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September 3, 2011


After greatly enjoying the book, I started off this long weekend by finally watching the BBC adaptation of Wives and Daughters.  I must have seen it when it was on Masterpiece Theater, but it's so surprising to me that I don't remember the series or the story.  Did I watch it and forget it? Or could it have been that I wasn't interested for some reason? Oh, well, I was young and foolish back in 2002.

Wasn't it good? I thought it stayed very true to the story, only taking small liberties and doing some minor condensing as is always necessary.  I thought all of the casting was very strong, especially with Bill Paterson perfect as Mr. Gibson.  {And I also thought that seeing Roger Hamley on the beach with his shirt off was very, very important in defining his character.}

And it's a small thing, but I was fascinated by Lady Harriet's hair {image found here} in the final scenes at The Towers. {OK, the matchmaking business and Molly's overhearing it was one of those things that the adapters always seem to need to do to move the story along, without being true to the original.}  I even rewound to watch one scene over again, to make sure, but after wearing hats and turbans in earlier scenes she came to the ball with very short, closely cropped hair. I don't think I've ever seen that before, except when the person with shorn hair was dangerously ill or demented.

Apparently I'm not the only person who wondered, because when I typed 'Lady Harriet Wives and Daughters...' into Google, the search engine added 'hair' to the end of my query. :)

This is the explanation, from a PBS web page on the series.

We received many comments and questions about Lady Harriet's hair. In fact, a short, spiky hairstyle such as that Lady Harriet wore at the end of the series was considered ultra-fashionable in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in emulation of classical Greek style. In Paris, where the trend began, this hairstyle was known as 'chevelure a la Titus.' In her wonderful book The Art of Dress, Jane Ashelford notes "The new antique style did require boldness, for wearing a simple muslin dress based on the drapery depicted on Greek vases and statuary meant dispensing with corsets and reducing underclothing to a simple shift. The wearer had to bare her arms, draw attention to her bosom by raising the waistline and lowering the neckline of her dress, and have her hair cut 'in the manner adopted by the most eminent Greek sculptors.'"
Bold, too,  that the costumers did this, and that they didn't work in a remark explaining it, either.


JoAnn said...

I thought about watching Wives and Daughters while waiting for the second season of Downton Abbey, but really need to read the book first. Had no idea that short, spiky do was fashionable at that time!

Karen K. said...

I wondered about Harriet's hair also -- it was sooo unflattering! I did love her mother and how she called her "Hawyot." (Plus the fact that the same actress was the definitive Lady Catherine in P&P!!!)

And I will always love Michael Gamon as The Squire: "I'm not saying she was very silly, but one of us was silly, and it wasn't me." Priceless!!!

Frances said...

Like JoAnn, I am looking for things to distract while I wait for more Downton Abbey. And more Sherlock for that matter. Also have not read the book but I feel OK about watching anyway. Netflix?

Anneke said...

I wondered at the hair too, and was not very satisfied with the explanation by the creators. That fashion was hot during the 1810s (maybe, I've yet to find a historical source for it) but W&D takes place during the 1830s. Why would Lady Harriet go for a style that was at least 20 years out of date?

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