Frock Flicks Free-for-All April

70

You asked for it, so here’s an occasional open thread to bitch about anything tangentially related to history, costume, movies, or TV shows! Or whatever else is on your mind right now. Note that URLs are automatically held for moderation, but most anything else goes as long as you’re not bitchier than we are!

We’re all sheltering-in-place at Frock Flicks HQ, but each of us separately to observe appropriate social distancing procedures. Hopefully this blog can be a little bit of a diversion for all y’all in these bizarre times. While many movie theaters are closed, if you’re stuck at home like us, that means plenty of time to binge-watch costume dramas, new and old.

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Three historical costumers who decided the world needed a podcast and blog dedicated to historical costume movies and everything right and wrong with them.

70 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Why is it so hard for them to use bobby pins and have the women’s hair up is one of my pet peeves. And don’t get me started on clothes that aren’t fitted to the actress. Claire Foy’s Anne Boleyn costumes get a pass as I found out the actress was pregnant during filming.

    Reply
  2. LadySlippers

    Hairpins — yes! The English Game has a lot of women with hair down, typically poor women when they’re “off duty”. Not only is their down, it’s typically a snarly mess, apparently they lacked hairpins AND brushes. (I wish I could get into the series. The first episode was good but the second episode just drags).

    Reply
    • Ligeia

      This annoyed me beyond reason. Why in earth, if they had put their hair up for the work anyway, would they open it afterwards and let it hang in loose, tangled mess if they knew they would meet other people.

      The series is worth the watch, though. It drags a little bit, true, but it is mostly well-written drama. I have to admit that characters lack that certain “something” that made Downton Abbeys characters so engaging, but on the whole I enjoyed the series.

      Reply
      • LadySlippers

        So you recommend wading through the less than stellar parts and it gets better?

        Reply
    • Constance

      Same…will actually buy that Epix channel…wish they would post it all at once but I bet they string it out…

      Reply
  3. Kelly

    Read Lucy Mangan’s review of Belgravia in the Guardian; it begins, “Julian Fellowes has been typing again.” It’s hilarious.
    Just rewatched Our Mutual Friend on Amazon, which randomly cut out a whole plot line from the original miniseries. Loved the show anyway–fantastically wacky hairdos on the rich extras, great texture on the poor’s costumes, and an array of beautiful combs in the women’s hair. But why does Keeley Hawes sound so posh? She’s from the East End, with zero education or contact with upper-class people at the start of things. Strange mistake for the director to make.

    Reply
  4. Missy

    Worst hair and costumes anywhere- When Calls the Heart and all spinoffs on Hallmark. Beyond horrible.

    Reply
    • Colleen

      I’m in agreement with you on this. I watched the whole first season and loved it. Not two minutes into the start of the second, and I was done. Hair down, makeup on in the most obvious way, and the costumes were so modern for the early 1910s.

      Reply
    • Nzie

      We watch the Hallmark holiday movies for fun in my family. I put a ban on those.

      Reply
    • Katie O.

      My mom has told me about her many gripes with that show over the last few years! Apparently the first season was pretty good and then the second everyone’s hair was done and modern makeup and the writing has also taken a nosedive that just keeps getting worse. (She also said they did a bad job writing off Lori Loughlin lol) It’s a shame because it doesn’t sound like a bad idea for a show, but it seems lazy in execution.

      Reply
  5. The Belle of La Rochelle

    My annoyances tend to be about Tudor Costume Dramas:

    The bare arms and uncovered hair in SHOWTIMES’ The Tudors. Historically a HUGE NO-NO.

    Any Philippa FUCKING Gregory Adaptation. It all grates on my nerves and disturbs my Fine New England Moral Sensibilities. I will not watch anything attached to her name or read her books.

    One the other hand, I know they did not have a large budget for the BBC productions for In the Shadow of the Tower, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R- but some of the re-creations of famous historical gowns were fabulous. They made do with what they had.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Honestly I don’t think the Tudors or the PFG productions are even trying to get the costumes right.

      Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      “The Tudors” was so bad I ended up watching several episodes for their comedy value. Henry’s sister, the nonexistent queen of Portugal, and Katherine Howard were my faves, along with Henry himself: walking/pouting anachronisms inserted, apparently, to draw the younger viewers.

