How Contemporary Hairstyles Affect Historical Costume Movies: The 1920s

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There are lots of movies that aim for a historical aesthetic when it comes to hairstyles and others where it’s a mishmash. But it seems to me that when historical costume movie/TV series hairstyles vary from what WOULD be historically accurate, it’s due to current-to-filming perceptions about hair. So, working decade-by-decade, let’s look at some of these not-so-accurate films/TV series and compare the hair to what’s going on at the time of filming, and see if I’m right! See my post about the 1910s to find out about historical hairstyles in the movie industry’s first decade.

Today, it’s all about the 1920s. Movies transitioned from silent film into talkies, all the hot girls bobbed their hair, and historical movies continued to be big at the box office … and color me shocked, but there are actually some semi-decent historical hairstyles in these films!

 

Fashionable Hairstyles of the 1920s

Women’s Hairstyles

The 1920s was all about change, change, change — at least it seemed that way to the people who were living then. Women’s hair underwent a radical transition — from long hair worn in various updos for centuries (okay, a very few women cropped their hair in the 1790s, but we’re talking .05%), women chopped off their hair into that radical statement of modernity: the bob! Of course, nothing is quite as radical as it might seem on first glance, so let’s look at how this developed and then changed.

In the very first years of the 1920s, popular women’s hairstyles were similar to those of the late 1910s — long hair worn up on the back of the head or nape of the neck, with the hair somewhat loose around the face.

The bob — a short, chin-length cut, frequently with bangs — was actually introduced by a few fashion-forward people (like dancer Irene Castle) in the mid-1910s. It wasn’t until about 1920 that the style truly became fashionable. It was primarily younger (high school and college) or fashionable women who bobbed their hair … and there were many variations on the style:

American Hairdress, 1924

American Hairdresser, 1924

Here are two compilations that show the variety of different female hairstyles across the decade. Notice how a few women still wear their hair long, although it is arranged in such a way that it falls on the face in mimicry of the bob. Also note how some of the hair is sleek and flat, others are waved in the typical-of-the-era side-to-side wave, and others are fluffy and curly. In general, most bobbed styles end between the bottoms of the ears down to the chin. Most women went for side parts, and asymmetrical styles were fashionable.

1920s hairstyles

Notice in particular the number of women who have their hair in a fingerwave or Marcel wave, the so-typical-of-the-1920s side to side wave (look below at second row left if you’re confused, then look at how many other women have a similar wave). Also note how many have hair that hangs into their face — we’ll see that a lot when we look at the various films below.1920s hairstyles

Men’s Hairstyles

Men’s hair in the 1920s was almost always short and combed away from the face. Rudolph Valentino popularized the slick look, but not everyone followed suit. Hair could have a center, side, or no part.

 

Historical Movie Hairstyles of the 1920s

Now let’s compare some of the hairstyles shown in historical films with what the character SHOULD have looked like. There were actually a lot of historically-set movies in this decade.

 

Medieval Films of the 1920s

Robin Hood (1922) is set during the reign of English King Richard the Lionheart, which means late 1180s-90s. Now, I am no expert on hairstyles this early, and it was hard to track down many images that were 1) from these specific decades AND 2) English. What I was able to find for women is notable for the veils covering (totally or partially) the women’s hair. One woman is shown with her hair down, unstyled, and uncovered … but of course this is a religious image, and religious images frequently use hair-down as a way to identify saints, the Virgin Mary, or other not-of-the-period people. Enid Bennett as Lady Marian Fitzwalter has long hair with a center part, which seems suspicious to me. Her frizzy curl seems very 1920s (and her floral wreath seems very renfaire!).

Robin Hood (1922)

Robin Hood (1922); Two women from “The Raising of Lazarus”, folio 11v, detail from the Hunterian Psalter, Glasgow University Library MS Hunter 229 (U.3.2) c. 1170; Chartres Cathedral.

