Our tendency to eye-roll head necklaces seems to have struck a nerve in some of our readers. If reading any teeny bit of criticism for an otherwise enjoyable show is too much for you, stop reading now. Go watch The Tudors or read a Philippa Gregory novel, because you’re clearly not our target demographic. And if you’re still here and wondering why we are such haterz, familiarize yourself with our FAQ first before you start throwing tantrums in the comments.
And now, with that out of the way…
Why do head necklaces irritate us so much?
If you haven’t seen Trystan’s video on the subject from Snark Week 2017, here it is again:
Apparently this hasn’t sufficiently addressed our irritation with the so-called head necklace because we’ve been getting comments recently to the effect of “I don’t understand why you assholes hate head necklaces so much since they’re totes period.”
Well, hypothetical commenter, the reason we are so anti-head necklace is that very few people understand how and when to properly wear one.
I would like you all to take note of the following:
- This is not a necklace plopped on the head;
- This is late-15th-century Italy.
Proper ferronnières are usually a single thong of leather or a thin strip of metal with at most three jewels strung/set into the center — later, a strand of pearls with a pendant of some form in the center became fashionable. They were really only a fashion in Italy (and parts of Spain) in the late-15th-century, and then came back into vogue in the first half of the 19th century before pretty much disappearing entirely.
While there was a fashion for forehead jewelry that persisted on and off throughout the next couple of centuries, we’re talking things like this:
Moving forward in time, let’s discuss some period examples from the 19th century, shall we? Victoria (2017) is one of the recent shows to get the whole concept of a ferronnière wrong.
AND LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR: I ACTUALLY LIKE VICTORIA.
(I am putting that in shouty-caps because I feel like some people miss the fact that just because we point out historical inaccuracies in shows, doesn’t mean we don’t like the show. This is apparently hard for some people to grasp.)
Anyway, disregard what Wikipedia has to say on the matter, in the early-to-mid-19th century the ferronnière was a fashionable formal wear accessory. A woman would not have worn one during the day, or out shooting archery, or riding, or for an afternoon stroll. The only possible exception to this rule that I’ve been able to find is this portrait of Empress Maria-Anna of Savoy, who looks dressed in day wear, but is sporting an epic head-ruffle and straw hat combo in addition to a pearl drop ferronnière.
So yes, exceptions do exist; but they aren’t the rule by far. Certainly by the time Victoria took the throne, the ferronnière was virtually never seen unless it was paired with a formal gown.
So, when the head necklace shows up in a historical flick, it is liable to get a strong side-eye from The Original Broadway Recording Cast for the following reasons:
Like I stated above, the ferronnière was fashionable in two distinct periods, separated by 300 years; first in late-15th-century Italy, and then in early-19th-century Europe in general. Any time you see a ferronnière outside of those two periods, chances are pretty good that it’s not supposed to be there.
Even when the era is correct, frequently the head necklace appears in inappropriate situations. I refer you to what I wrote above: Ninety-nine times out of 100, a ferronnière was worn with formal wear.
Literally a necklace worn on the head
Can’t we cut just a little slack when it’s the appropriate era to wear a ferronnière?
Nope, not when it’s literally a necklace worn on the head.
So what are some examples of when movies get it right? Well…
So, in closing, ferronnières are indeed period … FOR VERY SPECIFIC AND VERY NARROW PERIODS OF TIME. I hope I have helped shed some light on the subject, but as always, please feel free to have a meltdown in the comments about all the ways I am wrong and/or a huge bitch for hating on head necklaces.
Oh there’s nowt wrong with being a huge bitch! Keep on snarking, and eventually they’ll all learn…or fook off. Result, either way!
Bitchy is our brand!TM
You’re welcome! <3
I love the snark. Or should I use all caps when referring to the wonders of SNARK? Hmm, inquiring minds want to know…*snicker*.
I agree that the Duchess of Sutherland should not be wearing her ferronniere playing at being Katniss Everdeen rendezvous with Ernst and that Victoria overdid the head necklaces. (I too love the show) But it looks like the powers that be (production office) thought that if one ferronniere was nice, buy in bulk at Claire’s.
LOL! Yeah, they’re definitely keeping the cheap Chinese knock-off jewelry-and-tiara business afloat right now!
LOL. I just had a picture of Effie from the Hunger Games in a head necklace topped with a flower garland. 😁 Demented???
