Consolata Boyle: The Frock Flicks Guide

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Consolata Boyle is an Irish costume designer who’s done a number of period films, often with director Stephen Frears. She’s been nominated for three Oscars (The QueenFlorence Foster Jenkins, and Victoria & Abdul), won one Emmy (The Lion in Winter), and one Costume Designers Guild award (The Queen). She’s currently working on Radioactive, the Marie and Pierre Curie biopic starring Rosamund Pike.

Let’s do this!

 

Anne Devlin (1984)

Based on a true story, about a woman caught up in an Irish revolt in 1803.

1984 Anne Devlin

Can’t tell much other than “uniform”!

 

Troubles (1988)

Set in 1919 Ireland, Sean Bean stars in this miniseries.

Troubles, 1988

Yum.

 

Widows’ Peak (1994)

A young woman (Natasha Richardson) joins an exclusive community of widows in the 1920s.

“She does make her coatless, so as not to conceal her shape and ‘to give the feeling that she’s not affected by the elements, that she’s not quite grounded, that she’s lighter than air,’ Boyle explains. And she does give her dresses that are always slipping off her shoulders, plus the appearance that she isn’t wearing any underwear. (She’s actually wearing a slip.) “Just by Natasha’s sheer physical presence in a (conservative) town, you almost have to do nothing. That’s what designing is‘” (Widow Dressing).

1994 Widows' Peak

Great 1920s wear in this film.

1994 Widows' Peak

Richardson is youthful and sexy.

1994 Widows' Peak

But there’s a great age range shown.

 

Mary Reilly (1996)

Julia Roberts (why?) as a housemaid to Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde).

“Some things you forget about, some come back and end up in a costume. Stevenson’s life in the tropics was well-documented with photographs. He wore a lot of extraordinary linen suits and I used that for Jekyll’s side of the character” (The Frill Is Gone).

Mary Reilly

Hey, at least the bangs are period!

1996 Mary Reilly

This is the only interesting image I’ve ever seen of this movie. Which I will never watch.

 

Moll Flanders (1996)

The feature film version starring Robin Wright, not the better TV miniseries. The story of a 17th-century woman who has many adventures.

1996 Moll Flanders

SO MUCH HAIR

1996 Moll Flanders

Stockard Channing as a madame

1996 Moll Flanders

The period in which Morgan Freeman played the wise advisor in every historical movie.

1996 Moll Flanders

Is she posing? I can’t remember anything about this movie despite having watched it.

 

The Serpent’s Kiss (1997)

17th century, gardening, Ewan McGregor and Greta Scacchi.

the Serpent's Kiss 1997 costumes

Mitts! Parasol!

the Serpent's Kiss 1997 costumes

Great hair, and Richard E. Grant!

1997 The Serpent's Kiss

Both are rocking those curls

1997 The Serpent's Kiss

The ingenue, who seems extra slutty

1997 The Serpent's Kiss

What’s up with the skullcap tho?

 

Love & Rage (1999)

Greta Scacchi again as a late 19th-century divorcée shocking her Irish neighbors.

1999 Love & Rage

Great silhouette and cut on that waistcoat!

 

The Winslow Boy (1999)

In late 1910s England, a young boy is accused of stealing, and things get complicated. With Jeremy Northam.

1999 The Winslow Boy

IN HIGH, STARCHED COLLARS!!

1999 The Winslow Boy

Lots of really great, tailored daywear in this movie.

 

Nora (2000)

A biopic about author James Joyce and his wife Nora, again with Ewan McGregor.

Nora (2000)

Nice job on the poufy Edwardian hair!

Nora (2000)

Nice bust gussets on the corset.

2000 Nora

Nice practical daywear.

 

The Abduction Club (2002)

In 18th-century Ireland, two sisters (one of whom is played by Sophia Myles) are kidnapped and fall in love.

I should rewatch this movie again, I think I’d give the costumes far less of a pass these days. Like that straw tricorn – wtf?

The Abduction Club (2002)

Okay, this is pretty!

 

The Lion in Winter (2003)

A TV miniseries version of a play about Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, which was previously adapted in 1968 with Katharine Hepburn. With Glenn Close and Patrick Stewart.

I can’t believe Sarah hasn’t reviewed it yet, because, wimples!

The Lion in Winter (2003)

Lots of nice layering, so I’ll overlook skeezy Jonathan Rhys-Meyers over there.

2003 The Lion in Winter

I know very little about medieval clothing, but this actually looks like CLOTHING, ya know what I mean?

 

Chéri (2009)

Michelle Pfeiffer stars as an older courtesan in a relationship with a young man (Rupert Friend) in 1910s Paris.

“’She reminds me of Klimt in particular because of the linear simplicity of her silhouettes,’ she says. Boyle’s favorite piece is a pink-and-green sari Léa wears on the balcony of her Paris flat, which Boyle discovered at the Paris flea market. ‘It was delicate, fragile, and utterly beautiful, but it was completely falling apart, so it had to be repaired for Michelle by hand’” (Costume Drama).

SO MANY GORGEOUS LOOKS!

Cheri (2009)

Beautiful draping and that wire-framed hat!

I love 1910s suits.

There’s that sari, which, *grabby hands*

 

Into the Storm (2009)

A TV movie about Winston Churchill at the end of World War II.

2009 Into the Storm

Both look really spot-on!

 

Miss Julie (2014)

An updated adaptation of the Strindberg play, about an aristocratic woman (Jessica Chastain) seducing her servant (Colin Farrell).