Douglas Fairbanks plays Robin Hood aka the Earl of Huntingdon in a VERY UNFORTUNATE WIG. I would say that thing needs to be taxidermied, except nobody would want to display it. Anyway, let’s compare it to two images of kings of this era. In the center image of Richard the Lionheart, his hair is wavy, side parted, cropped at the nape of the neck, and sort of swooping back over the ears. In the image of Henry II, it’s the same length and brushed backwards. Compare that to Fairbanks, who has a side part and about the right length of hair, but the bangs and the wave along the front of the face are throwing things off. That wave, in particular, seems similar to the woman’s Marcel wave that was so popular in this era.

Robin Hood (1922)

Robin Hood (1922); “Détail du gisant de Richard Cœur de Lion”; Effigy of Henry II of England in the church of Fontevraud Abbey.

 

Renaissance Films of the 1920s

Lucrezia Borgia (1922) was a German film. Liane Haid as Lucrezia has a long, bushy, curly style that seems very romantic and even sort of 1910s-ish. Yes, there is one image purportedly of Lucrezia (second from left) that shows her with her hair down, but it’s supposed to be Saint Catherine, which means her hair is marking her as not-of-this-time. The three ladies on the right show Italian hairstyles of Lucrezia’s era (1480-1519). While the right-most lady seems to wear her hair long, all three have slightly waved hair that is center parted and very flat to the head. Two of them have sheer caps covering their hair.

Lucrezia Borgia (1922)

Lucrezia Borgia (1922); “Santa Caterina d’Alessandria con i filosofi” by Pinturicchio, 1492-4; “Portrait of a Woman by Lorenzo Lotto,” c. 1506; “Young Woman (‘Laura)” by Giorgione, 1506; “Portrait of a Woman” by Lorenzo Costa, between 1500-1506.

When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922) is all about Mary Tudor — no, not Mary I, but Princess Mary, Henry VIII of England’s youngest sister. She was shipped off to marry the elderly King Louis XII of France, and this image shows her during this period. I have VERY FEW IDEAS what is going on here, other than maybe the pearls allow her to pick up the alien mothership’s signal. But really, if we look beyond the pearl-twisted headdress, actress Marion Davies’ hair is a curly, banged bob — right out of the fashion magazines. Compare that to the real Mary in the center and right (both images done during her brief tenure as queen of France). In the center, her hair is straight, center parted, and drawn down over the ears and then back. On the right, all we can see is that her hair is center parted and pulled back.

When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922)

When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922); “Mary Tudor, Queen of France” (1496-1533), 1514; Mary Tudor.

Anna Boleyn (1920) is another German film. Emil Jannings is a dead ringer for Henry VIII of this era, and his short-cropped, brushed back hair (and beard!) are nearly identical to the portrait of the real Henry. Go Anna Boleyn! Of course, it helps that this isn’t too far from what was fashionable for men in the 1920s…

1920 Anna Boleyn2

“Henry VIII of England” by Joos van Cleve, c. 1530-5; Anna Boleyn (1920)

These servants from Anna Boleyn are interesting. No, their hair isn’t accurate to the period that the film is supposed to be in (1530s), but compare them to an early portrait of Henry VIII from 1509. I can’t tell if the bangs are correct, but the Prince Valiant hair — chopped off at the bottom of the chin — is very much the same!

Anna Boleyn (1920)

Anna Boleyn (1920); Henry VIII, 1509.

This image from Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924) amuses me to no end. Based upon a novel, it’s set in 1550s England. Mary Pickford is allll 1920s, alll the time, baby, with her center parted, down over the ears, Marcel waved hair, which is long and styled in a knot behind the ear. This has 0% to do with real historical hairstyles of the era, which were center parted and then built up above the temples to fill out the corners of the hood.

Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924)

“Portrait of a Lady, Called Anne Ayscough or Askew (1521–1546), Mrs Thomas Kyme” by Hans Eworth, 1560; Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924).

