The Borgias: Kick-Ass Hair: Season 3

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The Borgias ran on Showtime from 2011-13, and while it wasn’t always perfect, DAMN if they didn’t do an amazing job with the visuals. Set in the 1490s, the show centers around Pope Alexander VI, his three adult children (Cesare, Lucrezia, and Juan), and his mistresses (Vanozza and Giulia). We podcasted about the first three episodes way back when, and compared it to its competition later in the series. And while I sometimes laughed at Juan’s mullets, thought Cesare was un-hot (sorry! Something about his rabbit upper lip), and felt that the plot was a little heavy-handed, I ALWAYS adored the costume design and, in particular, the women’s hair.

I’ve come back to images from the show repeatedly for ideas for 15th/16th century hairstyles, and thus was inspired to share my Borgias hair lust with y’all. Now, I can get a little OCD about this kind of thing, so I thought I’d better split things up into the three seasons.

It’s taken me a LONG time to find screencaps of season 3, but Kiss Them Goodbye finally posted some! If you’d like more background on the series and the hair design, check out our post on season 1, where you’ll also find more historical research. To see how the hairstyles compare with the real historical figures, see our post on season 2. The hair designs seem very similar to season 2, so there’s not much to say except enjoy the pretty.

Lucrezia Borgia

The Borgias (2011-13)

Long waves, braids, netted caul with pearls … this is the platonic ideal of Lucrezia hair as this show goes.

The Borgias (2011-13)

A more casual look, but still styled.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Ditto!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Burgundy caul, pearls, those big honkin’ gold hairpins the show loves.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Complicated twists!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Twists with a burgundy caul and matching beads.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Blue? caul with pearls.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Can’t see the back, but I love that thick braid!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Simple hair (bottom right) for wearing under a balzo headdress.

Now, the balzo headdress was a very typical Italian Renaissance headdress style, but it was mostly popular in the 1520s-30s, and this show is set in the 1490s-1503:

Parmigianino, La schiava turca, 1530s, Galleria nazionale di Parma

Parmigianino, La schiava turca [note the title comes from the fact that people mistakenly thought her balzo was a turban; the headdress IS Ottoman turban-inspired, but it’s definitely Italian], 1530s, Galleria nazionale di Parma

The Borgias (2011-13)

More bling.

The Borgias (2011-13)

More braids, smaller blue caul.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Braids wrapped with trim.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Similar yet different.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Same as above?

The Borgias (2011-13)

All up in a pearled caul with a flat cap for riding.

The Borgias (2011-13)

God actress Holliday Grainger is beautiful! She pulls off even the (comparatively) simpler styles. Enjoy that chin while it lasts, girl! ;)

The Borgias (2011-13)

Ditto, now with pearls.

The Borgias (2011-13)

I LOVE the veil!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Back to simple.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Same style?

The Borgias (2011-13)

Braids looped around in a new style in back.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Another variation, this time with twists.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Back to the blue caul.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Back to a balzo!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Those sticky-uppy pearls are very bridal…

The Borgias (2011-13)

Comparatively simple but with that pop of red beads in back.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Yet another complicated back.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Back to braids and beads.

Vanozza Cattaneo

The Borgias (2011-13)

Blue or green caul with pearls, lots of braids.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Twists.

The Borgias (2011-13)

A loose caul.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Similar silhouette but with braids.

The Borgias (2011-13)

I love all the texture in the hair.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Now she starts rocking these hair-wrapped sausages…

The Borgias (2011-13)

Similar yet different!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Ditto.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Thirded.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Incorporating braids.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Closing it out with wrapped sausages.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Ditto!

Caterina Sforza

The Borgias (2011-13)

Twists, blue caul with pearls, long waves…

The Borgias (2011-13)

Twists with pearled trim.

The Borgias (2011-13)

This is so complicated and weird! Love it!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Looser style for hawking.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Dialing it back, comparatively.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Simpler, looser hair for the shit getting real.

The Borgias (2011-13)

I think this is the same hair, but more disheveled.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Closing things out in regal style.

Giulia Farnese

The Borgias (2011-13)

Loose caul, hair worn straight and close to the head, ferronière (aka historically accurate head necklace!).

The Borgias (2011-13)

I love these twists!

The Borgias (2011-13)

It’s a head necklace, but it works!

