The Woman Behind the Buns: The Legacy of Carrie Fisher and Her Iconic Hairstyle

Jamie Newman | December 27, 2016 | 12:32 PM
Note the late Fisher's caption from when she posted this on her personal Instagram account last year, @carriefisherofficial
Photo By @carriefisherofficial

Carrie Fisher was more than just Princess Leia—she was an actress, screenwriter, author, producer and speaker, professionally, too—but it seems as though the role that launched her into Hollywood super-stardom is the one who best represents the late actor's chutzpah, outspokenness and morality in standing up to what is right. Fisher, among all else, was also a crusader for women’s rights, fighting sexism and ageism, and for mental health.

Fisher suffered a heart attack on Friday, December 23 when flying home from London to Los Angeles, soon before landing in L.A. She was rushed to a nearby hospital. On December 27, at 8:55 a.m., she died.

Fisher’s most famous role was, of course, synonymous with her otherworldly hairstyles. Hair stylist Pat McDermott is responsible for the, now called, Princess Leia buns.
According to an article from Yahoo!:

“The product of lots of experimentation by hairdresser Pat McDermott (“I had at least 30 hairdos tried on me,” Fisher recalled), [the buns] received instant approval from director and creator George Lucas. The unusual style was inspired by photographer Edward S. Curtis’s portraits of Native American women — this one and this one seem likely candidates — as well as pictures of Pancho Villa’s rebel women.”

In a 2002 interview with Time, Star Wars director George Lucas said, when asked about Leia’s “crazy” hairdo said: “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. Then it took such hits and became such a thing.”

Fisher even talks about the buns in her new book, The Princess Diarist, which was published in November and she had been promoting. The book has an entire chapter dedicated to the hairstyle, called “The Buns of Navarone.”

In the chapter, Fisher explains how when filming Star Wars: A New Hope, she had to arrive on set around five a.m., earlier than many cast members. She writes:

“Why was I asked to arrive at this ungodly hour? What monstrous chain of command had selected me apart from many others more deserving, more endowed with tresses thick and wavy tumbling toward their waiting waists?

“Perhaps by now the sci-fi aficionados have guessed it. Yes, that god-awfully laughable Leia hairstyle! There were two hairpieces that were practically bolted to each side of my head. First one, then the other, these long brown tresses that, once latched on grimly, were twisted into some oversized-cinnamon-bun shape, which then—with a deftness that never ceased to amaze me—the hairdresser would very slowly and deliberately wind into the now-famous buns of Navarone.”

She also discusses how close she and McDermott became due to how much time they spent together.

“She was the first person I saw in the morning and the last person I saw at night,” Fisher writes. “But it was the morning bit that was the most intimate. Because the hair took two hours to style, we spent inordinate amounts of time coming up with conversation….”

McDermott’s iconic hairstyle—made for an iconic actress—will live on like Fisher’s legacy will. So in celebration of Fisher, do as she would today and be strong, be ruthless, be a fighter, be an inspiration, be a #girlboss—and, if it helps, rock those Princess Leia buns.

Originally posted on Modern Salon.

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