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.
Long waves, braids, netted caul with pearls … this is the platonic ideal of Lucrezia hair as this show goes.
A more casual look, but still styled.
Burgundy caul, pearls, those big honkin’ gold hairpins the show loves.
Twists with a burgundy caul and matching beads.
Blue? caul with pearls.
Can’t see the back, but I love that thick braid!
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 [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
More braids, smaller blue caul.
Braids wrapped with trim.
Similar yet different.
Same as above?
All up in a pearled caul with a flat cap for riding.
God actress Holliday Grainger is beautiful! She pulls off even the (comparatively) simpler styles. Enjoy that chin while it lasts, girl! ;)
Ditto, now with pearls.
I LOVE the veil!
Back to simple.
Braids looped around in a new style in back.
Another variation, this time with twists.
Back to the blue caul.
Back to a balzo!
Those sticky-uppy pearls are very bridal…
Comparatively simple but with that pop of red beads in back.
Yet another complicated back.
Back to braids and beads.
Blue or green caul with pearls, lots of braids.
A loose caul.
Similar silhouette but with braids.
I love all the texture in the hair.
Now she starts rocking these hair-wrapped sausages…
Similar yet different!
Closing it out with wrapped sausages.
Twists, blue caul with pearls, long waves…
Twists with pearled trim.
This is so complicated and weird! Love it!
Looser style for hawking.
Dialing it back, comparatively.
Simpler, looser hair for the shit getting real.
I think this is the same hair, but more disheveled.
Closing things out in regal style.
Loose caul, hair worn straight and close to the head, ferronière (aka historically accurate head necklace!).
I love these twists!
It’s a head necklace, but it works!
Braids in back.
Twists with a caul.
Twists with a thick braided bun and pearls.
A lovely variation.
I think they’re going for a double hennin kind of thing?
She’s into Vannozza’s wrapped sausages (hey, she likes the sausage, amiright? ;)
Sausages with a braid in back and a veil.
Similar yet different!
Complicated braid, I guess that’s a jeweled caul under the crown?
Queenie likes her sausages thick (plus veil)!
Randos at the French Court
Top right reminds me of that young portrait of Catherine of Aragon; I love the look on the bottom.
Small sausage for shagging the pope.
Lots of gold cauls.
Twists and a little disheveled for shenanigans.
A server in “Roman”-esque costume at a fancy dinner.
What do you think of the different hairstyles in season 3 of The Borgias?
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).
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.
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.
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!
Men shaved too. And I think north of the Alps women were still covering their hair completely with escoffions or hennins.
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???
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.
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…
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.)
Center parts! Everywhere, center parts! (except for the occasional hair-pulled-back-no-part)
The balzo in the Parmigianino picture, La schiava turca, is what Danilo Donati copied for Elizabeth Taylor in The Taming of the Shrew.
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.
Cesare’s “French mistress” is Charlotte d’Albret, and she is his wife whom he married in 1499.
Thanks for the correction! It’s been too long since I watched this, clearly. I’ll update the post.
This show was so gorgeous. I would pay serious money for a tutorial or wig that helped me get this look!
I wish the Tudors had been half as good as this show. I can express the love I have for the Borgias, everything is just so beautiful and accurate (for the most part)
I wish the Tudors had been half as good as this show. I can’t express the love I have for the Borgias, everything is just so beautiful and accurate (for the most part)