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?
I think what helps set this show from other historical shows that are trying to be ” modern”
( YES ANY SHOW BASED PHILIPPA GREGORY. I AM LOOKING AT YOU!!!!).
Is that not only it is intentional ( which is the best I can describe it, but I know that the costuming team did try there hardest. I personally partially blame the higher ups who want to make the clothes more ” relatable”) ,
but you can just see that EVERYTHING was thought to a T.
Like there hairstyles were not historically accurate but , the majority of them, look like they were thought out and you can actually see the effort and craftmanship that goes into those hair.
Like I sometimes like to imagine in the world of Bridgerton, how every morning Cressida and her mother’s ladies maids would always have a MENTAL BREAKDOWN every time they would try to style their hair .
Also as for the queen’s ” Beyonce ” wig. I also think it nicely shows how the 18th century ” Hedgehog” hairstyles are actually Western white people appropriating the Afro.
You can actually read it in “The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty: 40 Projects for Period-Accurate Hairstyles, Makeup and Accessories”. Where they worte an essay and actually cite sources talking about it .
Though they did not find any sources as to WHY suddenly the Afro specifically was chosen to be appropriated ( I also did my own research and I got nothing, but if you find anything please don’t be afraid to share it.)
Agreed agreed! Also, as I wrote in our original, general review of the series, I thought the changes they brought to the history MADE SENSE for the subject matter. The show is frothy fun, so it makes sense that they made the costumes frothy fun. If this were a Thomas Hardy adaptation, frothy fun wouldn’t have suited. I’m all for going crazy, but going crazy in a way that makes sense for the subject matter/theme/source material.
In regards to the side curl/ponytail look, It is the style of hair that Daphne is described as having when the Duke first meets her in the book. I am rereading the series and just read that chapter.
Seems like a weird detail to decide to be faithful to!
The “meh” Queen Charlotte look for you reminds me SO much of Dolly Parton, particularly in Steel Magnolias, although I’m not sure why. It’s just such a STATEMENT for daytime and I dig it! :)
I reread The Duke and I, and I can tell that it was written in 2000, long before Candice Hern’s AMAZING blog about Regency clothing and this incredible focus via FF and the CosTubers about what would and wouldn’t have been worn. There are boots aplenty – in fact that’s about all Simon wears. Daphne has a half-up style for a ball (granted, she’s not in her deb season in the books, but still! HAIR UP.) It’s amazing what 20 years, the Internet, and a bunch of great people gathering historical images has done for our knowledge.
And I NEED to know the color Queen Charlotte is using on her lips! I love that mauve-y, dusky burgundy purple.
I was so disappointed that they went with standard issue Sexy Period Drama Boots. Who among us did not want to see Regé-Jean Page’s well-turned calf?
I loved the care the wig team took in fitting each character to a hairstyle Regency inspired. I want to be Lady Danby when I grow up.
Thank you for this in-depth dive! I was FASCINATED by the hairstyles (though the half-up hair made my teeth itch). I looooved Lady Danbury and Queen Charlotte’s hair — it’s worth watching to see Charlotte’s wigs alone! I am in awe of how much work went into them, and gosh they must be HEAVY! I cannot imagine wearing one of those for hours during filming, the actress must have amazing neck muscles.
Actually it really depends on what you use for the structure to hold them up… although the actress who played the queen did say the Beyoncé wig was particularly hot to wear. Some of the wigs they made so she could take them on and off easily during filming breaks. I know for the high wigs I make, it’s all about angle – if they angle too far back they’re hard on the neck. I use wire mesh to make the inner shape, and that’s pretty lightweight.
Betsy, Tacy and Tibb! it made my heart so happy to know someone else remembers the girls! my first thought of Queen Charlottes huge afro wig was “what an enormous hedge hog wig she has my dear!” I imagined a lady in waiting walking along with a stick to prop it up as it tried to topple one side or the other. and you KNOW they only have a few hairpins and bobby pins in all of California and they used them all up with the regal ladies. :-)
Kebab sticks! Talk about necessity/creativity being the mother of invention!
I know, right? I initially thought they were knitting needles!
I am so glad that you are doing a deep-dive in to Bridgerton. Like others have said, every detail was intentional and planned, the translation from Regency novel to modern-written romance novel, then from novel to screen seemed like a perfectly delicious match for Frock Flicks.
I’d like to share my outsider’s of an experience of hair racism. One of the (many) infuriating parts of working in a nursing home was the casual disrespect and racism to those with black and natural hair. It was 7 months long battle against leadership that I eventually lost. I know that I tried my best, but I am ashamed of myself because I couldn’t get it done, even in the single nursing home, and even on my own–not the company’s–dime. I think about those (mostly) elderly ladies, and their indignities not just in the 1960s, but just last year.
