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Merry Monday–Great Movie Costumes

Monday, October 1, 2007


I never got around to posting this over the weekend, so we’ll just make it Merry Monday.

This was a really hard list to come up with, because there are so many movies I don’t have on DVD that I really like the costumes in. You will notice, no doubt, that all of these are either fantasy or period pieces—those, naturally, are the ones we notice the costumes in most, because what the characters are wearing isn’t anything like what we see on a day-to-day basis.

This is by no means a definitive list. Nor are they necessarily my “favorite” of all times. But these are the ones that came immediately to mind as I was thinking about this topic.

10. Elizabeth. With the sequel coming out soon, I decided it was time to rent this film, as it received so much critical acclaim. Well, I wasn’t overly impressed with the story—in fact, if I hadn’t been working on screen captures from several other DVDs on this list, I probably wouldn’t have watched it all the way through. But the costumes were beautiful.

9. Somewhere in Time. Time-travel stories always make interesting movies as it gives the filmmakers the opportunity to contrast “modern” day (in this case, 1980) with historic (late-Edwardian) costuming. They also used Christopher Reeve’s increasing level of dishevelment to show his downward spiral as he attempted to go back in time, and then at the end, as he attempted to return.

8. North & South (Jakes). When this miniseries premiered in the mid-1980s, it led to my love of the American Civil War. In Book 1 (North & South) and Book 2 (Love & War), costumes were used not only to contrast the different levels of society (the wealthy northern industrialists vs. the working class abolitionists; the plantation owners vs. the slaves), but also the effect of the war, especially on those in the south. And, whether blue or gray, there’s just something about a man in uniform . . .

7. Anna and the King. I mentioned movie this a while back when discussing settings. In addition to the settings, the costumes were wonderful—again using costume to show the difference between West (Anna and her child) and East (everyone in Siam).

6. Titanic. When this movie first came out, I was sewing much of my own wardrobe. I’ll never forget the proliferation of patterns for dresses based on the costumes from this movie. And, I’ve been on a late-Edwardian kick recently—the style is much like the Regency style, but with a lot more color and sparkle.

5. My Fair Lady. I don’t actually own this on DVD, but the costumes are so wonderful, I was able to find all these images online. In addition to the little black dress she wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, photos of Audrey Hepburn in the costumes from My Fair Lady are some of the most iconic images of her.

4. Much Ado About Nothing. No, this isn’t the version that most people are familiar with. This is the version that the BBC did in 1984. The sets weren’t great, but the costumes were beautiful.

3. Persuasion, Master & Commander, and the Hornblower series. These films help me out so much in visualizing the uniforms and costumes as I work on the Ransome series (even though these are all pre-1812, when the uniform codes changed slightly), so I had to do two images:
Able Seamen, Midshipmen, Marines, and Lieutenants
Commanders, Captains, Commodores, and Admirals

2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The images here hardly begin to show the attention to detail in the costumes. Especially with everything that’s shown in the behind-the-scenes features.

1. The Star Wars series. In the original three movies, each character has an iconic costume that we always associate them with. In the newer trilogy, there are so many costumes, it’s almost overwhelming. But they are worthy of the distinction I’ve given them here.

Honorable mentions go to: all of the BBC period pieces made since the mid-1990s including all of the Austen adaptations, all of the Jane Eyres, Jericho of Scotland Yard, Miss Marple, Bleak House, etc.; Portrait of a Lady, An Ideal HusbandGosford Park and Age of Innocence; De Lovely and Pleasantville; Shakespeare in Love, Man in the Iron Mask, and Ever After; Gladiator, 300, Narnia, and The Chronicles of Riddick; and, of course, Pirates of the Caribbean.

  1. Monday, October 1, 2007 7:53 am

    Hmm…thanks for your perspective on Elizabeth. Wonder what this bodes for the sequel coming out in a few weeks? It’s got to have some merit…after all, CLIVE OWEN is in it. Right? LOL

    I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this…do you actually like Titanic? Or do you just like the costumes? Just curious.