      Reply
  6. Shashwat

    Why do movies even insist at inaccurate costuming,when all they can do is find Janet Arnold’s patterns and trace and cut them from,say saree fabrics(why not use plain ones,no embroidery-nothing to tell what it actually is).and just sew it up!Even if proper undergarments are not worn atleast spare us with a proper overdress.And it takes less than the cost of modern hair gels to put the women’s hair up-wolf hall did it with milkmaid braids still everyone looked so pretty.And why even think of side part(as a boy,I admit that sixteen forgettable years of my inconsequential life could not teach me how to comb my hair and get the perfect side part.I keep my hair super short just to avoid the need for combing altogether).
    I feel that whenever I watch accurately costumed movies,I find the women very at-home dressed,very natural.Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette didn’t look like consumed in fabrics despite being attired in the clothes of the most glorious era of fashion excesses.Just look at Jane Seymour in Wolf Hall.Her gowns look so simple,sleek,sumptuous, comfortable and worn in at the same time.And compare it to the “costumes” in The Tudors travesty.Really the number of fabrics(all inaccurate and ugly)I could spot in a single “The Spanish Princess” costume made me think that productions aren’t short of budget,they are just inflicted with a never ceasing bout of idleness.

    Reply
  7. Constance

    I think audiences who watch costume dramas would want to see clothing, hair etc as it was in those olden days. I hate seeing the young audiences being “lured” in by sparkly polyester strapless gowns and free-flowing locks on any female over 18 who is not in her bedroom. Hate, hate hate free-flowing beachy hair and Sanditon made me unable to watch. Can’t they at least try? I appreciate cd films or series made prior to the 1980’s as they used to try (except for the 1950’s in Hollywood, where everyone in every century wore a bouffant). I hope very hard for some accuracy in Belgravia as I enjoy the time period of late 18th century/Napoleonic era, which is when I think it takes place.

    Did I mention I hate long, loose, flappin’ in the breeze hair on women…was okay on Adrian/Poldark…:)

    Reply
  8. Nzie

    I’m in the current epicenter so I’m just trying to distract myself to be honest. Working on sewing some masks for a local drive. Hoping to get some movie watches in. I have a free trial of Apple’s original show streaming service so I’m going in For All Mankind and plan to watch The Banker, but I don’t have the sort of specific knowledge needed to tell that much about the accuracy since they’re not super different from us. I am getting the sense that Apple’s been a little too precious about chasing the Prestige Drama category–high production value, but carefully constructed to avoid too much controversy. I hope the ones I’ve picked out are good but as of right now I don’t expect to stick with it. Although I suppose I should perhaps give that Emily Dickinson show a watch, with this blog in mind!

    Reply
  9. Brandy Loutherback

    Who else was massively disappointed by Self Made? All the costumes fit horribly. :(

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Noooo! I haven’t watched it yet, and I’ve heard mixed things, but I’m still going to hold out hope.

      Reply
  10. Amy

    I’m a huge fan of the Tudor period. So…naturally, I have ALOT to bitch about when it comes to historical accuracy in Hollywood. My top 5 annoyances:

    The casting of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in The Tudors. I seriously don’t know what they were thinking with this. He is a fine actor, but he is NOT Henry VIII. To top it off, we are first introduced to him in the series wearing tights and canions with a weird looking crown on his head, which made him look even more ridiculous.
    Combining Margaret and Mary Tudor into one character on The Tudors. Also, the casting of this character. Tanned skin and tan lines??? ARGH!!
    Anything adapted from a Philippa Gregory work.
    The Spanish Princess…King Henry VII being at Elizabeth of York’s side while giving birth. Never happened. Never would happen. It’s just ridiculous.
    Anonymous…the entire movie.

    I feel so much better after getting this off of my chest!! :)

    Reply
      • M.E. Lawrence

        Oh, come on! Wasn’t it fun to watch her eating breaffies with Charles Brandon, looking like she was about to call for a second macchiato? The Tudors were just like us, only in velvet and jewels!

        (Am reading “The Mirror and the Light,” in which Henry’s Scottish niece Margaret is referred to as “Meg,” and remembering PFG’s “Aunt Maggie” Pole.)

        Reply
    • Charity

      Any adaptation of PFG fills me with rage. I love how Elizabeth of York in The Spanish Princess is reminding her husband that she is in confinement WHILE WALKING WITH HIM THROUGH THE GARDEN. And then, horribly, her daughter is there to witness her awful birthing experience and violent death afterward. Uh, no. NO. Don’t even get me started on the massively bitchy depiction of Katharine of Aragon in that series AND IT’S COMING BACK SOON FOR SEASON TWO. Since they killed off Margaret Beaufort, PFG’s go-to bitch villain, who will be the bad guy this year? Katharine? Also, why in God’s name did Henry 7 have a beard?!

      I hated The White Princess even more, though. I never thought I’d want the sweet Elizabeth of York to die a in a fire, but that one was awful.

      Reply
      • Amy

        Totally agree!! I have no idea why they are depicting Katherine of Aragon with such attitude!! I love Katherine of Aragon, but I don’t even like this character. She’s really difficult to like because she’s a total bitch. I literally laughed out loud during the scene where the Scottish nobles came to the English court and she got all up in their faces. Seriously?!?! I also hated how they portrayed Elizabeth of York. Both of these extraordinary women are being portrayed as polar opposites of their actual personalities, which makes me sad and angry.