Ah… forehead necklaces. :-) Sarah, have I told you how much I love you?
They’re a frequent offender at SCA events too, mostly among newer members. All I can say there is educationeducationeducation…
Eh, if it’s on a n00b, I’ll let it go. If it’s on a triple Peer who has been in the SCA since A.S. Rocks Were Soft and who has a Viking persona…? Then we have problems.
SHOW ME THE DOCUMENTATION BITCHES. ;)
Wonder when the Borgia era ferronniere became a sideways headband looking item? Had to be in the !800s. But I prefer incorrect ferronnieres over derpy flower head garlands.
Talk to Trystan about the flower garlands… They’re basically the sister-trope to head necklaces.
Next quote T-shirt: I don’t care if it’s not historically accurate, I just want a necklace on my head.
I would buy that shirt! lol (considering I’ve had a love affair with sticking necklaces on my head since I was a child, and to be honest..I’m probably not gonna stop anytime soon. Even though I really do know better. ;) )
Hooray, thanks for this! Loved the rundown. Also, I am just offended by the complete impracticality of plonking a literal necklace onto the head. It gets super tangled in hair! Not worth it!
We feel your pain!
And the head necklace is a costume trope. I just have no idea where and when it started, and when the “ladies have necklaces on head, it must be late medieval/renaissance period” became a thing.
I was thinking Marina Vlady in “La princesse de Clèves” was the culprit, but I can’t find her sporting one.
Although I’m sure I remember seing some on TV as a child…Argh, it’s not easy being an old!
Yeah, I’m not sure when the head necklace came into existence as a trope, but it’s firmly entrenched now, unfortunately. :P
If you’re late-Gen-X, early-Millennial, one of the seminal examples of a head necklace is the Princess in “The Never Ending Story.” I think a lot of my irritation with head necklaces probably stems from that character since I *haaaaated* her as a kid. So ineffectual and pointless! WTF was she even there for??? AND THAT DUMB HEAD NECKLACE — just added insult to injury.
It makes me sad that you had to start with that preface… but you were smart to do so. Ug.
I doubt it will really help, unfortunately. We usually get the irate commenters during Snark Week when our posts tend to get shared more widely, thus appearing on people’s FB and Twitter feeds who wouldn’t normally be here. Non-SW posts like this one are mostly just you regulars, who get it.
But either way, I’ve learned that even with the eighty million disclaimers and warnings and explanations and links to the FAQ, people aren’t going to pay any attention to any of it if they’re just determined to be shitty. :P
Could they also be misinterpreting the italian lenza?
I *think* the lenza is the Italian term for ferronnière… I’m not so great with my Italian-French-English terminology, unfortunately, but 5 minutes of Googling makes me think it’s the same thing. ;)
I’m thinking the correctly-worn item is the Mother of the Flapper Bandeau. Which is also not a repurposed necklace on my head.
I was tempted to include the 1920s bandeaus but ultimately decided to just keep it focused on pre-20th century since that’s what I’m most familiar with. But you’re definitely spot-on — the bandeau routinely gets “head-necklace’d” in modern films based in the 1920s.
I was wondering why the 20s were skipped. Generally, beaded headpiece s of the twenties were almost cap-like, having strands of beads running from front to back. Or they were wide pieces of stiffened fabric covered in beads, some of them almost crown-like. Very few have center pendants, most have two larger gems at the side. My big pet peeve of faux twenties head gear is the stretch sequin band with feathers and junk glued at one side. Not even close people
Love it. And second the suggestion.
Which suggestion? To go read a Philippa Gregory novel or watch The Tudors? Or to have a meltdown in the comments? ;)
The tee-shirt suggestion: I don’t care if it’s historically accurate, I just want a necklace on my head.
Ha! Yes! We are filing that one away for future reference, fo’sho’.
You are my spirit animal. Vive La accuracy.
The Kate Mosse Labyrinth story is actually set in 1209. It was specifically set during the crusade against and removal of the Cathars from the Carcassonne city. So they’re costumes are way off.
Oops shouldn’t comment and watch movies at same time. Edit *their costumes*
D’OH! You’re right! For some weird reason I had it stuck in my head that it was late-13th-century, not early13th-century despite the fact that the Albigensian Crusade was 1209-1229. Imma change that right now.
I can’t help staring at the one on the right… is it held on with glue?
One of the things I hope to see in season 2 of Victoria is the ball where V&A dressed as Edward III & Philippa of Hainault. And of course, bye bye to Lehzen. And you?
