SNARK WEEK: Sanditon & Side Parts

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I’m not the historical hair expert that Kendra is, but I dabble and help folks along, especially the farther back you go in time. And my biggest “easy” tip for women who want a historical-looking hairstyle is to part your hair down the center. I have no idea why, but if you look at period images before the 20th century, the VAST majority show women’s hair parted smack down the center. Before the 19th century, side-parts are totally not a thing in western European hair fashion.

While a very slight and very occasional side-part might creep in at points here and there during the early 19th century, the style wasn’t common at all, and it sure a hell wasn’t the deep side-part that’s typical today. Even when a woman’s hair covered by a cap or hat, the hair that shows is symmetrically parted. Maybe side-parts are a sign of the devil or something? IDK, I don’t make the rules, I just research the shit and point it out for y’all!

Thus, it’s a super-obvious modernism when I watch a frock flick set any time pre-1900 and see side-parts aplenty. I was in London last fall and happened to catch a few episodes of Sanditon (2019) before it aired on PBS here in the States. First thing I saw were side-parts! Couldn’t follow the plot because, omg, my eyes were distracted by the hair (also, lack of hairpins). So I’m taking Sanditon as a starting point, but really it’s all the shitty side-parts.

Since I’m starting with Sanditon, let’s look at some actual images of 1810s hairstyles…

1809 - The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, via Wikimedia Commons

1809 – The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, via Wikimedia Commons. What peeks out is centered.

1810 - Madame Recamier with Lyre by François Gérard via Wikimedia Commons

1810 – Madame Recamier with Lyre by François Gérard via Wikimedia Commons. Ever so slightly off-center, but that’s it!

1810s - Paris fashion plate by Georges Jacques Gatine & Louis Marie Lanté via Wikimedia Commons

1810s – Paris fashion plate by Georges Jacques Gatine & Louis Marie Lanté via Wikimedia Commons. Centered & contemplating the addition of fake ringlets.

1812 - Morning Dress, September 1 fashion plate from London, England - from LACMA via Wikimedia Commons

1812 – Morning Dress, September 1 fashion plate from London, England – from LACMA via Wikimedia Commons. Centered curls.

1814 - Ackermann Fashion Plate from Dec - LACMA via Wikimedia Commons

1814 – Ackermann Fashion Plate from Dec – LACMA via Wikimedia Commons. Under a variety of day caps, but centered.

Sandition (2019)

Needs hairpins & a center part!

Sandition (2019)

Gurl, please.

Sandition (2019)

Really? WTfrock.

Sandition (2019)

Everybody gets into the side-part game.

Sandition (2019)

Side-parts, not just for the young ladies!

Sandition (2019)

Finally, the hairpins have been found, but alas, no center part.

OK, now with that out of the way, let’s take a chronological tour of more shitty side-parts! Because the latest Jane Austen adaption is certainly not the only offender, aw hell no.

The Crusades (1935)

It goes all the way back to black & white, such as 1935’s The Crusades, supposedly set in the 1190s.

1150 - Comedies of Terence, drawings in the Winchester Bible, at the Bodleian Libraries via Wikimedia Commons

1150 – Comedies of Terence, drawings in the Winchester Bible, at the Bodleian Libraries via Wikimedia Commons. Yep, side-parts were a thing way back then.

La Catedral del Mar (2018)

Cathedral of the Sea (aka La Catedral del Mar, 2018) is set in the 1400s & some of the women have appropriate headgear. But when there’s uncovered hair, there’s also inaccurate side-parts.

1400s - Isabella of Castille in the Conquest of Granada, by Pedro Marcuello at the Musée Condé via Wikimedia Commons

1400s – Conquest of Granada by Pedro Marcuello, at the Musée Condé via Wikimedia Commons. This shows royalty, so the ladies’ hair is uncovered, so you can see the proper center-parts (with bonus head necklace!).

Gold (2017)

Gold (Oro, 2017) is about a group of 1538 Spanish explorers looking for gold in the Amazon rainforest. Nothing about that explains this woman’s possibly short hair, her bangs, or her side-part (much the less the outfit).

1559 - The Cook by Pieter Aertsen via Wikimedia Commons

1559 – The Cook by Pieter Aertsen via Wikimedia Commons. Yeah, this is about 30 years later & Netherlandish, but it’s a middling-class 16th-c. woman with uncovered hair, & finding those images is hard, yo. My point about the part stands.

The Princess of Montpensier (2010)

Marie in The Princess of Montpensier (2010) wears this side-part ALL THE TIME.

The Princess of Montpensier (2010)

The 1560s costumes are generally lovely, but that part KILLS ME.