I’m not positive exactly which decade of the 16th century The Sea Hawk (1924, no relation to the 1940 film/story) is supposed to be set in, but since we’re talking English pirates, I decided to compare the leads to privateers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. Milton Sills and Lloyd Hughes both have short hair that is side parted and brushed back — pure 1920s, plus the guy on the left looks like he’s using a lot of styling goop. Meanwhile, Francis and Walter have hair that is curly and tousled, brushed forward or up.

The Sea Hawk (1924)

The Sea Hawk (1924); “Portrait of Sir Francis Drake” by Nicholas Hilliard, 1581; “Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh” by Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1585.

 

17th-Century Films of the 1920s

The Three Musketeers (1921) hairstyle designers obviously did their research. Most of the women are in Not Too Shabby attempts at early- to mid-17th century French styles. The book is set in 1625, when women’s hair was: center parted, styled very close to the head into an arrangement at the back of the head, but with long ringlets hanging down from the ears; some women had a short fringe along the forehead. Most of the actresses have surprisingly similar hairstyles, even if far right’s side part is a little dubious.

The Three Musketeers (1921)

The Three Musketeers (1921); Detail from “The Duke of Buckingham and his Family” after Gerard von Honthorst, 1628; “Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Orléans, Daughter of France by marriage,” 17th century.

Looking at the gents, they’re again not doing half bad! Most of the men are in center parted, shoulder-length of longer, curly or wavy styles, which is exactly what is seen in period portraits. Okay, far left guy’s hair looks a little slick, but we can deal. The actor playing Cardinal Richelieu (far right) even looks impressively like his real-life counterpart (directly below)!

The Three Musketeers (1921)

The Three Musketeers (1921); “Portrait of Louis XIII” by Justus van Egmont, before 1643; “The Duke of Buckingham and his Family” after Gerard von Honthorst, 1628; “Portrait of Louis XIII of France (1601-1643)” by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1622-25; “Portrait of Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” by Philippe de Champaigne, 1636.

The Scarlet Letter (1922), on the other hand, didn’t try as hard with their men’s hairstyles. Lars Hanson (as Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale) has a hairstyle that’s a slightly long version of the standard men’s 1920s side-parted, brushed-back ‘do — with a bonus Marcel wave. It was hard to find specific images to compare him to — the book was set in the 1640s — but Oliver Cromwell and an American man show a very different style than in this movie: soft parts, hair brushed down rather than back, and top-of-the-shoulder length.

The Scarlet Letter (1922)

The Scarlet Letter (1922); Oliver Cromwell by Robert Walker, c. 1649; “Self-portrait” by Thomas Smith, c. 1680.

However, Lillian Gish in the same film actually looks great! Both she and an American woman of the 1640s wear their hair styled up and covered with caps. Okay, so Gish has a little bit of a wave showing, which seems like a nod towards the 1920s, but really this is quite good!

The Scarlet Letter (1922)

The Scarlet Letter (1922); “Elizabeth Clarke Freake (Mrs. John Freake) and Baby Mary,” 1671-74.

Nell Gwyn (1926) seems to have gotten confused about the 1660s-70s and the 1830s. Scroll down and look under “Early 19th Century Films” at La Boheme, and see just how closely Dorothy Gish as Nell’s hair matches! What the hell? It’s nothing like the curly hair styled into an oval, with long ringlets, of the 1670s-80s.

Nell Gwyn (1926)

Nell Gwyn (1926); “Portrait of Nell Gwyn (1650-1687)” by Peter Lely, c. 1675; Nell Gwyn by Simon Verelst, c. 1680.

 

Mid-18th-Century Films of the 1920s

I believe Annie Laurie (1927) was based on the Scottish song of the same name, which is about a romance between two Scots in the late 1690s/early 1700s. There’s very little about Lillian Gish’s hair that reads of that period — which would be center parted, high on top, arranged at the back of the head, with long trailing ringlets (see center image) — but I suppose you could argue that it’s evocative of the 1730s-40s, when the hair was worn in an arrangement at the crown of the head, and there were a lot of medium-length ringlets low on the ear and on the nape of the neck.

