One of my life mottos is, “If an era doesn’t have crazy hair, I don’t want to know about it.” So, while I’m not sure if I absolutely LOVE the 1830s, I very much respect it for having riDONKulous hair. Particularly in the first half of the decade, women’s hairstyles got high on top of the head in complex arrangements that were called “Apollo knots,” hairstyles “à la giraffe,” and probably other fabulous names that I don’t know about.
So, let’s take a look at the films and TV series that have gotten these ridiculously fabulous late Georgian/early Victorian hairstyles right.
#5: Jane Eyre (2011)
I will say, I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with a fifth. This is sad, because clearly filmmakers are afraid of over-the-top hairstyles. Movies/TV shows that you would think would get this right — Les Misérables, even the 1940 Pride and Prejudice, which went full 1830s in terms of costume — have shied away from embracing these hairstyles.
#4: Vanity Fair (2004)
Thackeray’s novel was published in the late 1840s, but set in the 1810s during the Napoleonic wars. So, it’s far too early for crazy 1830s hair … but the 2004 film goes there nonetheless. Okay, so there are a lot of 1810s-appropriate hairstyles, but when Becky Sharp is at her highest social status, she rocks some complicated Apollo knot hairstyles. And, the film’s costumes are stylized enough that it works, especially since it’s pretty!
#3: Great Expectations (2012)
The novel takes place between about 1812 and 1840, so I guess it makes sense to put adult Estella into intricate 1830s updos? It’s the same costume designer as Vanity Fair (2004), so I also think there’s some cross-over going on.
It’s not clear to me who was the hair designer; I think it was Luca Saccuman (Queen of the Desert).
#2: The Young Victoria (2009)
The Young Victoria has such lovely 1840s costumes that I sometimes forget that the first part is set in the late 1830s as Victoria comes to the throne. In this first part, the soon-to-be queen has beautifully complex 1830s-style updos, plus the current queen (Queen Adelaide) and Victoria’s mother (the Duchess of Kent) pretty much stick to the 1830s styles throughout.
#1: Wives & Daughters (1999)
One of these days I’m going to do a detailed Throwback Thursday on this BBC miniseries, because it’s SO GOOD, from casting to story to costumes. But probably the best aspect is how well they get 1830s hair. Main character Molly spends most of the series in pretty updos that work well with her naive, country character. But luckily we get annoying stepmother Hyacinth and fabulous stepsister Cynthia to up the hair game, plus local aristocrat Lady Harriet (even if they randomly give her a French Revolution-era crop in the last episode).
Did I miss any key OTT 1830s hair in movies or TV series?