It’s in the Hairstyles!

Historical Romance Fashions and Hairstyles Versus the Reality Victorian Era Portrait Book Cover 

I’ve made it no secret I’m not the greatest fan of a lot of historical romance cover art. I find the enormous, tanned, muscular, twenty-first century men painfully anachronistic, and I wonder why everyone whinges about women’s underwear of the past when these cover models are wearing fewer layers than we do today.

Historical Romance Cover Art

However, the hairstyle thing really gets me every time. I have a big problem with HOW modern the hair is, not just on the covers, but also in the books. I CANNOT imagine a single man on any historical romance cover EVER existing in the past.

Couple c. 1870s

Now, I understand that there have been some pretty dreadful hair fashions throughout history. For example, the 1880s-90s was one of the most horrific eras in women’s fashion history:

Hairstyles Late 1880s1880s Hair

However, I am a little tired of all the books where the heroines are so “original” because they always wear their hair in simple buns or plaits they don’t even use a maid to do. They attend balls with hairstyles we’d use today.

Part of writing historical romance should be about the historical fashions, should they not?

Or else you’re just like that ridiculous time-travelling lead character in Lost in Austen:

Lost in Austen

I understand there’s a lot of very unsexy stuff going on in the real version of the past:

H.R.H. Duke Carl Theodor in Bavaria (1808-1888)Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864 - 1892). The eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Queen Victoria’s grandson.

But can we not find some middle ground here?

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5 thoughts on “It’s in the Hairstyles!

  1. I know this is one of your pet-peeves and you are certainly entitled. I however like to feed my fantasies with those rather buff modern cover models. Too much authenticity would rather kill those fantasies. I’m in total agreement about the “Lost in Austin” heroine. I loved that movie but could not stand the actress.

    1. The heroine totally ruined the whole thing for me. It was certainly a fun show, if silly, but she didn’t even try to fit into the past! Couldn’t she have at least tied her hair back or stopped wearing lipstick or something?! She was supposed to be an expert on the era, but sure didn’t act like it.

      They were going to remake it with Hollywood funding, but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

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  3. I get that there’s a balance between historical authenticity and appealing to the modern reader, but I do believe there is a happy medium. Not always easy, that’s for sure, but I have seen bits of Lost in Austen, and I have to agree; the modern look of the heroine bothered me. If I’m there for a historical, I want a historical, and that does mean that the people are going to look different from people I see every day.

    1. I came to historical romance via historical fiction, so I’m definitely in it for the history!

      One reason I like heroes who are a little below dukes and earls is because it’s easier to believe they do have a strong physical presence, and that they *wouldn’t* follow the more effeminate fashions. I groan out loud every time an author refers to her duke hero’s HUGE muscles and “deeply tanned skin”!

      I’m fine with a bit of a compromise between reality and fantasy, but I just can’t think of historical romance as a fairy tale. Every time I do, all the realities of the era start creeping into my mind…

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