How to Do the Hairstyles from Outlander

Written by: Shannon Burns



From caps and curls to buns and braids, hairstyling plays an important role in film. It has the potential for both artistic appeal and narrative development. It is no surprise then that in such a beautiful and character-driven series like Outlander, the hairstyles are an excellent study in this aspect of non-verbal storytelling – with a connection to real historical fashion besides!



Now that our heroes are back in Scotland in Season 2, let’s take a look at some of the best hairstyles from the last time we were in the Highlands, in Season 1. This article is a compilation of character analysis and historical hair info, as well as instructions in case you want to recreate these styles on yourself. Just follow the how-to text for each character, or check out this video tutorial for all of them at once:

Geillis


“Geillie tossed back her hair and laughed delightedly… Baby-fine and slippery, it was coming down from its fastenings. Muttering, she yanked the pins from her hair and let it fall down in a straight, shiny curtain, the color of heavy cream.”
-       Outlander, p. 369-370


Geillis is a unique woman. To put it lightly. This was a time in British history when only unmarried girls wore their hair down, but Geillis isn’t about following convention. Most often when we see her in the show, her hair is either flowing down her back or only halfway secured behind her head. In the book as well, when we hear about her hair, it is either loose or haphazardly done up without much care.
That’s not very interesting styling wise though, so let’s check out an updo she actually did take the time to style. The Gathering at Leoch was a very special occasion, so Geillis arrives with a formal-looking rope braided bun. It’s a very timeless piece that works in our era as well (how futuristic of her…) and is fairly simple to accomplish.
  1. Gather up the top half of your hair, and wind it into a bun. Use bobby pins to keep it in place. 
  2. With the rest of your hair, split in half and make a rope braid, by twisting each strand clockwise and then both strands together counter-clockwise. Tie it at the ends with a small hair elastic. 
  3. Wrap this rope braid around the bun, pinning it in place. Tuck the ends in underneath the bun to hide them. 

Jenny


“Jenny shook her head and went on tucking her hair beneath her kerchief. ‘I know my way.  And if none will move tonight, there’s none will hinder me on the road, no?’”
-       Outlander, p. 494

Jenny is such a different character from Geillis. Both are independent and opinionated, but unlike Geillis, Jenny is the ultimate family woman. She exemplifies what is proper in household care, child rearing, and female dress of the time - which occasionally leads her to butting heads with Jamie in the process.

As noted in the quote above, married women of the time wore their hair up and off their neck. Working women typically styled this very simply, and wore a kerchief or cap over top. It’s interesting how show Jenny doesn’t do this. She has an updo, but it isn’t simple and it isn’t covered. Show stylist Annie McEwan described in an interview once how she researched the characters’ hair, and from these comments it seems like she styled Jenny as an upper class woman would appear. These women had more braids and softly curled tendrils as decorations. Jenny is the sister of a laird, after all, albeit a minor one. So even if show-Jenny doesn’t match her description in the books, her style wouldn’t be too historically unprecedented.

  1. To do Jenny's hair, gather the top half of your hair and make a normal braid (fun fact: the typical three strand technique is called an English braid). Coil this braid into a bun on the top back of your head and pin in place. 
  2. Split the rest of your hair in two, and braid each of these halves.
  3. Lay the right hand braid up the back of your head and around the left side of the bun. Also wrap the left hand braid around the right side of the bun. Tuck the ends from both of these braids and pin secure. 


Letitia


“I heard one of Dougal’s girls say to a friend at the Castle that it would take three hours with the hot tongs to make [Letitia’s hair] look like that. She said she’d like to scratch your eyes out for looking like that and not lifting a hand to do so.”
-       Outlander, p. 228


Now here is a true aristocratic woman. There’s no doubt about Letitia’s social status, and correspondingly she wears braids and soft curls arranged in a very elegant updo like upper class women would do in her time. To see more of this fashion, you can search on Google for portraits by the Scottish painter Allan Ramsay.
To achieve these looks, noble women clearly had servants to help them. In France, the fashion capitol of Europe at the time, there were specially trained hairstylists called coiffeurs. They also used the precursors of today’s curling iron to get the much-desired curly look, which were iron rods heated in the oven or fire. This took a while to do and was pretty rough on the hair, so no wonder Letitia was jealous of Claire’s curls!
  1. Divide off a circle section of hair around the crown of your head. This should take up about half the volume of your hair. Ponytail this for now. 
  2. Starting at one corner of your forehead, pick up a thin section of free hanging hair, split into three strands, and start lace braiding across the top and around the side of your head. Lace braiding means adding in more hair to one side of the braid as you go. Be sure to incorporate all remaining hair as you braid all the way around your head, and then pin the last length of braid along this crown shape. 
  3. Undo the ponytail in the center and with a thin curling iron, curl small sections of this hair. (or if your hair is already curly, you're good to go!) Then coil up these curls and pin them all to the head inside the braid circle so that you have a nice bouquet of curls at the end. 


That’s it for now, but there are definitely more styles to investigate in this show. (hello swanky Paris!) You'll notice Claire isn't in here either - that mane of curls deserves its very own post. So be on the lookout in the future for more Outlander styling how to's!
What looks would you like to learn about the most? Leave a comment with your suggestions!

5 comments

  1. How wonderful ! I can't do any of those styles but I love watching you do them. Thanks for the great details, too.

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  2. Shannon! You go girl. You did a great job in re-creating these hairstyles. My hair isn't as long as yours but long. To me I believe my hair may be thicker as well. Any suggestions? Or proceed as you have beautifully have instructed. My other question. Are the two easier styles ( I wouldn't dare try Letetias Hairstyle ) hard on your arms and neck to execute? I'm just wondering. I'm a bit behind with my mail. I know this is a older post. However I really enjoyed it and wanted to let you know. Plus it's been getting pretty warm again here in Southern California in addition to all the Wild Fires. So I'm ready to start putting my hair up in different ways. Rather than the same boring ways I've been doing for years. Please let me know about my couple of questions if you have time. Okay. Thank you again. Sincerely, Janine Kistler Walker.

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  3. I just discovered this video while going through the blog posts of Season 2...great tutorial! Your hair is long and lovely. Mine is shoulder length and curly, so I don't think I could do these styles on myself. However, I have 2 grown daughters with whose hair I love to play (when I see them...they've moved out, alas) and I'll try these styles on them. Thanks for the ideas!

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