        Reply
        • Charity

          She does that with EVERYONE. She takes how they actually were, and does the opposite. (Making Margaret Beaufort awful, when she was a humanitarian who did much to allow the poor children of England, regardless of their gender, to learn to read and write.) Plus, her characterization is inconsistent. KoA is awful in The Spanish Princess, but super nice in The Other Boleyn girl, in which she takes the sexually harassed Anne Boleyn and turns her into a tease and a strumpet. UGH.

          Philippa is also terrible to the men. Turning Henry 7 into a rapist?? (And Edward before him?! Let’s not forget he tries to rape Elizabeth Woodville on their first meeting alone, and then she falls in LOVE with him. Eww.)

          Reply
          • Amy

            Hahaha!! Right?!?! The whole Henry VII raping Elizabeth of York and Edward IV being all creepy with Elizabeth Woodville was laughable. I also agree with you regarding the portrayal of Margaret Beaufort in these “Princess” series. It’s crazy. All of these stories are dramatic enough without adding all of this unnecessary BS to the stories and characters :)

            Reply
            • Charity

              I know. I mean, I write Tudor novels — but honestly, there was crazy shit happening ALL THE TIME that was REAL, so there’s no need to vilify absolutely everybody just to keep it entertaining.

              If you read the Elizabeth of York book, it’s even worse. He rapes her for weeks to knock her up / prove she can bear a child, and in the meantime, she falls in love with him. :P

              Also, Philippa making Margaret Beaufort party to these schemes sickens me, because the woman gave birth when she was THIRTEEN. She was a rape victim herself. WTF. Do not turn around and make her encourage her son to rape someone. :P

              Reply
              • Amy

                You write Tudor novels? Where would I go to get them? I love all things Tudor! I’m sure that I would love them since I agree with all of your comments here :)

                Reply
                • Charity

                  You can find them on Amazon under “Charity Bishop” (it’s called The Tudor Throne series, and the first one is The Usurper’s Throne, then The Welsh Gambit, The King’s Players, and The Secret in the Tower). I do deviate from history, but I confess up to all my ‘fabrications’ in the ‘author’s notes’ at the end, since I abhor it when an author lets people believe everything they just wrote is the god’s honest truth. LOL

                  Reply
                  • Amy

                    Oh my Gosh!! My husband got those for me for Christmas!! I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. How exciting!! Thanks so much for the info :)

                    Reply
  11. Susan Pola Staples

    I was hoping you’d do a more extensive post on the Buccaneers. Costumes are terrific and by Rosalind Ebbutt. Your other blogs left me wanting more. I’ve seen it several times and it’s a favourite.

    The other thing is I enjoyed Self-Made but the costumes were overall a C+. I appreciated how Madame Walker’s finances improved, her wardrobe did accordingly. But it on the whole – CV costumewise was lacking.

    Toni Morrison’s Beloved adaptation was better.

    Reply
    • LadySlippers

      Oprah was behind the movie adaptation of Beloved. She poured her heart and soul into that movie, only to see it bomb at the box office. Sad because it was outstanding all around.

      Reply
      • Saraquill

        I found it nonsensical. Not helped that I saw it in middle school and only knew it as “that movie mom whined about wanting to see.”

        Reply
  12. Meg

    I tried to watch the newest adaptation of “Little Women” and couldn’t make it past the first ten minutes. First, the costumes are truly terrible, not to mention the hair! I’m no expert and even I could tell that a lot of the dress elements were not from the time period. Second, Jo runs down the street with her dress hiked up PAST HER KNEES! Ankles, ok, maybe, but knees?! The modern equivalent would be running down the street with your skirt hiked up past your waist. I’m all for Jo being tomboyish, a rebel and a protofeminist, but that was too much. Third, the language of the script is really inconsistent. By that, I mean that in one scene, the characters are speaking in a way that at least evokes the late 19th century, with somewhat appropriate words and phrases (side note: among the many things it did excellently, “12 Years a Slave” did this brilliantly. The entire script sounded like it could have been written in the 19th century). Then in the next scene, the characters sound exactly like 21st century millennials (of which I am one- don’t hate). The biggest offender was Amy. I don’t know why, but it’s almost like she tries to sound as modern as possible. I hope FF will do a proper post on all of this, with screen caps and plenty of snark!

    Reply
    • Colleen

      The director has a lady boner for Amy, and wanted her to be seen not as the mean little sister but as a human being with flaws. The 1994 rendition did a better job of that, and my only knowledge of the recent one is based off things others have said.

