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Fun Friday—More Great Costumes on Film

Friday, June 19, 2009


A couple of years ago, I did a “Great Movie Costumes” post, and after some things I’ve watched recently—or that I’ve even just seen previews for—I figured it was time to revisit this topic. Again, as I stated in the previous post, I make no claim that these are the “best,” just some that I really like.

Marie Antoinette. I watched this movie a year or so ago. Wasn’t really impressed by the story, nor the acting, but the costumes and the sets (filmed on location at Versailles!) were stunning. Rather than try to create collages of the absolutely gorgeous costumes—even just those that Kirsten Dunst wore as the erstwhile queen, I’ll send you to the Costumer’s Guide to Movie Costumes website, where there’s a repository of images of the more than sixty different dresses Dunst wore in the movie. Yes, more than sixty in a two-hour movie means a different costume every two minutes! But it wasn’t just Dunst whose costumes were ornate to the smallest detail. In every scene in the movie, it’s obvious such a level of detail was given to every lady-in-waiting, every footman, every coachman. And then there’s the jewelry and the wigs and the shoes and the other accessories. If you’re at all interested in that era, it’s worth watching, just for the visual feast the movie provides.

The Duchess. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this one (since it was out in theaters last year), but I remember thinking that Keira Knightley wasn’t horrible enough to make it not worth watching. And, while she looks absolutely horrendous in the weird hybrid, almost-empire costumes they put on her in P&P 2005, this style, meant to completely flatten the chest (not hard in her case) actually works for her figure. Descriptions of each of the gowns in the collage can be found on the film’s official website, and more images—mostly screen captures but some promotional stills as well, can be found on the Costumer’s Guide website.

Comanche Moon. Good Westerns are few and far between these days. This one is based on one of the novels in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove series. While I’m not a fan of McMurtry’s books or the other film adaptations of them, I couldn’t wait for this one to air. One guess why! The costuming in this two-part movie event was interesting, as they had to find ways to subtly indicate differences in social status, especially amongst the female characters, yet without having the rungs on the social ladder really being too far apart. So the differences were shown more in the details—a woman of better means might wear wide hoops, whereas one of little to no means wears only petticoats under her dress. Each of the male characters had one iconic outfit with many layers/pieces to it—which is pretty accurate for how men of the late 19th Century West would have dressed, especially Rangers who were out on the trail quite a bit and wouldn’t have been able to carry much around with them. Great images of the characters/costumes can be found on the CBS website.

Pushing Daisies. Though I couldn’t watch this show regularly, one of the things that really stood out was their off-beat choice in the costume design. Each character had his/her own style, and much of it came out of a 1950s/early 1960s vibe. And then there were the bizarre getups worn by Chuck in her effort to disguise herself (so no one would recognize her as the girl whose murder was big news) or by the characters that they run into along the way as they’re investigating the deaths that each episode centers around.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. This has to be one of my favorite romantic movies that’s come out in a very long time. And it wasn’t the love-tri—no, quadrangle between the characters played by Amy Adams, Mark Strong, Lee Pace, and Tom Payne that made the film for me. It was the much quieter, more mature romance between Frances McDormand’s and Ciaran Hinds’s characters that made me nearly swoon. Granted, I already have a soft spot for Hinds, due to his portrayal of my favorite Austen hero, Captain Frederick Wentworth, in my favorite Austen film adaptation, Persuasion 1995. Maybe it’s just another sign I’m getting older, but it was their characters’ finally finding someone they could relax and be themselves with that made the movie for me. Oh, and the pre-World War II costuming was brilliant—especially the lingerie in the fashion show scene. Miss Pettigrew is a down-on-her-luck daughter of a vicar who’s been trying to make her living as a nanny, but doesn’t like children (see, I identified with her right off the bat!). When we first meet her, she’s just lost her job, and her physical appearance makes it obvious she hasn’t had access to disposable income for quite some time—if ever. The physical transformation that McDormand’s character makes through the film, especially in the makeover scene, is marvelous. And yet even though she goes from a duckling to a swan, who she is never changes—she only allows it to shine through for everyone else to see and love.

