I’m not our resident medievalist — that honor goes to Sarah — but there’s one particular aspect of medieval fashion that I love, even if I don’t know enough about it: the hennin headdress. Hennins were a 15th-century fashion, particularly in Burgundy and France from the 1430s through the 1490s. It’s the classic, pointy, princess hat, frequently with a veil, that adorns medieval maidens of yore.
Most of what I know about hennins is pretty limited, but this blog post from the British Costume Society has a good overview. Marella Alves Dos Reis writes,
“[The hennin] is the tall conical headdress and veil worn by noblewomen of the late Middle Ages, which was worn at an angle at the back of the head… it was the height that primarily influenced the headdresses of the latter part of the century. It was in this period that the hennin was popularised, and although there were a variety of tall headdresses around Europe during this time, it was the hennin that came to be the most emblematic of the period.”
There were different variations, including hennins with flat tops and ones with pointed tops, and some people include styles like the swoopy escoffion under the term. But here’s the classics:
With that background, let’s look at five solid instances of hennins on screen! Are any of these historically accurate? I sure doubt it, but medievalists, let us know in the comments!
In chronological order:
Richard III (1955)
In the Laurence Olivier adaptation of the Shakespeare play, Claire Bloom as Anne Neville rocks all KINDS of pointy/veily goodness:
The TV movie adaptation of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical features the step-sisters in double-pointed hennins, while mom rocks an escoffion:
Ever After (1998)
Angelica Huston gets all kind of over-the-top headwear as the evil step-mother in this relatively-historically-accurate adaptation of the Cinderella story. But at the final ball, she rocks a sheer, double-pointed hennin with metallic veil — no doubt to increase her evil appearance.
The White Queen (2013)
I had a lot of problems with this Philippa Fucking Gregory adaptation about Elizabeth Woodville, but one thing I liked was the fact that her mother (played by Janet McTeer) wore some lovely hennins with dramatic veils.
The BBC’s series of Shakespeare adaptations always went historical, even if not everything was specifically accurate. Sophie Okonedo plays Margaret of Anjou in three of them (Henry VI part 1, Henry VI part 2, and Richard III), and wears this gold hennin, while her court ladies also wear the style.
Special Bonus: Sleeping Beauty (1959)
If I’m going to be honest, the Disney animated movie is my platonic ideal of “medieval.” I’m constantly drawn to the beautiful costumes on the background characters, many of whom wear varieties of hennins!
Alright, those who know: are any of these hennins vaguely historically accurate? Can you recommend any films/TV series that do feature historically accurate hennins?