Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful

Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadfulfeatured

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It’s pictorial time again!

I got a request for this one a while ago. I admit that I haven’t watched the show (I watch a lot of TV but I can’t see everything!), yet I have a special love for historical hairstyles. I was a history nerd way back in high school. So when I saw Venessa Ives’ updo in Penny Dreadful, I really wanted to try it.

braided hairstyle Penny Dreadful

Updo worn by Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful takes place in Victorian London, so I did some research on the fashionable English hairstyles of the time to see if I could replicate this in a historically accurate way. The resulting style is a variation on the Newport Knot – a twisted updo, similar to the Psych Knot, that was popular in England around the turn of the 20th century. That’s a little bit later in time than Penny Dreadful, but close enough!

the Newport Knot

Now, a couple notes on my pictorial before we proceed. Firstly, the character has a lot more hair than most people (as tv characters tend to do). So if your updo isn’t as large as Venessa’s and you’re unhappy with that, you can easily make just the knot with your own hair and then braid some loose hair (like this) two wrap around the knot. This is similar to what historical women did. From the link above:

If the natural growth of hair is insufficient to render the head proportionate in appearance, the deficiency should be supplied by an artificial switch to produce a truly artistic effect…Figure No. 17 shows the Newport switch, which is made of long, naturally curly hair fastened to a light ring that fits accurately over the knot of hair it is designed to cover. The switch is coiled before being adjusted, as pictured at figure No. 18, and is then disposed over the hair, which has first been twisted in a tight knot. The effect of the arrangement is perfectly natural.

quote by an 1894 styling manual


Visual depiction of the historical method for adding fake hair to buns to increase volume.

You can also add in clip in extensions first if that’s what you have. I’ve done a couple review videos on different sets of clip in extensions if you’re interested in that option.

Secondly, Vanessa has some curly wispiness around her hairline. The above instructions for the Newport Knot explain how to do this. Basically, section off a circle of hair in the back of your head to keep straight, and with a hot curling iron, curl the rest of the hair surrounding this circle. Then brush everything together to start the hairstyle. I didn’t do this in the pictorial mainly because I wanted to show people what to do who didn’t want to curl (also I was lazy), but if you want even better historical and show accuracy, go for it!

Alright, let’s check out that tutorial!

Venessa Ives hairstyle from Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful Updo Tutorial

This is the pictorial that will work for most of you – that is, for people with hair between about collar bone length and bra strap length. It involves making a Newport knot base, and then wrapping a rope braid around that bun.

If your hair is very long, it’ll look better to do the style more like the historical Newport Knot is done, so here’s an alternate pictorial for that case:

Penny Dreadful braided updo tutorial

Penny Dreadful updo for very long hair

Before I forget, I’d like to give a shoutout to BindingCreations on Etsy for sending me the beautiful fabric flower. I’m a huge fan of it 🙂

I hope you all like this style! Keep watching here for more pictorials and videos on the future!


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