So Bridgerton was personal. Wonderful Bridgerton! What a balm for the whole of the US to see natural hair and locs celebrated! And crowned with precious jewels and tiaras. I was especially eager to hear your take on the use of locs as buckles. And D.M.A.C.C.’s comments about the hedgehog style are a revelation. Definitely next book on the list. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing that story – I’m sorry to hear about your battle, and so glad Bridgerton was meaningful!
Your comments to me always make me feel special. Thank you. I am ashamed for failing, but honestly, the ladies at the nursing home had it much worse, and we need things like Bridgerton so that future older ladies with textured hair have it easier.
Do tell me–what did you think about using locs as “buckles” (the rolly-things on 18th century hair–that’s what they are called, right?) I thought it was inspired. I would love to know more about how Afro-hair was taken into account for a period we are told was mostly white. Will definitely be following the articles mentioned.
Thanks again! Happy 2021! And hooray for frothy fun.
Firstly the the way a buckle were made for 18th century hair, it was teased until had a texture of a dread lock .
Though mostly they actually use fake hair to make the buckles and attach it to their head.
Now as for how Afro-hair was taken into account. From what I have read, Free black people and enslaved black people who are going to Church or Special occasions would actually style their hair into the same styles that white people wore.
And follow the same the procedure in cleaning and styling their hair, with powder and pomatum( also known as pomade)
Though while when they are working, enslaved people would wear Turbans or Tignon as it is sometimes called would have cornrows and a “Threaded” hairstyle. So basically , identical or similar to protective hair styles that Black people still use today .
You can see and hear about info in these videos made by the AWESOME Cheyney McKnight (Though please be aware this is focused more on the 18th century) (Links below):
This video ( link below) is more about reviewing historical makeup products, but you can hear tidbits Cheyney talks about when it comes to black people and 18th century makeup:
You can also hear this Podcast as well if you want another input of information(Link below):
The book, The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty: 40 Projects for Period-Accurate Hairstyles, Makeup and Accessories” actually gives you instructions to how to achieve women’s hair from 1750s to 1790s and they show how to this with a VARIETY OF HAIR TEXTURES and would give advice how to help achieve these styles with the hair you have.
You can see the authors ( Abby Cox and Lauren Stowell) of “The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Beauty: 40 Projects for Period-Accurate Hairstyles, Makeup and Accessories” actually showing them doing a hairstyle in the books while talking about how people would clean there hair and debunking MYTHS like ” how 18th century people had vermin in there hair” .
As well having Cheyney McKnight discussing her essay in the book, on how the ” Hedgehog” hair is actually appropriating the Afro.(Link below)
Aw, you are NEAT! Thank you for listing all of this, together for me and anyone else interested in this.
I kept looking for the ‘love’ button on these comments. THANK YOU so much for the deep dive into hair design. I am usually a historical purist, BUT Bridgerton is based on a romance series set in the Regency period, not an actual period novel, so I have no problems with the license the costumers took. I, for one, am glad for the imagined aesthetic. As others have mentioned, I thought this entire production was well thought out, from costumes to casting. It’s all of a piece, and it works for me. Everyone is such fun to watch, but I particularly love the portrayals of Lady Danbury, Queen Charlotte and, of course, the Duke. For some reason I find the characterization of Eloise grating, though. (And I admit to not having read the books, so perhaps she’s just as annoying in print as she is on screen. She must makes my teeth hurt.)Again, thanks for a very entertaining post.
I agree. I was much more forgiving of any issue – aesthetic or narrative – here than I was in, say, Sanditon, which took itself so much more seriously.
All the women’s hairstyles are deliriously AMAZING, but Queen Charlotte’s are next level.
I don’t know why, but the care and thought put into Queen Charlotte’s hairdos makes me want to weep.
I think Elise said it best: “Wonderful Bridgerton! What a balm for the whole of the US to see natural hair and locs celebrated! And crowned with precious jewels and tiaras.”
As somehow a fan of the real queen and visitor of Mecklenburg-Strelitz it’s just like a punch in my face (especially if compared to – if I remember it right – Heike Makatsch’s performance in a very short scene in “Longitude”). I fear that I’m just too much connected to the subject to look at that production. If it really doesn’t matter how the queen looked – why not taking a male actor for the queen. I think that Katharina Thalbach did a great job as Friedrich II. von Preußen.
There are obviously some productions which are hard to look – and I don’t mean so much cheap TV-productions.
My mother always taught me to stay clear of bloody road kills. Therefore, I decided to skip this atrocity of a period drama.