|Late 19th century masquearde costume. More|
pictures can be seen in an old blog post of mine, but
I'm sorry to say that the original source is lost.
|Generic 18th century wig that has nothing to|
do with the actual 18th entury.
The white wigs which are so synonymous with the 18th century are, more or less, a 19th century invention. Of course white wig were available in the 18th century, but the most common thing seem to have been to use a wig in a more natural colour. Women, usually, wore their own hair with fake braids and hair loops, if necessary and both sexes powdered their hair. But even if the powder was stark white, the effect on hair is a bit different. Only white or very blond hair becomes white, other hair colours get various shades of grey. But in Victorian masquerades and plays white wigs were used, a faster and less messy way to get the desired Rococo hair.
|Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, dressed as Marie Antoinette at the Devonshire House Fancy Dress Ball in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee|
The white wig was picked up by the movie industry, but, as it photographed better, shiny wigs were chosen, rather the opposite of the dull powdered look that had been fashionable in the 18th century.
Early movies demanded a rather un-natural and heavily made up look to come through on the white screen and part of that was heavily painted eyes. (As a happy coincidence I found a link through The Gibson Girl's Guide to Glamor that explores just this subject, read it here.) If the pale face corresponded well with historical facts, they were rather due to looking good rather than trying for an accurate look.
Theda Bara playing the Vamp, I mean Madame du Barry in 1917. Not much 18th century, very much Theda Bara.
|Ziegfeld girl, Marion Benda c. 1920’s|
|Rudolph Valentino and, I think, Bebe Daniels in Monsieur Beaucaire, 1924|
|Betty Compson - c. 1920s|
This masquearde outfit is actually more accurate than the movie and dance ones above.
|Marjorie Post Hutton, as Marie Antoinette, c. 1926|
In fact, throughout decades of movie making and even today, makeup and hair in period movies have varied between more or less accurate, most usually less. Up until the 1960’s or so, an actor or actress had a set look that had to remain the same regardless of where, and when, a movie took place. Rita Hayworth’s trademark, for example, was her long, red hair and when she appeared in short, blond hair in The Lady from Shanghai, the audience was not pleased. Makeup was therefore always perfectly modern and hair styled so it looked modern from the front, but somewhat more period at the back
Stunning Merle Oberon in The Scarlet Pimpernel from 1934, probably the main reason, along with Singin's In the Rain, that I fell in love with the 18th century. Her makeup is her standard Hollywood heroine look and the hair too sleek and flat for an early 1790's look.
|Marion Davies in Hearts Divided, 1936|
Many of the wigs were re-used for other movies, like Du Barry Was A Lady from 194. Lucille Ball wear her trademark makeup and why this wig is pink I don't know. Perhaps it was an atempt to mimic coloured hair powder.
The 1950's do the 1920's do the 18th century.
|Jean Hagen in Singin's In the Rain, 1952|
|Martine Carol in Madame du Barry, 1954|
|Tom Jones, 1963|
The past 40 years, or so, more effort has been made to make accurate hair and makeup and nowadays the hairstyling usually look quite good. Makeups are more of a hit and miss. The rather un-natural look of the 18th century with white skin, red cheeks and no eye-makeup doesn’t fit well into modern aesthetics and movie makeup usually go a more neutral makeup route with pale skin and very discreet eye makeup. Because another reason for not going for historical accuracy is to not alienate the audience. A too period correct look may look odd or even ugly to the modern eye. For example, when The Scarlet Pimpernel was made into a TV-series in 1999, lady Blakeney, played by Elizabeth McGovern had a pretty correct period makeup and plenty of reviewers noted that Marguerite wasn’t beautiful enough and looked clumsily made up and that even though McGovern is pretty gorgeous in herself. The hair wasn't especially exiting, though, on either sex.
|Richard E. Grant, Elizabeth McGovern and Martin Shaw|
|The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1982|
|Glenn Close, John Malcovich and Michelle Pfeiffer|
|Geraldine Sommerville, Hayley Griffiths and Siân Phillips|