Belle (2013)

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While the film claims to be based on a true story, Belle only needs a few elements from history to give an interesting and relevant look at race relations in 18th-century England. We talk about the costumes, hair styles, racism, and the hot zong-worthy abolitionist Dido “Belle” Lindsay falls in love with.

You can listen to us critique Belle 2013 movie costumes online below or on iTunes.

 

11 Responses

  1. Carolyn

    I had the *exact* same response as Kendra to the costumes: gorgeous…..for the 1760s. But I also feel much as you all did that better to have done an earlier period well than the correct one badly.

    And I’m gonna be a jerk and stick my nose into the en fourreau debate. The majority of the extant 1780s gowns I examined in English collections had en fourreau backs. Like at least 80% of them – among both altered and unaltered. Admittedly, the altered dresses far outnumber the unaltered ones, but most of the fully separately cut bodice and skirt dresses were also altered from earlier styles.

    And I believe I may know what you’re thinking of regarding the Brunswick inspiration. It’s almost a copy of one in a portrait. Lemme go find it……(elevator music)……It’s Lady Mary Fox (one of the Lennox sisters): http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Batoni_lady_mary_fox.jpg

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    • Trystan

      Yay for debate! Tho the other two (Kendra & Sarah) are more the 18th-c. experts, I dabble in that era. Do feel free to smack them around a bit.

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  2. Carolyn

    P.S. I think the Brunswick was my favourite too. Partly because I just find it so charming and partly because I’m convinced that they deliberately referenced a portrait from the period.

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  3. Andrew

    Pretty sure the brunswick is from “The Duchess”: Charlotte Rampling wears it in the scene when she and Ralph Fiennes go to Bath to give Georgiana the ultimatum.

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  4. Carolyn

    Re: the Brunswick – here’s a direct comparison:

    Dido’s Brunswick: http://www.shadowandact.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/23om03actress_v01.jpg

    Lady Mary Fox: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Batoni_lady_mary_fox.jpg

    The only material difference I see is that they left the falling cuffs and extra ribbons off of Dido’s – a good decision in my opinion – as was the coral pink lining. They’re just too much fussiness for my taste. I find Dido’s so fetching that I think I may now need to take a closer look at the one patterned by Janet Arnold…..

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  5. Carolyn

    Ok, so this is embarrassing, but it’s important to be open and honest, right? I have to (at least somewhat) retract my statement about en fourreau and the 1780s. I’m currently writing a section of my thesis that deals specifically with 1770s & 1780s fashion(s), and going back through the gobs of photos I took of extant dresses I must concede there is a large number of 1780s dresses with waist seams that run all the way round the back. I’m guessing it’s a ratio of about 50/50. I will assert, however (just to be nit-picky), that en fourreau would still have been dominant/the norm for fitted-back dresses in 1780-83 (when Belle takes place) and that the fully separately cut bodices and skirt developed later in the 1780s. Interestingly, the Museum of London has an anglaise with a “zone” front from c. 1790 (it also has a slightly raised waist line and wrist-length sleeves) with a teensy weensy bit of the back bodice cut in one with the skirt. And this thing is in mint condition, as if it had never even been worn, so definitely not altered from something earlier. There’s a pattern of it in Cut of Women’s Clothes.

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    • Kendra

      Carolyn — thanks for the input! I won’t say “ha!” Because I didn’t win (my research focuses more on France), but maybe we both win?

      And you’re so right about the mary fox Brunswick! Now we need to find a pic of the one from the duchess… I did go home and check the dangerous liaisons dress and Andrew is right, they’re different.

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  6. yaviana

    Hi. I just found you guys and I will be tuning in more and listening to old shows as I find them.
    I will chime in as a woman of color on the scene with the servant in London and the hair brushing. Mind you I have not studied this… but I think as you mentioned she was just coming out to society in London, she would have had a governess up until that point and wouldn’t have had to find a way to deal with her own hair. Being a member of the aristocracy there were a lot of things that they didn’t have to do for themselves, hence the need for servants.
    I agree with you that it was a bonding moment, but it was also a moment of recognition. Each saw the other in their place and in the others place. And yes black hair hair care is a serious topic that is sensitive and at the same time fascinating. I have often wondered how women of color cared for their hair in history. We in the 21st century are just starting to figure some older things out. I know they wore their hair braided and some times twisted. Being biracial her curl pattern would have been looser and allowed for her to have an easier time with just a bit of care.
    Her dresses… omg! Made me so happy to finally see a woman of color in a beautiful dress. As a lover of costume and fashion in general it always hurt my feelings that I didn’t get to see women that looked like me dressed like everyone else. Knowing that Mary Todd-Lincoln’s dressmaker was a woman of color it hurt never seeing a woman of color in a dress of that period. We didn’t all wear flour sacks did we or burlap? To know that we were seamstresses and artists yet our image was invisible made me feel invisible. I got involved with historical reenactment as the only way I could ever have imagined myself in an historical set up appropriately dressed. When I put on my first colonial gown with a hoop, I was sold. I never wanted to wear blue jeans ever again.
    There is not enough education available on this topic. Thank you guys for sharing your brains and hearts with the rest of us.

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