Annie Laurie (1927)

Annie Laurie (1927); “Portrait of Rachel Chiesley, Lady Grange” by John Baptist Medina, 1710; “Mrs. Lindesay of Eaglescarnie” by Allan Ramsie; “Clementina Walkinshaw, c 1720 – 1802; Mistress of Prince Charles Edward Stuart,” c. 1740-5.

The Last of the Mohicans (1920) should be set in the 1750s. The hairstyles worn by Barbara Bedford as British colonel’s daughter Cora Munro are more French than English/American, but the loose arrangement around the head and the long ringlets really aren’t that bad!

The Last of the Mohicans (1920)

“Madame Henriette playing the Viola da Gamba” by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1754; “David Garrick with His Wife” by William Hogarth, 1757; The Last of the Mohicans (1920)

The hair/wig designer for Bonnie Prince Charlie (1923) clearly went for eighteenth-century-esque rather than anything more specific. Comparing actor Ivor Novello with the real Charles of the 1740s shows they both have a long queue that’s in ringlets. However, the real Charles has a wig that is short and curled in front, while his screen portrayal has fuzzy, wavy long hair (pulled back, yes). There were definitely a variety of styles popular in this era, but they would almost all have had short, curled hair around the face.

Bonnie Prince Charlie (1923)

Bonnie Prince Charlie (1923); “Portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart” by Cosmo Alexander, c. 1747.

Rudolph Valentino in Monsieur Beaucaire (1924) is so hot, and the costumes/hairstyles are so gorgeous, that I almost want to forgive anything. I’m impressed that they got the short hair around the face that so many films miss, even to this day. Of course, they styled that shorter hair in a Marcel wave which is all 1920s, baby. This is the era in which shiny white wigs come into style, a misreading of the historical sources — in the eighteenth century, hair was turned white (or even more often, grey) through powder, which gives a matte effect. I wonder if the shiny hair created through the use of styling products influenced the trend for shiny white wigs?

Monsieur Beaucaire (1924)

Monsieur Beaucaire (1924); “Self-portrait with Lace Jabot” by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, c. 1750.

The hair on Bebe Daniels, from the same film, could be said to be going for the tete de mouton hairstyle, which looks like short curls. However, they reversed where the short curls and longer hair should be — on Daniels, it’s long around the face/on top and short curls in back/below. It should be vice versa — short curls on top and around the face, with long hair pulled up in back and arranged at the crown of the head.

Monsieur Beaucaire (1924)

Monsieur Beaucaire (1924); “Elizabeth Drax, Countess of Berkeley (1720-1792)” by Joshua Reynolds, 1759-60; “Self-portrait with Daughters Henriette Royard and Marie de Rège in front of the easel” by Antoine Pesne, 1754.

Madame Pompadour (1927) is clearly also happy to go for “esque” rather than anything specific. Okay, so the hair worn up with a few short hanging ringlets. But the style is high on top, which is more like the 1760s (see Madame du Barry in the Scaramouche image below), and lightly Marcel waved, which is more 1920s. And the shiny white hair is totally 20th century.

Madame Pompadour (1927)

Madame Pompadour (1927); “Madame de Pompadour, Mistress of Louis XV” by François Boucher, 1758; “Madame de Pompadour (Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson; 1721-1764)” by François Boucher, c. 1758; and “Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour (1721-1764), known as Madame de Pompadour at Her Toilette” by François Boucher, 1758.