2014 Miss Julie

I dunno, I saw the 1999 version and wasn’t excited about the plot. And that blue dress just seems off to me — and given that the movie is set over one night, so there probably aren’t any costume changes, I just haven’t been inspired to see it.

 

Testament of Youth (2014)

An adaptation of Vera Brittain’s World War I autobiography. With Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington.

“During the years prior to all of the experience she had during the war, she was a young woman who loved beauty and clothes: that delicate part of her was very important as she noticed things and made notes in her diary about frocks and outfits that she wore and what she matched them with – it was beautifully revealing” (Consolata Boyle Exclusive Interview).

Testament of Youth (2014)

The purple applique is a nice touch.

It’s great to see some real informal wear from this era — it’s not a look that you generally get to see!

2014 Testament of Youth

I don’t know why, but this pink dress annoys me. Is it the colors? It just feels like what your grandmother would make you wear.

 

Finding Altamira (2016)

Antonio Banderas in the real-life story of the discovery of prehistoric caves in Spain in the 1880s.

2016 Finding Altamira

Parasol love!

2016 Finding Altamira

Lots of nice detail on that blouse.

 

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Meryl Streep as the 1930s would-be opera singer with a terrible voice.

“She invested a lot of money in the fabrics, particularly for her performance outfits. There were a lot of pure silks and metallics — gold, silver, tulle — in those costumes… I thought, like many women of that period, that she would have had dressmakers. She would have contributed hugely to how she dressed. And the gloriously amateurish costumes — she would have been very, very closely involved, and made some of it herself” (Flamboyant costumes for ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ mirror the real-life inspiration).

“Florence Foster Jenkins loved clothes, and she loved decorating clothes. You could never have too many flowers or ribbons or drapes. She literally didn’t know when to stop” (Consolata Boyle on costuming Meryl Streep for ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’).

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Wacky and over-the-top!

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

But yeah, very right-on for the 1930s.

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

This is hilariously fabulous.

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Great use of color!

 

Victoria & Abdul (2017)

Judi Dench stars as Queen Victoria in this film about her relationship with her Indian servant, Abdul Karim.

“I used black and lace and jewels and textures, so you see this woman buried beneath her position, tradition and what society expects; she’s deeply depressed. After she meets Abdul we see a lightness in her, but his clothes reflect it, not hers. He enters her life wearing these soft clothes that aren’t constraining, and as he becomes more bold and arrogant, we see him in colors that almost confront the other characters” (Oscar-Nominated Costume Designers Reveal Their Movies’ Characters With Color).

“She definitely loved decoration. If you see any photographs of Victoria in old age, she is encrusted with jewelry, texture and embellishment even from the tip of her head, where she is wearing her small little crown because she was too frail to carry the big, big crown. Then there is Abdul, who is like a reflection of herself, this beautiful young man whom she loved looking at. Also, through him she could imagine the light, and color and air and richness of India” (Flash on top of function serves to outfit the cast of ‘Victoria and Abdul’).

Victoria & Abdul (2017)

TONS of subtle details on Victoria, like the red edging here.

Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul (2017)

Textured fabric, and…

Victoria & Abdul (2017)

THAT HAT! Is she wearing a bird on her head?

2017 Victoria & Abdul

The “Indian” “costumes” are a plot point.

 

 

What’s your favorite Consolata Boyle historical costume film?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

8 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Cheri is my absolute favourite Consolata Boyle movie. It’s Art Nouveau which isone my happy places. The clothes are TDF. And it has Rupert Friend (Pre The Young Victoria), Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates. Oh and the ingenue is Felicity Jones.

    Reply
  2. Charity

    I’ve seen a lot of these. I wanted to love The Winslow Boy more than I did. Seems like the director failed to realize he could translate the play into a film and add scenes — like courtroom scenes. Or maybe I just wanted to see more of Jeremy Northam in his absolutely GORGEOUS coats. (I said, at the time, “Oh, I would love to get my hands on that coat!” And my mother looked at me slyly and said, “It’s what’s in the coat you’d like to get your hands on.” LOL)

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Vandeveer

    Testament of Youth was so well done on the costumes. They saved a rather lackluster movie (and I hate saying that because I thought Kit was really good in it).

    Reply
  4. Aleko

    I saw Anne Devlin at the NFT in 1984. it’s a very fine film about a true heroine, but I don’t think it ever got a general release in the UK – not enough spectacle and action, I suspect. I’m pretty sure that uniform jacket is a hired theatrical costume; it was clearly made to be a French Napoleonic light cavalry officer. So, right date, wrong army! Also, wrong function – the character played by Ian McElhinney is Major Sirr, the Town Major (effectively, police chief) of Dublin. I don’t know if this appointment went with any official uniform, but if it did, I doubt it would have been light-cavalry-style!

    Troubles was Sean Bean’s first major role on British TV. I thought at the time that he was (a) a damn fine actor and (b) really sexy. His character was a nasty-but-not-consistently-unsympathetic Black-and-Tan officer: I’ve always thought Bean is better and more interesting at playing bad or equivocal characters than as an all-out hero.

    Reply
  5. MrsC (Maryanne)

    This version of A Lion in Winter is one of my go to watches, I bloody luvs it. Costumes, portrayal, everything. And as JRM is playing Skeezy Philip of France, he fits!

    Reply
  6. Karen K.

    I saw that version of Miss Julie, performances are excellent but the story is horribly depressing. Great costumes and sets, though.

    Reply
  7. Mez B C

    Not sure which one I love the most. I had better re-watch them all. (Maybe not Mary Reilly)

    Reply

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