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I’m Living For The Victorian Beauty Trends in “Enola Holmes”

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We’ve all been a little more involved with our Netflix accounts this year. And after watching “Enola Holmes” this weekend, I’m ready to glow up with Victorian-era beauty.


For anyone who hasn’t found the Sherlock Holmes spinoff on their feeds, the film showcases an entire Holmes family reunion. After their mother goes missing, Enola –– played by Millie Bobby Brown –– calls back her brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, to bring her home. Of course, when the two decide a young woman is better off in boarding school than solving mysteries, there’s a bit of drama (#boybye). Enola goes off to solve the mystery –– and finds herself in a new one –– all on her own.

Official Trailer for “Enola Holmes” – Now on Netflix

To say it simply, “Enola Holmes” is a feminist mystery featuring one of my favorite young actresses and an overwhelmingly handsome Henry Cavill. So, of course, I was hooked from the start. However, what I found surprisingly inspiring was the film’s hair and makeup. I’d never wanted to romp around the streets of England so badly! And as if I didn’t have anywhere to wear this century’s trends, I’m still stuck on these trends from the past.

Prim & Posh

Millie Bobby Brown, Helena Bonham Carter, Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin on the set of “Enola Holmes”

As soon as the Holmes brothers step on screen, you realize the importance of appearances in the Victorian days. Cahill enters with a French-styled Shingle, while Mycroft, played by Sam Claflin, dons a top hat and full handlebar mustache. When they see Enola –– again, not a typical “lady” of the times –– their response is first, to totally glance over her. Then, Mycroft responds with a: “My god. Look at you. You’re in such a mess.” Whoops.

All Done Up

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Enola Holmes, played by Millie Bobby Brown, in red hoop skirt dress and curled updo

After running away to London to escape her brothers’ judgements, Enola finds herself in a dress shop becoming a “truly unlikely thing…a lady.” Whale bone corset and all, Brown adopts the timely apparel and a more formal hairstyle to suit her disguise. With a middle part –– a staple of women’s hairstyles during the time –– and a standard updo with curls gathered in the back, her strands look almost as fabulous as the gorgeous red dress she picks up, too.

Ring Around & Rosy

Millie Bobby Brown and Louis Partridge meet in a flower market.

Finally, one of my favorite looks on Brown throughout the entire film is in its second half, when she finds her love interest in a flower market (dreamy) and looks fresh enough to live alongside the greenery. As you’ll notice in the film and other representations of the Victorian era, a full-glam face was hard to come by. Instead, flushed cheeks like Brown’s were created with an emphasis on exercise, diet, sleep and mood. In other words, it was all about the natural beauty –– which she absolutely glows with in this scene.

Some Less Desirable Trends

Of course, discussing beauty standards in the 19th century would be totally incomplete if I didn’t acknowledge some less … admirable practices, too.

First, there was an undeniable favoritism toward paler skin. The lighter the shade, the more affluent you were assumed to be –– because the more money you had, the less time you spent working outdoors. Of course, this had an obvious air of racism embedded into it as well. Not only were Black English women totally outside Victorian definitions of beauty, staying home was completely out of the question for most.

Surprisingly, this wasn’t the only problem with the desire for paler skin. As Tuberculosis raged in the 19th century, the rosy cheeks and lack of color in a person’s face contributed to this warped beauty standard. So, in fact, the most fashionable thing you could be was deathly ill. #Cool

Definitions of beauty have always shifted, with history consistently making its impact. Even with the troubling facts of Victorian beauty standards, I loved the way the “Enola Holmes” cast wore the trends. And, let’s be real: I would love Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill in anything they wore.

Darby Hoffman
Darby Hoffman
Darby Hoffman is a creative and branded content writer based in Chicago, IL. She specializes in topics related to sustainability, beauty technology, and consumer health & safety.