Star Wars: Princess Leia’s Hair Buns Had Historical Inspiration
The Star Wars movies have multiple female characters with iconic fashion choices. From Padme's gorgeous dresses to Rey's triple bun hairstyle, the female leads of the Star Warsfranchise definitely have plenty of eye-catching looks. However, the character with the best fashion sense definitely has to be Princess Leia. She has many memorable looks, from her iconic all-white outfit to her golden bikini and even her classy blue dress from The Force Awakens. Still, Leia's most iconic feature is, of course, her double bun hairstyle from A New Hope.
What some Star Wars fans may not know is that Leia's double bun hairdo was actually inspired by a historical women's style. In a 2002 interview with Time, George Lucas stated, "In the 1977 film, I was working very hard to create something different that wasn't fashion, so I went with a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look, which is what that is. The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico."
The Southwestern Pancho Villa women Lucas is referring to in this interview are the soldaderas -- female revolutionaries from Mexico in the early 20th century. It definitely makes sense to turn to such strong historical female figures when looking for inspiration for Princess Leia. However, further research into this hairstyle has shown that the buns actually have roots in Native American history. It has also been pointed out that Leia's hairstyle isn't very practical, so it wouldn't make sense for female revolutionaries to style their hair in that way. Photographs of soldaderas often show the women wearing their hair in long braids or underneath shawls.
According to Kendra Van Cleave, a university librarian who specializes in history and fashion, the inspiration for Leia's hairstyle in A New Hope most likely comes from the "squash blossom" hairstyle, which originated in the Hopi tribe in Arizona. Van Cleave told the BBC in 2016 that "this consists of two side arrangements which aren't actually buns -- they're more loops of hair. The hair is parted in the centre, then wrapped around a U-shaped 'hair bow' made of wood. The hair is wrapped in a figure of eight pattern, then tied at the middle and spread out to create the two semi-circles."
This makes more sense when Leia's hair is compared to historical photos of women from the Hopi tribe. Van Cleave also states that "this hairstyle became more widely known in the early 20th century due to photography," and "many of the arty, bohemian women of the 1920s adopted 'ethnic' fashion as a means of demonstrating their difference from the mainstream and therefore as a feminist statement." This lines up perfectly with Princess Leia's place in the Star Wars movies as a strong female character.
However, it appears that the Star Wars hair and makeup department took some liberties with the original style, pinning Leia's buns closer to her ears and giving them more of a spiral structure. This does raise some questions about the practicality of Leia's hair while she's on the run from Darth Vader and how it managed to stay pinned down throughout the entire movie. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the Hopi tribe style is much closer to her iconic hairdo than the braids and shawls worn by the soldaderas.