    Love the LOTR collage…you included TWO pics of Faramir! That was a nice touch! 🙂

    Also, don’t think I’ve ever asked you how you feel about the Star Wars prequels…(lots of potential fodder for discussion from this post, lemme tell ya!).

    I also have to second all of your honorable mentions, which would probably make up a good 75% of any costume list I would ever compile. 🙂


  2. Monday, October 1, 2007 8:31 am

    I think Elizabeth suffered from wanting to be an Academy Award–winning film. It’s all about the political intrigue (and who was sleeping with whom) that surrounded her ascention to the throne. I think the second movie must be much better given (a) its PG-13 rating and (b) the action scenes shown in the previews. And Clive Owen.

    I’m torn about Titanic—there are parts of it I like and parts of it I can live without. I would have loved to have seen Billy Zane’s character have some redeeming qualities—mostly because I like Billy Zane more than Leo. The costumes in it are gorgeous. And it’s where I first developed an affininty for Victor Garber.

    RE: two pix of Faramir—when I first started that collage, all of the images were of Eomer. But I thought I should probably balance it better and include some of the actual costumes. 🙂

    Star Wars . . . I have always loved the original trilogy. I think George Lucas made a mistake over-digitalizing them for the DVD release versions. They used to be so clean and so gritty—much more realistic than fantastic. As far as the second trilogy (I–III), I like knowing the backstory, LOVE Ewan MacGregor as a younger Obi Wan. But the story suffers from melodramatics (especially in Padme Amidala’s character) and the need to use every possible kind of special effect imaginable, to the detriment of the story and the acting.

    If I’d tried to include all of the Austen adaptations and other historicals set in that time period, this list would have been mostly regency costumes—with Persuasion (1995) coming out on top, mostly because of the uniforms, but also because they used 1814 styles, which is “my” year.


  3. Monday, October 1, 2007 8:39 am

    I love love love Somewhere in Time and My Fair Lady. Haven’t seen either in several years, but wow–they need to make movies like those again.


  4. Monday, October 1, 2007 8:40 am

    PS. I agree about Star Wars 1-3. I liked the gritty, real feel in 4-6 using muppets instead of digital technology.


  5. Monday, October 1, 2007 3:53 pm

    I love the costuming in Cadfael movies, Lonesome Dove, and Mel Gibson’s Patriot too.


  6. Tuesday, October 2, 2007 12:17 pm

    I mean really, what movie COULDN’T be improved by the presence of Clive Owen? 🙂 I have high hopes for Elizabeth part deux.

    I never saw “Titanic” when it came out in theatres. I think part of me was trying to make some sort of anti-Leo statement (LOL). I watched it a few years ago and thought it was hilarious and chock-full of bad acting. Needless to say my favorite part of the whole “Titanic” phenomenon is still the song, “My Heart Will Go On.” Yes, I know it’s terribly melodramatic but Celine and her “Let’s Talk About Love” album played a critical role in my life in ’97-’98. It was a foundational year for the sappy, melodramatic side of my nature… 😉

    Faramir could kick Eomer’s butt any day of the week. That’s all I’ve got to say about that. LOL 🙂

    The “digitized” versions of Star Wars 4-6 don’t really bother me when compared to the original theatrical releases. I just think they are elevated by the presence of Han Solo, period. LOL! I could go on and on and ON about everything that I think is wrong with SW 1-3. Yet because of Ewan MacGregor I suffered through all of the special effects and really bad acting (note to Ewan: hope you appreciate how much I love you…just want to point that out).


  7. Monday, January 26, 2009 10:14 pm

    Somewhere in Time is my ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE! LOOOVE! Christopher Reeve is absolutely divine…SIGH…and Jane Seymour is the most gorgeous woman in the world, IMHO.

    And except for the costumes, I hate Titanic.



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