The Young Victoria. No, I haven’t seen this movie. But I have seen images from it and it looks like the costuming is very well done. Stills from the film can be viewed on the AceShowBiz website, and you can view the trailer here. While I love the Victoria and Albert miniseries A&E did (it was one of their last costume dramas), this one looks like it’s going to be even better—if it ever releases!!!

Pirates of the Caribbean. This was one I’d thought about including last time, but didn’t. Mostly because there were ten others I liked better than these at that point in time. Well, now that all three films have been out for a while, it’s time for me to pay them their due. (And yes, I do realize I have two Keira Knightley films on this list. I can’t help it. She didn’t make the costumes, she just wore them. And, yes, these costumes are from about the same era as The Duchess and Marie Antoinette). The men in these films, like in Comanche Moon get their own iconic costumes that don’t change much from scene to scene/from film to film. And every time I see the high-res image of Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) in his Royal Navy uniform, I drool over the exquisite detailing of it. Once again, the Costumer’s Guide has a wonderful index of images from all three films.

Sense & Sensibility 2007, Northanger Abbey 2007, Persuasion 2007, and Miss Austen Regrets. The latest adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels made the most of their budgets when it came to costuming. Now, many costumes were repurposed from other films, whether other JA adaptations or just other films set in the era, but still, they did a good job with them. And even though I wasn’t thrilled with the liberties they took with the storyline of Persuasion (see my reaction here), it didn’t keep me from admiring the way Rupert-Penry Jones looks in Regency formal black. And no, Mansfield Park 2007 was not included in this. The costumes were probably fine, but I was so disgusted with that “adaptation” of the novel that I don’t even want to give it any undue attention.

The Chronicles of Narnia. Though the level of detail of the fantasy/medieval style costuming of the scenes in Narnia aren’t quite as good as those in the Lord of the Rings films, it’s pretty darn good. And the contrast that’s made between the Pevensie children’s every-day, World War II–era clothing and school uniforms and their Narnian wardrobes is vast and plays well on screen, especially in the second movie. Their change from “every day” to “Narnian” in the first film happens gradually, along with their gradual acceptance of and belief in what’s happening to them—once again, using the costumes to visually convey the transformation taking place inside the characters. The best place to view images from the films as well as behind-the-scenes photos and publicity stills of the actors in their costumes is at The Wardrobe Door a division of NarniaWeb, which is dedicated to examining the costumes from the films.

The Tudors. It’s crass. It’s vulgar. There are gratuitous scenes that they can get away with because this is made for/airs on Shotime that really add nothing to the story. And despite that, it’s so well written and acted—and so lush on the screen—that it’s compelling to watch. And it’s what made me think of revisiting this topic. Like just about everyone else, I had an elementary knowledge of what happened during the rule of Henry VIII. He wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. And thus was born the Church of England (and thus died Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More). Well . . . sort of. I’ve learned so much about the details of what happened—not because the show is 100 percent accurate (because it isn’t, which the creators have admitted to), but because it’s made me stop and look up the actual history of what happened. And their costumers have outdone themselves with the creations for each character. Now, to save money they, like others before them (mentioned above, as a matter of fact), repurpose costumes and accessories, both within the show and from other projects. I personally could spend all day just perusing an exhibit of the jewelry pieces they use. And then there are the costumes. Spend some time browsing this website—especially if you’re writing something set during this era, as they’ve done quite a bit of historical research on costuming.

Though I’ve linked you to source websites throughout, I’ve uploaded more images of costumes from all of these into a set on Flickr.

  1. Friday, June 19, 2009 11:56 am

    I am a huge film costume fan, so I loved this post! 😉 Loved, loved, loved all the choices (and the last costume post, as well…anything that includes Somewhere in Time is a winner 😉 ).

    I haven’t seen Marie Antoinette, but I ADORE the costumes!!! Would love to try and make one of those someday…


    • Sunday, June 21, 2009 3:30 pm

      I don’t know if it’s a sign that the story of a movie isn’t capturing my interest when I’m spending more time noticing the costumes or not. Most of the ones on this list, as well as the previous list, were those that were either meant for the costumes to be noticed (like M.A.) or those in which I really paid attention to the details of the costumes on a second or subsequent viewing.


  2. Friday, June 19, 2009 2:11 pm

    Marie Antoinette is totally worth watching just for the costumes. The story is really messed up and the acting isn’t that great. But the costumes and actually being in Versailles more than make up for it!