Scaramouche (1923) is another film with not-half-bad hair, if we look at Alice Terry’s overall silhouette — up and high on the crown of the head, with a long ringlet on one side. And although they’re weirdly placed, they clearly thought they were going for 18th century with the soft rolls. However, the amount of hair falling forward onto the forehead, is much more 1920s. I am impressed that they didn’t do a Marcel wave! That being said, it’s hard to see exactly what’s going on in back. What it should be is long, straight, and pulled up from the nape of the neck to the crown of the head — and I doubt that’s happening here, but I can’t be sure. I also like that the hair doesn’t look shiny.

Scaramouche (1923)

Scaramouche (1923); “Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry” by François-Hubert Drouais, 1770/1774.

 

Late 18th-Century Films of the 1920s

Janice Meredith (1924) (set just before the American Revolution) is another mixed bag. One of the male actors looks quite good — clearly we’ve got a shiny white wig here, but they got the high, egg shape seen on foppish men’s wigs in the 1770s, with long hair in back tied into a queue. They did miss the side rolls (“buckles” in the period) and went for a Marcel wave.

Janice Meredith (1924)

Janice Meredith (1924); Self-portrait by Richard Cosway, c. 1770.

However, I have no idea what’s up with the ladies. The older lady on the left has the high egg shape of the late 1760s-mid 1770s. But the short curls eat her face, and it’s just a shitty wig. Marion Davies, on the other hand, looks totally 1920s in her puffy curls around the face. The long ringlets are a nod to the period, at least!

Janice Meredith (1924)

Janice Meredith (1924); “Portrait of John and Elizabeth Lloyd Cadwalader and their Daughter Anne” by Charles Willson Peale, 1772.

I so plan to watch Orphans of the Storm (1921) soon, because every image I see just looks outstanding. Set just before and during the French revolution, Lillian and Dorothy Gish play two lower class sisters who go to Paris and have adventures that include hanging with the aristocracy. The men’s wigs aren’t horrible — the guy on the far left actually has the shorter hair on top (the “toupet”), and that sections ends where it should, at the crown of the head, for the 1780s. He’s also got side rolls, and a long queue. Second from the left guy’s hair looks like it’s from a different film. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on, but it just looks kind of janky, like a wig that fell on the costume shop floor, got picked up, and slapped on someone’s head.

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

Orphans of the Storm (1921); “Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien (1772-1804)” by Nanine Vallain, c. 1788; “Portrait of Nicolas-Pierre-Baptiste Anselme, called Baptiste aîné” by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, c. 1790.

Lillian and Dorothy’s hair is entertainingly 1920s. Sometimes they’re in long, Mary Pickford ringlets (far left). Other times they’re in frizzy, low on the face, mock-bob updos (center and right). It’s hard to even compare them to lower-class women of the revolutionary era, who were wearing their hair in shortish, tousled curls around the face, with longer curls in back, covered by hats and caps.

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

Orphans of the Storm (1921); two details from “Le siège de Lille, septembre – octobre 1792” by Jean-Baptiste Lesueur.

The upper-class wigs in Orphans of the Storm are fabulous, but not in a historically accurate way! None of these ladies have eyes, let alone foreheads. There’s a total mishmash of shapes — far left and center are in faux-1770s high styles that stand up instead of leaning towards the crown of the head the way they should, and they’re mostly just fuzzy masses instead of having any of the details of a real 1770s style. Far right seems to be going for 1780s hair, with shorter hair around the face and longer curls coming from underneath on the sides (and hopefully long in back? can’t tell). But compare her to the two real French women from the late 1780s and you can see how faux this all is. The hair should be pushed out of the face, in frizzy or curly curls, and shouldn’t look like polyester batting bought at JoAnn’s fabrics.

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

Orphans of the Storm (1921); “Portrait of the Marquise de Grécourt, née de la Fresnaye, in a red velvet dress with a white chiffon scarf” by Jean-Laurent Mosnier, c. 1790; “Presumed Portrait of the Marquise de Lafayette (1759–1807)” by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, 1790.

