How to get a Downton-worthy hairdo

Last updated 05:00 22/10/2013
Edith Crawley

GIRL WITH THE CURL: Edith Crawley, played by Laura Carmichael, in Downton Abbey.

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With a new baby, a dead husband and an interfering father, it's no wonder Lady Mary Crawley spends the first episode of season four of Downton Abbey wafting about like a wet week. But at least she's got great hair - and that's no accident.

The popular series has a team of hair experts who put hours of meticulous research into making sure the Crawley sisters - and their servants - have period-perfect locks.

Downton Abbey's hair designer Magi Vaughan says hours of research goes into perfecting each look.

"I looked at paintings, watched old films and got books from the '20s with hair techniques such as the Marcel Wave," she says. "I read Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation by DJ Taylor and We Danced all Night by Martin Pugh. You get a lot from the text; for example, in the '20s women were competitive about the sharpness of their bob."

Strict attention is paid to getting the look just right, with eight cast members wearing full hair pieces to look the part.  Naturally brunette Lily James, who plays blonde Lady Rose MacClare, wears a bald cap to cover her own hair before honey locks are added.

"My hair takes two hours alone, because it's a wig and they have to glue my real hair down to my head. I hate I hate wearing that wig," Lily laughed recently.

The most iconic style during this period was the wavy bob, as sported by Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael). Putting some body into shorter hair is a great way to liven up the style and works well if you have a glitzy party to attend.

It's simple to get the classic Edwardian era wave, just invest in some foam rollers and leave them in overnight. This will give you beautifully soft, vintage-looking undulating locks just like Edith. Spritz with a holding spray to ensure they don't droop during the evening. 

Or if you are in a rush, spray each one-inch section of hair with two or three mists of hairspray and put into a hot roller. When they have cooled, let hair down and spray dry shampoo at the crown. Brush hair out and shape with your fingers. Introducing a side parting will give the look a modern twist.

Sculpted curls are a favourite among the longer-haired Crawleys. To get the look at home, Downton's resident hairstylist Vanya Pell suggests creating tight ringlets using a curling wand, then brushes the hair out to create soft waves.

For the show, the locks are then firmly gripped into place to "last all day" while the actresses are on set. Vanya even taught the actresses playing servants how to recreate these looks themselves so it looks convincing when they are fixing their mistress' hair.

Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, is a fan of romantic updos. To recreate the look, sweep hair into a side-bun with a side-parting. Leave the style loose, with a few tendrils of hair falling naturally, and add a faux pearl hair clip to guarantee period perfection.

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