The Princess of Montpensier (2010)

This is why mommy drinks.

1568-1572, portrait formerly called Christina of Denmark, via Wikimedia Commons

1568-1572, portrait formerly called Christina of Denmark, via Wikimedia Commons. Even if Marie didn’t have a French hood, she could at least have hair like this!

Jamestown (2017)

OK, sure, we don’t expect much from Jamestown (2017) anymore, but I feel obliged to point these side-parts out.

1610s woodcut

1610s woodcut. And what they should look like, if their hair was uncovered.

The Master of Ballantrae (1953)

Yes, The Master of Ballantrae (1953) fails entirely on the 18th-c. hairstyle, so mentioning the side-part seems petty. But nothing is too small to snark during Snark Week!

Beyond the Mask (2015)

Ditto Beyond the Mask (2015), supposedly an 18th-c. flick.

1785 - Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français via Wikimedia Commons

1785 – Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français via Wikimedia Commons, Just one of many, many 18th-c. hairstyles that never feature a side-part.

Mansfield Park (2007)

I’m not a fan of Billie Piper’s Mansfield Park (2007), least of which because of her hair.

Mansfield Park (2007)

What is that even? JFC.

Mansfield Park (2007)

Piper isn’t the only one — Hayley Atwell also has super-modern hair.

Mansfield Park (2007)

And I found this GIF to clearly show that modern side-part!

Great Expectations (2011)

The 2011 version of Great Expectations is kinda set in the 1820s-30s, but no matter, the side-part & those massive tendrils are distracting.

1829 - Carriage and Evening Dresses, March fashion plate, London - from LACMA via Wikimedia Commons

1829 – Carriage and Evening Dresses, March fashion plate, London – from LACMA via Wikimedia Commons. Late 1820s & 1830s hair was wacky & could have asymmetrical bits, but center-parts were still super-duper common.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996)

I adore The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996) with Tara Fitzgerald! But damn, that side-part :(

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996)

She wears this hairstyle so much during the miniseries, boo!

1836 - The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons via Wikimedia Commons

1836 – The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons via Wikimedia Commons. For comparison…

Love in Chains (2019)

I can’t find a statement of exactly when this Ukrainian TV series Love in Chains (aka Krepostnaya, 2019) is set, but it appears to mid-19th century. Except for some egregious side-parting.

Love in Chains (2019)

Love in Chains really isn’t trying at all on the hair with this chick.

Love in Chains (2019)

And the older lady gets 1960s side-swept hair, which is just as bad.

Point of Honor (2015)

Kinda pathetic that Point of Honor (2015), set around the American Civil War, gets so much wrong, but gets two out of three gals’ hair parted right (none of them have hair pinned UP, obviously).

1852 - Le Bon Ton Journal a la Modes via Wikimedia Commons

1852 – Le Bon Ton Journal a la Modes via Wikimedia Commons. If those Love in Chains fancy ladies really wanted to do it right.

1864 - Le Bon Ton Journal a la Modes via Wikimedia Commons

1864 – Le Bon Ton Journal a la Modes via Wikimedia Commons. Not exactly parted, but symmetrical.

So just take out that comb and draw it right down the middle of your head, ladies! It’ll improve your historical look easily. After all..

Knightfall (2017)

Even Knightfall (2017) could get THAT right!

 

 

Have you noticed historically inaccurate side-parts in frock flicks before?

 

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

53 Responses

  1. Gosia

    Trystan, could you please review “Love in Chains” (Krepostnaya)? The show has been a massive hit in Poland and the Ukraine. I’m in a snarky Facebook with over 9000 members, in which we bash the script of the series and sharing a link to your opinion about the costumes in this production would be a great, great honor to me.

    Reply
  2. Katie

    Now I’m going to be looking for side parts, in addition to lamenting the lack of hairpins and hating the horrible dearth of hats. Thanks for helping me up my snark game!

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      I fear I’ll start doing the same (takes my mind off the impeachment). Hair down, hair uncovered, boots indoors, inaccurate corsets/stays, stretch velvet–am I missing anything? Sometimes 20th/21st-century eyebrows on medieval women drive me mad as well.

      Reply
  3. Coco

    Maybe it’s written into all these characters that they have bumpy heads or large scalp moles that make center parting impossible.

    Reply
  4. Tamara

    Portrait of a Lady on Fire!
    Such a great movie (even if the narative is not really historically accurate), but why, oh why, does Adèle Haenel have a side part all the fucking time?!

    Reply
  5. Nzie

    Good tip. I often kind of don’t think about the hair but since starting to read this blog I have paid more attention and gotten more annoyed, lol.

