'Penny Dreadful' Makeover: Becoming Vanessa Ives

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives is EVERYTHING. Here's how to steal her look.

Penny Dreadful is one of my favorite new shows. I don’t want to drop any spoilers, but if you love literature, Victorian London, blood-spray and Timothy Dalton, you need to get into it IMMEDIATELY.

And then there’s Eva Green as Vanessa Ives: eminently refined and mysterious. Her backstory becomes clearer throughout the season (the finale of which was last night, and WOW), but one thing is evident right from the get go: her beauty game is ON POINT.

Today I’m getting inspired by our favorite tarot-reading medium with a dark past and putting together a Penny Dreadful makeup look. Grab your rosary and let's go back to the Victorian era!


Vanessa Ives wears her hair in a lot of awesome styles throughout this show. Because my hair is shorter than what Victorian women would be working with, I wanted to pick something that would work for me AND that could be worn today without looking costume-y.

I turned to the greenhouse scene, because Vanessa’s hair is beyond amazing in it. I mean, it would have to be if you’re hanging out with Dorian Gray.

I began with my hair curled and brushed out a little to give my style some texture. I even took my life in my hands and curled my bangs backward a little, teasing them to encourage them to join the rest of my hair.

I pulled my bangs back and pinned them down so that I had a slight pompadour. Starting from just behind the pin, I took narrow sections of my hair and began to French braid it backwards. It doesn’t have to be perfectly neat--in fact, it’s best if it isn’t--but take the braid back to about where you’d position a comfortable mid-height ponytail. Tie it back with a hair tie that's the same color as your hair. Finally, pull out a couple tendrils to frame your face and neck.

Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, this style can be finished in a few ways. You could section the ponytail out, braid the individual sections, and pin them in a large coil (best for thick, long hair). Or, you could roll up a couple sections of the ponytail into wide pin curls and pin them down (better for thinner hair). I went with the latter--recurling and loosely pinning sections around the tie to conceal it.

The Victorians were all about putting THINGS in their hair: veils, lace, tiny birds, you name it. I pinned a couple of dark purple flowers into my hair to recall both the belladonna from the greenhouse and one of my favorite stories from this era, Rappaccini’s Daughter.

I finished the entire thing with a liberal coat of hairspray. I really like how it turned out!


Vanessa describes the perfect Victorian woman as being languid, pale as ivory, and weak as a kitten. If you’ve been watching the show, you know how laughable it is to describe Miss Ives as “weak." However, she’s certainly living up to the beauty ideals of the time: fair skin, large eyes, and a natural look that isn’t really that natural at all.

I started by applying Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream and blending it well with my fingers. I concealed any spots that I had, but left my under eye circles alone--a touch of darkness around the eyes and by the nose really feeds into the delicate look that was so hot back then.

I finished with a liberal application of Laura Mercier Pressed Setting Powder. In small amounts, this mattifies skin without adding any color. In large amounts, it makes pale skin look even paler.

To bring a little Eva Green realness to the proceedings, I added a teeny bit of MAC Sculpting Powder beneath my cheekbones. The goal was to look slightly drawn. Fighting evil takes it out of a girl.

For eye shadow, I wanted to oh-so-slightly suggest the purples of bruises without looking like I was wearing eye shadow. This called for a bareMinerals Eyecolor called Waterlily--a soft, cool purple that gives just a slight tint to my lids.

Then I ran a smudgy line of black eyeliner underneath my lower lashes to suggest dark, thick eyelashes.

Instead of lining above my upper lashes, I semi-tight-lined the top lids of my eyes. For this, I lift up my eyelashes and delicately trace between them with the tip of my liquid eyeliner. Start at the inner corner and work your way out; for some reason, that’s easier.

Apply a single coat of black mascara to both top and bottom lashes. Not too much--you don’t want to look like you’re trying. Victorian boners deflate for ladies who try; it’s almost as bad as ladies with opinions.

Finally, eyebrows. My hair is pretty close to black right now, so I used a very light hand and a soft black eyeshadow to tint my brows the same color as my hair. I kept the shape long and flat à la Eva Green.

And now my eyes are done!

For the lips, I wanted to keep the “natural turned up to eleven” thing going, so I used Stila Lip and Cheek Stain in Raspberry. This gave me an intense, yet still plausibly God-given pink color to my kisser.

Ready to see the entire look? It's pretty great.

Very refined! Nobody would ever guess the dark secret within your soul!

On the other hand...

Maybe they would.

What do you think of this look? Should I get Victorian more often? Can we talk about last night’s finale? I’ve kept the article itself as spoiler-free as possible in case you’re not caught up, but the comments are fair game.