I would love it if they include the Edward III/Philippa of Hainault costumes… I’m not optimistic, though. They’re definitely on the side of “impression” not “accuracy”. :P
True, but at least the costumes are semi-accurate, in a sort of way. The corset scenes look about 88-90% right. And compared to Reign ….And they almost had the wedding gown.
I was going to comment about how men on Krypton wrote bands on their foreheads in the classic Superman comics and in the 80s Supergirl did too, fighting the fight for equality, but then I decided to simply mention the
time that Princess Diana actually wore an actual necklace on her forehead. (Sorry I don’t have photos but I recall it being mentioned in at least one book iIown about the queen’s jewellery)
At least it wasn’t just draped on top of her head – it was worn like a proper 1920s bandeau. (Didn’t really match the dress . . .)
Ah… the Queen Mary emerald choker, given to her by the Queen. It was said at the time, that the Queen was quite offended.
Been having fun looking up ferroniere images, and actually, there are a few very necklacey-looking ones out there…. I just found some that I thought were really interesting.
Russian Tsarina rocking the head necklace (the size of that centre pearl!) ANNNND then topping it off with a tiara! (should I even be giving the Flippies* IDEAS?) Actually, this looks really early based on her dress, the very, very high waist and smaller fancy sleeves looks 1815-1820-ish, so that’s interesting to me, it’s quite early for the look, and SORT of gives some justification for War and Peace, but not for the W&P execution of it.
More ferronnieres with day dresses here – seems to have been quite a Russian “thing” actually.
I really want to see a bigger reproduction of this one as she does look a little more like a relatively normal lady rather than a princess/aristocrat, and it is definitely day wear: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lady_in_green_by_Vasily_Tropinin_%281838,_Altay_museum%29.jpg
Josef Karl Stieler also seems to have painted quite a few ladies wearing head-necklaces in the 1820s and 1830s… they really do look more like head-necklaces than ferronnieres, especially the blingy chain and gems worn by Amalie von Schintling:
and “Charlotte” being all historical-revivally (but of course it is worn very high on the head, rather than around the forehead….)
Cornelia Vetterlein with what does rather look like a pearl necklace on her head.
Marchesa Marianna Florenzi totally looks like she’s wearing a head necklace too…
And sorry to go off topic, but while looking at all the Stieler portraits – I’m loving Nanette Kaula for having the most fabulous gold filigree arrow shot through her hairdo. Sure it ain’t a ferronniere or a head necklace, but I love it, and wouldn’t have seen it if not for doing this picture research! (http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/license/173456345 )
But yes, it’s amazing how many ways there are to get it so very wrong….!
* Philippa Barnes fans. Would “pipsqueaks” be too unkind?
Oh god, I meant Phiiippa Gregory. Apologies to Philippa Barnes, whoever she is, but who I am sure is a very lovely person, and I have no idea why I put “Barnes” when I meant “Gregory.” My brain doth work in peculiar ways.
The thing about these headnecklacy ferroniers is infact how closely they are worked into the hair.The Russians decorated their hair with jewels and pearls which was prominent throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.Blinging the updos with copious amounts of jewels,no matter what the hairstyle called for,is what made the Russian court fashion so interesting.Like how the pearl strands wrap around and are then meticulously topped with twists and curls.On the other hand,period dramas cannot get rid of this “plopped” over the head feel,which has the same effect as wearing a 1780s balloon cap on a 1750s tete de mouton.
Always wonder why you had a problem with head necklaces. Now I know & totally understand, Thank you x
& the video is awesome & perfect!
I got so mad while watching Victoria! An otherwise excellent costuming job ruined by ye old renaissance accesorizing :(
I read somewhere that a famous actress/style setter in the 1920’s was in a hurry before an interview at home and quickly slapped a necklace on her head before the interview for the photos.
Clara Bow, Coco Chanel? Can’t find the reference now, darn it.
May have been a story told by Marion Boyce, the Miss Fisher costume designer. That may have been the reference for Miss Fisher to wear one.
Did anyone see the Zuni tarnished Native American silver necklace in plopped on the head, for extreme close ups in season 2 premiere of Victoria in the Nursery scene? I physically screamed at the the screen.
Thank you so very much. Drives me nuts! But I’m one of those sickos who cannot enjoy a movie if the costumes are wrong. Especially if made since the 1960s.