As a former English major—and thus a romantic by default—I'm a sucker for a period piece. The star-crossed love! The dancing! The occasional poisoning! I'm here for all of it. But the thing that most often persuades me to reach for a historical drama over anything modern is the beauty: extravagant coifs, lipsticks made from exotic fruits, and glamorous vanities that portend the way we preen ourselves today. Hollywood hair and makeup provides a glimpse into the trends of decades and centuries gone by, and serves as inspiration for many of the looks I try myself. As summer approaches, my attention has turned to my latest binge-watch: Hulu's The Great.
The show is a riotous interpretation of the rise of Catherine the Great and the coup that leads to (spoiler alert!) her overthrowing her husband the Czar to take control of the Russian throne. F-bombs detonate all over the palace's rococo hallways, sex is had on every available surface, and there's a pet bear running around because, well, opulence. But if there's one thing that's shockingly down-to-earth, it's the future empress' makeup and hair looks. Catherine, played by Elle Fanning, is styled as a natural beauty among the done-up Russians surrounding her. Not an accident, according to the show's hair and makeup designer, Louise Coles.
"It was important that her style was softer and more natural than the more extravagant looks worn by the ladies of the court," Coles says. And that's not to say it wasn't historically accurate.
"There is a respect for the historical shapes and methods of the time alongside a playful amount of artistic license to compliment the satire in the scripts and the rich characters," she says. That modern twist grounds these looks enough to make them actually wearable in 2020.
The combo I've already attempted to copy? Catherine's off-duty braid and youthful flush (executed by Erin Ayanian Monroe and Lorraine Glynn, Fanning's makeup artist and hair stylist, respectively), which make appearances in the character's fiercest moments—think doing her lover all over her royal apartment or plotting the downfall of her enemies.
"I wanted to keep [Fanning] looking as she would have in that era, with nothing on her face that wouldn’t have been available to her in the 18th century," says Monroe. After blending in a light layer of foundation with a damp blending sponge, Monroe gave Fanning's brows light definition with a pencil, skipping concealer and mascara all together: "I wanted her eyes to have that delicate watercolor quality around them from the natural tone of her lids and under eye area," she says. And that beautiful blush? It's not a blush at all. Monroe fluffed a berry-hued lipstick on Fanning's cheeks using a stipple brush.
As for replicating Catherine's hair, this braid is all about letting it fly. Add a curl cream post-shower to add natural shape and bounce to curly strands, or fake the texture with a curling wand (mix up the size of the barrel for a more organic look). Leave some tendrils loose to frame the face, then use French pins to secure an unruly, imperfect plait. Add a few spritzes of pliable hairspray to keep the braid in place without making it appear too perfect, and... huzzah.
Even covered in sweat, I plan on looking like royalty all season long.
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