    For the Love in Chains series, I went to Russian wikipedia and it’s apparently set in 1856. I’m outsourcing the plot summary to Google, which I think is intelligible not perfect:

    “In 1856, 18-year-old serf Katerina Verbitskaya lives in the provincial city of Nizhyn, Chernihiv province. It is owned by the rich landowner Pyotr Chervinsky. She has impeccable manners, she perfectly knows several foreign languages, plays the piano and even paints. So her godmother raised her – the wife of Chervinsky Anna Lvovna. Katerina involuntarily is on the verge of two worlds: nobles and intellectuals on the one hand, and serfs deprived of their liberty on the other. On the way to freedom and love, a serf girl will have to go through many trials.”

    Reply
  6. Nonny

    Other than that, what are your feels towards Sanditon? Is there more Snark to come? Or a true review? The drama-after-dark Girls mentioned, that a lot of consideration went into the costumes last night but nothing further?

    Reply
      • Constance

        Spoilers…first two episodes…

        Ugh I wanted to like Sanditon…but they making it hard. Is Charlotte “out”? Her hair goes up & down, mostly down of course. But they lost me with a line “was just pulling your leg”…which seems unlikely in early 19th century as a common phrase. Also the manner in which Sidney spoke to Charlotte in ep 2…would a gentleman speak to any young lady so rudely? Especially one he barely knows? Always hate the scenario with the eventual lovers starting out despising each other anyway…this guy is even ruder than Darcy. But of course love is in the air, he must be redeemed.

        Reply
        • Liz Myrick

          No, a gentleman would never speak to a lady like that, not to mention a guest and a near stranger. Obviously it COULD happen, but it would be a huge breach of etiquette and unforgivably rude. A man could be challenged to a duel for saying less (though she had no male protectors and duels were rare in practice as they were illegal.) The actress also looks very young, so it looks like a grown man going on an unhinged rant and ruining a teenager’s first ball.

          Reply
    • Frannie Germeshausen

      Having watched the first (2 episode) dose, I’m wary of continuing. I think a true review WOULD include snark. Struggling so hard . . .

      Reply
  7. Alexander Sanderson

    Oh ye gods! The hair in Sanditon was generally tragic beyond belief! Mostly it just limply hung about their faces; or poked, like straw, from underneath their derpy bonnets… and as you so rightly highlight, all those anachronistic side partings! Bah! My biggest peeve though is when an actress is wearing a French hood and has an obvious side parting underneath… grrrrrrrrgh.

    Reply
  8. Lynelle Tarter

    I’m amazed at your restraint regarding Sanditon. You didn’t even mention the 1940’s Veronica Lake hair on one of the characters.

    Reply
    • Frannie Germeshausen

      Yes!!!! Her hair was absolutely lovely – if she were Rita Hayworth in Gilda.

      Reply
  9. Brandy Loutherback

    I saw a bit of the pilot. Charlotte’s hair was bad enough, but I saw the blonde girl’s hair and turned it off! It was wavy 1940s style!!! Fuck that Shit! I wonder what Regency hairstyles women of color would wear? Also this needs more fab turbans, caps and feathers, baby!

    Reply
  10. Yanina

    That Love in Chains is my personal point of WTF. Kinda consensual love story between a serf girl and a nobleman? rolls eyes In Russian empire, affairs of masters with serf girls were not unknown in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries until the serfdom was abolished, but it takes a lot of imagination to think that it could be entirely free on both sides, especially when a girl is your property to dispose of as you like if she refuses you.
    Sorry for the rant, but such plots make me angry on so many levels. They could take some real life stories which I know of from our history, but they would not be so glamorous.

    Reply
    • Gosia

      Yanina, the relationship between the serf and the nobleman was not consensual. In fact there was no relationship, because the whole time he was obsessed with her and chasing her and she was running away from him. Generally, the script of “Love in Chains” is very weak and full of historical errors. The only good thing about the series are the actors, most of which (except for the actresses playing Katerina and Lydia as well as the actor playing Alexei) are excellent. To be fair, I have never seen so many talented actors in one production.

      Reply
  11. Lee Jones

    I liked the story of “Sanditon”, but dammit . . . those hairstyles! And there were a few wardrobe choices that left me shaking my head.

    Reply
  12. Susan Pola Staples

    Older lady in Love in Chains looks like actress who played Elizabeth Petrova aka Tsaritsa Elizabeth I in Russian Yekaterina

    Reply
  13. Susan Pola Staples

    The side parts bothered me too in latest LW, but it wasn’t the only thing in the movie that did.