Lady Hamilton (1921), on the other hand, really WENT FOR IT! Wow! This is another German production. Conrad Veidt as Lord Nelson is clearly missing powder, but otherwise they got the almost triangular shape of men’s hair, cropped below the ears, nearly perfect. I’d love to see the back!

Lady Hamilton (1921)

Lady Hamilton (1921); Alexander Hamilton.

John Barrymore as Beau Brummell (1924) is clearly making no efforts towards a historical hairstyle. His waved, combed-back hair is all 1920s, and looks nothing like the tousled, longish curls — or the high on top, brushed forward curls — worn by the real Brummell in the first decade of the 1800s.

Beau Brummel (1924)

Beau Brummel (1924); “Beau Brummell,” engraved in the 19th century from a portrait miniature; “George ‘Beau’ Brummell,” watercolor by Richard Dighton, 1805.

 

Early 19th-Century Films of the 1920s

Madame Sans-Gêne (1925) starred Gloria Swanson as Catherine Hubscher, a prominent noblewoman of Napoleon’s reign. The film is lost, so I’m a little fuzzy exactly when this image is supposed represent — it doesn’t look much like Hubscher in the center right image (which looks very 1790s to me), but it’s actually really quite good when looking at the later image (far right, c. 1810). They got the same flat spitcurls around the face — although those are conveniently close to the 1920s fashion for waves on the face — and the high crown arrangement of the Empire period.

Madame Sans-Gêne (1925)

Madame Sans-Gêne (1925); “Maréchale Lefebvre (dite Madame Sans-Gêne)”; “Portrait de Catherine Hubscher, Maréchale Lefèbvre Duchesse de Dantzig, dite ‘Madame Sans-Gène’ (1753-1835),” c. 1810.

The Mark of Zorro (1920) is another fuzzily dated period. All I can figure out is that it’s set in the early 19th century in Spanish-owned California. I couldn’t find any images of women from California, but I did find this portrait of an older Mexican lady from 1816, which is close enough. It really doesn’t matter, though, because there isn’t really anything about actress Marguerite De La Motte’s hair that’s at all historical. The loose waves, low on the face and drawn back to the nape of the neck, are totally 1920s. Hey, at least she’s not wearing a bob?

The Mark of Zorro (1920)

“Doña Josefa de la Cotera y Calvo de la Puerta,” 1816; The Mark of Zorro (1920)

La Bohème (1926), based on the opera of the same name, stars Lillian Gish as a lower-class bohemian woman in 1830 Paris. Her center part, short ringlets around the face, and high bun aren’t 100% perfect — in particular, the bun should be something more elaborate — but the silhouette is right on.

La Bohème (1926)

La Bohème (1926); “Charlotte of Württemberg (Elena Pavlovna)” by Karl Brullov, 1829; “Portrait of Natalia Nikolaevna Pushkina-Lanskaya (née Goncharova), wife of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin,” by Alexander Brullov, 1831-32.

 

Mid 19th-Century Films of the 1920s

The novel Ramona (published in 1884) used to be a Big Deal in the myth of California, but it’s largely forgotten now. It tells the story of a mixed race, Scottish/Native American woman who lives in Southern California just after the Mexican-American War (1846-7, after which California became U.S. territory). It very much romanticized the “traditional” Mexican period of California.

Anyway, in the film version of 1928, Dolores del Rio plays the titular character. I spent waaaaay too much time trying to find images of Native American, or barring that, Mexican-American women from California in the 1850s, trying to find a source for those braids. Most of the images of Native American women (top row center left and right, and bottom row center left) dated from later (1880s-1900s), and wore their hair like top row center left — parted in the middle, side-swept bangs, and long, blunt-cut everywhere else. I did find one Native American woman (bottom row, center left) who has what looks to be looped-up braids, but I’m not positive. Top row, center right is the woman who is supposed to have inspired the character of Ramona, but that image is from much later in her life. Nearly all of the Mexican-American Californian women I could find were wearing the same kinds of hairstyles seen on Anglo women: center parted, swooping low around the ears, and arranged on the back of the head or nape of the neck. I did find one — but only one! — Mexican-American Californian who was wearing her hair in center-parted braids. My hunch is that the braids are a reference to a romanticized “Indian princess” look, a stereotypical midwest/East Coast Native American look, or a Mexican Native American look, but I can’t be positive. What I can add is that while del Rio’s hair worn low around the ears could be claimed to be an 1850s nod, the wave is clearly 1920s — and I feel like they’re much more trying to give her a 1920s bob look, with the addition of long braids, than anything else.