The Borgias (2011-13)

Braids in back.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Twists with a caul.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Twists with a thick braided bun and pearls.

The Borgias (2011-13)

A lovely variation.

Other Characters

Cesare’s French Mistress Wife

Charlotte d’Albret

The Borgias (2011-13)

I think they’re going for a double hennin kind of thing?

The Borgias (2011-13)

She’s into Vannozza’s wrapped sausages (hey, she likes the sausage, amiright? ;)

The Borgias (2011-13)

Sausages with a braid in back and a veil.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Similar yet different!

French Queen(?)

The Borgias (2011-13)

Complicated braid, I guess that’s a jeweled caul under the crown?

The Borgias (2011-13)

Queenie likes her sausages thick (plus veil)!

Randos at the French Court

The Borgias (2011-13)

Top right reminds me of that young portrait of Catherine of Aragon; I love the look on the bottom.

Italian Randos

The Borgias (2011-13)

Small sausage for shagging the pope.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Lots of gold cauls.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Twists and a little disheveled for shenanigans.

The Borgias (2011-13)

Lovely musicians.

The Borgias (2011-13)

A server in “Roman”-esque costume at a fancy dinner.

 

 

What do you think of the different hairstyles in season 3 of The Borgias?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

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.

15 Responses

  1. Shashwat

    I absolutely love the hairstyles in this show!The show didn’t excite me as much though,from the few episodes I found on YouTube(they have been pulled off now,i think).

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I love Gabriella Pescucci costumes in this series and Holliday Granger as Lucrezia is one of the best things about the show.

    I really love how Season 3 hair built on what they did before. Lucrezia has matured and the hair reflects this. Vanozza rocks the older woman look proving that women can get better as they age. Giulia Farnese looks immortal and beautiful. Catarina Sforza looks strong, intelligent, a good tactician and a member of an old established House. No nouveau riches for the Sforza House.

    Reply
  3. mmcquown

    The stylists certainly earned their money on this shoot! When I was a kid, my mother sometimes dragged me along to the salon, where I watched the work and effort that went into the relatively simple 40-50’s styles. Even using pieces and extensions, the time and labour involved had to be considerable.

    Reply
  4. Roxana

    Italian women of the period did go in for very complicated braided styles studded with ornaments. The top picture shows exactly that on Vanozza? But the guy’s hair is a mess. Men did wear their hair long and wavy but they used Combs!

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Men shaved too. And I think north of the Alps women were still covering their hair completely with escoffions or hennins.

      Reply
  5. MrsC

    You gotta wonder – did they use up ALL the hairpins which is why nobody has any to use any more? Or did they go hard out to compensate for all the other shows with teerible hair???

    Reply
    • Sissi

      My god, I think you’ve done it. You cracked the code. The Borgias took all of the hairpins back in 2011 and they’ve yet to be replaced.

      Reply
  6. Charity

    This show was exquisite to look at, but I tried re-watching the first season recently and lost interest within only a few episodes. But it was unparalleled in terms of sheer gorgeousness.

    I have wig envy looking at this post. I would say hair envy, but I am positive those actresses do not have that much hair. Even if mine ever got that long, I’d have a fourth that much. :P

    But imagine how HEAVY all of that must have been…

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      I almost share your viewpoint, except that Jeremy Irons and, to some extent, Gina McKee kept it from being more than just the lushest program around. Those braids! Those cauls and veils! The gowns! The sheer beauty and detail of it all. (And that last shot of, I think, the first series, in which the whole shocking Borgia clan stages their very own nativity scene. That was outrageous–I loved it. I love almost anything that Neil Jordan has a hand in.)

      Reply
  7. J Lou

    Center parts! Everywhere, center parts! (except for the occasional hair-pulled-back-no-part)

    Reply
  8. Kelly

    The balzo in the Parmigianino picture, La schiava turca, is what Danilo Donati copied for Elizabeth Taylor in The Taming of the Shrew.

    Reply
  9. Saraquill

    Anyone else have the urge to watch Janet Stevens’ hair tutorials? She hasn’t done any of this time and place that I’m aware of, but I want to see period styles recreated.

    Reply
  10. Julia

    Cesare’s “French mistress” is Charlotte d’Albret, and she is his wife whom he married in 1499.

    Reply
  11. Sam

    This show was so gorgeous. I would pay serious money for a tutorial or wig that helped me get this look!

    Reply

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