    The more I hear and see about The Young Victoria, the more I want to see it! I’ve always been fascinated with Victoria, and with her intense and undying love for Albert.


    • Sunday, June 21, 2009 3:34 pm

      The great thing about that customer’s resource website is that they have so many wonderful pictures from M.A., it’s almost unnecessary to watch the movie!

      I can’t wait for The Young Victoria. I just checked IMDb, and there’s still no U.S. release date, which is odd, since it was produced, in part, by Martin Scorsese. But the U.K. DVD date is July 13, which means that hopefully it’ll start making its way across the Pond soon thereafter. From the previews it looks like this movie, unlike most others, focuses mainly on the romance and the first few years of her reign.


      • Sunday, June 21, 2009 7:45 pm

        You know, this situation with The Young Victoria reminds me a bit of how Kenneth Branagh’s film As You Like It was released. It NEVER came into theaters in the US, it was shown on HBO and then released on DVD here. I am so anxious to see TYV I wouldn’t object if it came here in that way – as long as I’d finally get to see it!


  3. Friday, June 19, 2009 4:32 pm

    I love good costumes!!! I watched Pushing Daisies a few times and you’re right, loved their variety! Chronicles of Narnia as well.


  4. Audry permalink
    Friday, June 19, 2009 6:44 pm

    I loved Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day too, for the same reasons. 😀


  5. Jess permalink
    Saturday, June 20, 2009 2:43 pm

    Man, I am really excited about Young Victoria!
    Though I wish she had gained just a little more weight for the part. To me, that’s such an important part of Victoria’s personality–how insecure she was about her looks.


    • Sunday, June 21, 2009 3:40 pm

      Here are a two great portraits of Victoria as a young woman:

      Though the actress they’ve cast as her is very slender (as most actresses are these days), I wouldn’t say she’s excessively smaller than Victoria was as a young woman.


  6. Sunday, June 21, 2009 2:07 pm

    I loved Miss Pettigrew as well! When the planes flew overhead during that party and Miss Pettigrew and her love interest (whose name I can’t remember!) looked at each other and one of them said “They don’t remember the last war,” I thought WOW, what a perfect line for that spot. The clinched it for me right there and I cried and wanted them to be together more than I’d wanted any other recent movie couple to be together. Sorry for rambling, that had nothing to do with costumes, but it was a wonderful moment:)

    The Duchess also exceeded my expectations in every way possible, including costumes.


  7. beckycastlemiller permalink
    Tuesday, June 23, 2009 5:09 pm

    I love that your feelings on Keira Knightly are just the same as mine. : )


  8. Wednesday, June 24, 2009 7:07 pm

    I was at Disney World last summer, and they had a “ride” about Prince Caspian. It was more like a preview of the movie, but then they had some of the costume sketches and a couple of the real costumes on display. It was really amazing! The detail was incrdible, and just gorgeous.

    Oh, and I love Johnny and Orlando’s costumes in Pirates. Brilliant! Jack Sparrow’s hat in the first is a favorite. 🙂


  9. Sunday, January 9, 2011 1:13 pm

    Thank you for the links of the costumes from the duchess!


  10. Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:42 pm

    I’m so glad I found this blog post completely on a different tangent! I make mermaid tails, and own several books on period patterns. I study the costumes on all films and believe it’s integral to the story if I enjoy it. I also watch films many times over just to enjoy the story, and pay more attention to the costume breakdown later. What you have done here must have taken a good while to research, and I really appreciate the thorough breakdown. A few I have not seen are now on my list to check out.


  11. Debra permalink
    Friday, August 3, 2012 7:22 am

    I’m surprised you haven’t seen The Young Victoria yet. I went to the theater, quite excited because I was writing in 1837 and glad to see something ‘contemporary’ rather than the Dickens/Austen group.

    Loved Miss Pettigrew! Oh yes!

    I really wanted to watch The Tudors but I couldn’t. Darn.
    I’ve been visiting a lot of War of 1812 Reenactments and enjoying the costume show in person!


    • Friday, August 3, 2012 8:31 am

      Check the date of when this post was published. It was before TYV opened in the States.


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