    I have a theory re side part vs center part. It’s the patriarchy feels center Part adds weight to the face and side part doesn’t. But it also could be sloppy research.

    Reply
  14. Charity

    Now I’ll be watching for center parting in addition to 10,000 other Wrong Things. Thanks, FF. ;)

    Wonder why they center-parted for centuries — because hair naturally parts there? Or did they want their faces to appear rounder and therefore more “angelic”?

    Reply
    • Dee

      I would think it’s the symmetry. Alas, my hair naturally parts off center, so I guess if I had no pomade, I would be hopelessly out of fashion.

      Reply
  15. angharad

    Well, I guess it’s a good think I stick with a centre part all the time so when I do historical stuff, my hair’s closer to accurate. I usually do Viking stuff though so I’m wearing some sort of cap or headscarf and you can’t see the centre part.

    Reply
  16. Joanne Renaud

    Hey guys, I found a deep side part! It’s from 1660s Spain. Wasn’t that a thing at that point? (And probably ONLY at that point?)

    I never noticed the proliferation of side parts before. Now I can’t unsee it…

    Reply
  17. Lynne

    I would be interested to hear from the “offenders”. There must be a reason they are styling things that way? Hard to believe a costumer wouldn’t do due diligence!

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Because it’s fashionable in modern 21st century hair — that’s why they do it. That’s always why they do it. Modern fashions are easy, they’re relatable, & they look “right” to the modern eye. Historical accuracy ranks low.

      Reply
    • Marie McGowan Irving

      I’m around 50 and so my knowledge of hairstyles in the 70s and 80s might be relevant here.

      About the last time (apart from a few years in the 90s) a hard centre parting was fashionable was the 60s, and your hair had to be poker straight. A side parting was thought to be more flattering to most face shapes, and the centre parting unnecessarily unflattering, which isn’t always the case but when that kind of enters women’s mindsets it’s hard to break. So you get hairstylists who are so used to not using a centre parting and only having learned the sort of updos women get for formal occasions like weddings, proms, etc, working on film hair they assume that the updos they learned are somehow historical and go from there.

      I suspect as well that modern notions of what’s ‘pretty’ heavily influence costume, make-up and hair designers. You get the odd understandable decision, but most of the time it’s definitely a case of ‘modern’ hair trends, like beachy waves, and a complete lack of understanding that loose hair, like leaving off a corset, was indicative of loose morals for many historical periods. I watched Sanditon in full and was pretty distracted by the complete lack of hairpins on the main character, which could be understood when she was running about on a farm with her younger siblings but not when she was in the fashionable seaside town.

      Reply
  18. Kathryn MacLennan

    I have found it best to knit while watching Sanditon, so I miss some of the side parts. They just look so wrong!

    Reply
  19. Terry Towels

    Heh. When I first saw that Le Bon Ton 1864 plate, I thought it was an illustration of 1940’s hairstyles. I wondered whether you got the link wrong. Oh well, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    Reply
  20. GinaP

    Thank you! The loose hair was driving me crazy In Sandition, and now the side parts too. Is anyone else bothered by the age gap between Charlotte and Sydney? To my 55 year old eyes, she looks like she could be his daughter.

    Reply
    • Liz Myrick

      The actress was 25 but she could easily pass for ten years younger, while I believe the actor is mid 30s. While I would prefer actors closer in age (in the original story they are 22 and 27) it doesn’t bother me so much because of norms of the time (Colonel Brandon and Marianne, Emma and Mr. Knightley) except that he belittles and mocks her. They clearly want to do a Pride and Prejudice type set up, but he is far blunter and crueler than Darcy ever was (not to mention the rules of etiquette of the time), and the fact that he looks like an adult bullying a teenager makes it far worse.

      Reply
  21. thebewilderness

    Side parts in period pieces demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of how long hair was washed or otherwise cleaned before cream rinse was invented in the early 1900s.

    Reply
  22. Janet

    Started watching ‘Sanditon’ on BBC First, here in Holland, tonight. Missed the first airing of it on BBC England. Boy this is going to be a real struggle, trying to keep watching this TV costume Drama. They say that only the first 30 minutes are based on Austen’s last & unfinished novel. But I don’t even recognize her writing in those 30 minutes. It is almost unbelievable that the “famous” screenwriter Andrew Davies is behind this hot mess. Which seems to be in close collaboration with how their Costume Department thought they should F**K it up for all us Costume Drama fans around the world. No wonder there will be NO second Season!!! [This is ITV’s second Costume drama flop in a row after ‘Beecham House’ was discontinued.] Even having it been let loose now on the North American viewing market, will NOT save this sick puppy. That’s for sure!!!

    Reply

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