelope is all about the short curls around the face, with an actual side ringlet (not the whole “brushed to one side” thing Daphne does):
And her sisters go for curly updos in general, with some forehead braids that seem like simpler versions of mom’s wackiness:
Marina is only sort of a Featherington — a cousin, but with a totally different aesthetic. According to Pilcher,
“She’s a country girl. She comes from a family that they have money, but we want to sort of reflect that she’s a free spirit. She doesn’t take any mess from anyone.’ So we never set her hair. We would never constrain it or put curls in it” (Queen Charlotte’s Extravagant Afro in Bridgerton Was Inspired by Who Else but Beyoncé).
The Cowpers’ Hairstyles
Semi-villain Cressida and her mother have these CRAZY COOL INTRICATE AF hairstyles. I spent most of the series trying to figure out if they were made of hair, ribbon, pearls, trim, or what! It turns out that they appear to be a mix of all these things and more.
Lady Danbury’s Hairstyles
Lady Danbury is creme de la creme, established, bitchy (but fabulous), and the top of the ton. Her hair tends to be in curled updo’s, with the hair swept out of the face, making her look regal and elegant. She’s also majorly Team Tiara, an element we discussed in our costume review.
The Queen’s Wigs
Of course, we can’t discuss the hair in Bridgerton without talking about the queen’s AMAZING wigs. Now, we’ve been over this before: Queen Charlotte DID move with the times, and in fact the idea of wearing out-of-date hairstyles really only applied to men in this era — look at those crazy hooped Regency court dresses, and you’ll see fashionable hairstyles. And, women didn’t wear full wigs in the eighteenth century without trying to hide that fact (by incorporating their own hair).
Nonetheless, the filmmakers had a reason for all the crazy, over-the-top, out-of-date, ultra artificial, often Black-hair-inspired wigs on the queen. According to hair designer Pilcher,
“I was chatting with Chris Van Dusen, who’s the show runner and we just came up with the idea that because she has nothing to do all day long, she basically waits for her husband to die, and all she does is eat, and play with the dogs, and her ladies in waiting. So we were like she’s obviously someone who has time for a new dress, and a new wig to match everyday. So we sort of formulated her looks from there. I was doing my research at the beginning, and obviously there aren’t many portraits of people of African descent back then, so what I wanted to do is keep that traditional wig silhouette and make a more relevant version for the Queen. That’s when I decided to add locs, braids, and massive afros” (‘Bridgerton’ Hair Designer Marc Pilcher On Queen Charlotte’s Wigs: “I Was Inspired By Beyoncé”).
Unlike many productions, Pilcher said in the same interview,
“Luckily we had a really nice budget of money that we were able to create a variety of wigs for each character. I have the most amazing wig maker over here that I’ve mentored a few years and she made all of these beautiful creations.”
The queen’s wigs generally referenced the styles worn in the 1770s-1780s:
And in general, they were SUCH EYE CANDY:
One particular standout was the GINORMOUS frizzy mid-1780s style wig, which Pilcher says was a Beyoncé reference:
“I was picking through some images and then I saw Beyoncé Knowles in Austin Powers Goldmember and that’s when I thought, ‘That’s what I want.’ I wanted the biggest afro someone had ever seen. That wig in particular was actually four or five wigs all placed together. So we had the wigs for the ringlets and then the we bought afros and then straightened them out and reset them on curls sticks and brushed them through so that we would get the best volume of afro, then sewed them on top of each other just to get that beautiful shape” (‘Bridgerton’ Hair Designer Marc Pilcher On Queen Charlotte’s Wigs: “I Was Inspired By Beyoncé”).
What’s pretty damn amazing is not only how beautiful, intricate, and over the top these wigs were, but Pilcher reports,
“We didn’t manage to do any of those wigs in prep. All those wigs we decided we had to create whilst we were filming. I would design the look and I would say to Hunter who looked after the Queen’s wigs, I would give him my idea. Then he might do a little sketch and we would work through that. Each wig probably took about three or four weeks to do. The larger one, like the one with locs, however, took more time because of the setting process” (‘Bridgerton’ Hair Designer Marc Pilcher On Queen Charlotte’s Wigs: “I Was Inspired By Beyoncé”).
Again, head straight to both hair designer and stylists Instagrams, because they have posted some AMAZING behind-the-scenes making-of images, like these:
What did you think of Bridgerton‘s hairstyles, both wacky and sedate?