Ramona (1928)

Ramona (1928)
“Paiute squaw – Yo Semite Valley,” c. 1875; “Ramona Lubo, a Coahuilla Indian woman, Cahuilla, California,” April 5, 1899; “1/6th-Plate Daguerreotype of Woman and Daughter, Probably Early Californians,” circa 1852; “Winema or Tobey Riddle, a Modoc, standing between an agent and her husband Frank (on her left), with four Modoc women in front,” 1873; “Chonita Arballo Family, Group Portrait by James Solomon Howard,” c. 1903; “Joseph John Chapman ‘José el Inlés’, Sr., and his wife Gaudalupe Ortega y Sánchez,” circa 1847.

 

Late 19th-Century Films of the 1920s

The novel on which Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921) was based was published in 1886. Mary Pickford plays both the titular character and his mother (the hell?) — here we’re looking at the mother character. They did get the high crown/top of the head look of the late 1880s, but those fat ringlets just scream classic Mary Pickford to me, how about you?

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921)

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921); “Vicomtesse De Montmorand” by James Tissot, 1889.

 

Do you see historical or 1920s references in these hairstyles that I missed? What’s your take on the perception of historical hairstyles in this era?

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About the author

Kendra

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Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

7 Responses

  1. Emily Barry

    One of my favorites is Buster Keaton’s “the General,” which takes place during the Civil War. Buster Keaton actually looks AMAZING, with the longish, side-parted hair that’s kind of plastered down on top and kind of wings out at ear level… His large, floppy bowtie is a little more 1850s, but everything else is so spot on, I’ll forgive him. :-) Typically, though, they went for a much more trendy look for his lady-love… They at least gave her a center part, but it’s a low-foreheaded Marcel wave, with Mary Pickford sausage curls. And her dress! I swear, they took a frilly, full-skirted summer frock from 1916 and then put one single hula hoop in the hem. Ghastly!

    Reply
    • K.

      The General is such an amazing film. It also has what was then one of the most expensive scenes ever filmed, with an actual locomotive going down in an actual stream with a ton of extras.

      Gösta Berlings Saga from 1924, directed by Mauritz Stiller and featuring a pre-Hollywood Garbo, might be worth your while too. It’s based on an 1890’s novel by Swedish Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf, set in 1820’s Sweden, and deals with a deposed minister who drinks and seduces women, people selling their souls to the devil and stuff like that. Haven’t seen it in ages, but the costumes look pretty good on the men and so-so on the ladies.

      Reply
  2. Lally

    Your blog is utterly wonderful! This post was excellent, I’m off to find all of these that I haven’t watched now. Thank you!
    Lally

    Reply
  3. femmefan1946

    Kendra: If you ever get around to editing or updating this, perhaps you could consider removing the very offensive term ‘squaw’ from the last picture caption. It’s just rude.
    I’m very much enjoying these blogs. Thank you for all your hard work.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Thanks for the comment! I try to be really careful about language, so I almost had a heart attack when I saw your comment… but then I realized, that’s the official (museum) title of the photograph. I guess my formatting doesn’t make that clear enough? I agree, it’s a very offensive term.

      Reply
    • Kendra

      And, I just went in and put quotes around all the official image titles, to clarify. Hopefully that helps. I’m thinking that the title of that photo may date FROM 1875, hence the offensive language.

      Reply

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