      Reply
  13. Charity

    What to complain about?

    The Spanish Princess’ second season is coming soon. I will hate watch it, but I really loathe it. Starz is also doing a new miniseries / series on Elizabeth I NOT based on PFG’s books, but I know they’re going to screw that up too. Bad writing, since Emma Frost is involved. :P

    Watched The English Game on Netflix. Man, was that boring. I thought I’d blitz through it in a day, instead it took me a week. I hope Belgravia is better. :P

    Self-Made was disappointing.

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      I didn’t like “Elizabeth” much (Michael Hirst, creator-writer of “The Tudors”) wrote the script; it’s another movie that messes around with facts and chronology for no good reason. Blanchett is wonderful, though; she saves the whole project.

      Reply
  14. Karin

    I’m watching Belgravia on BBC. It looks good to me so far, at least no glaring errors, but I’m no specialist. The prologue is set in 1815, the actual story though takes place 26 years later. So far the story has been fairly predictable… I hope it will be picking up now or that there will be a few surprises yet to come.

    Reply
  15. Nzie

    I love the new LW as storytelling but I don’t get the Oscar win at all (wish it had been Jojo Rabbit). YouTube gets me* and suggested a video about why it shouldn’t have won the Oscar. I think the vlogger is prepared to be more generous than many of us are, but she does I think a pretty good job picking up on the issues.

    Link to video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sBqqERMblo

    *By which I mean, spies on me.

    Reply
    • Boxermom

      Just watched that video – she’s really funny! And the fact that she made a bonnet with a Chex box and a hot glue gun? Hollywood needs to hire her right now.

      Reply
  16. Lily Lotus Rose

    I recently watched a TERRIBLE British show–I don’t know if it was a movie or a made for TV movie called Bill. That was the second awful adaptation of William Shakespeare’s life that I’d seen in the space of two months, the other being the TNT series, Will. I’m not only upset about the costumes (which were awful in Bill and misguided in Will), I’m upset about the overall productions. Yikes. A rose by any other name does not smell as sweet.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      I suspect the real Will Shakespeare would make a terrible hero for a modern series. What contemporary evidence there is suggests he was a good natured, likeable man generally popular among his peers, except for those who were jealous of his talent. He was a good businessman extremely interested in the management of the company and theatre and building his portfolio. He and Anne seem to have seen eye to eye on this as she was doing the same home in Stratford. Unlike his playwriting peers (Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe) there is no record of Shakespeare falling afoul the law. He seems to have held to the bourgeois values of his provincial middle class upbringing. Boring, right?

      Reply
      • Katie O.

        There’s kind of a long history of various generations finding the real William Shakespeare disappointing. During the Romantic period when a document was discovered where Shakespeare threatened to sue a neighbor for not repaying a loan, that was a big part of why the “someone else wrote the plays” thing got started because there was this indignation that someone who was interested in money and paying his bills could write such wonderful plays. Now it seems like he wasn’t enough of a rebel to be interesting.

        Reply
        • Nzie

          Have we read the same book, Katie? Just a couple weeks ago I finished Contested Will by James Shapiro–really fascinating look into how the factors you described, plus the emergence of a view that all art is autobiographical and a lack of knowledge of the era, created this idea that Shakespeare’s works were written by others.

          Reply
          • Katie O.

            Yes lol! I just read it around the beginning of the year, and I admit, I was thinking of it when I commented. I really enjoyed it!

            Reply
            • Nzie

              I did, too! I think the author makes a pretty compelling case against other authorship, and while he’s clearly pointing out some flawed thinking in the people supporting those arguments, I felt like their mistakes were very human and understandable. It was well written and argued. I picked up a copy in February and finished it in time to lend it out just before we were all told to stay home.

              Reply
          • Roxana

            Don’t forget class snobism. How DARE a provincial grammar school boy write better than noblemen and University graduates!

            Reply
            • Katie O.

              Oh, of course! Everyone “knows” you can only write about what you have personally experienced so there’s no way Shakespeare could have written about kings and queens. I don’t know how this translated for A Midsummer Night’s Dream unless they felt that the Earl of Oxford knew a fairy queen lol

              Reply
              • Nzie

                Well, OBVIOUSLY whoever really wrote Shakespeare was a king, a queen, a fairy prince, a magician, a noble, a jester, a nurse, a 14 year old girl, etc.! How else could the stories emerge? Imagination and observation and a decent if not university education? Preposterous!

                (It was pretty fun to read it alongside a reread of the first Thursday Next novel, which casually includes the authorship dispute as a subject of common debate in its alternate universe.)

                Reply
                • Kim

                  Have you all seen the British TV show ‘Upstart Crow’? It’s like a sitcom about how Shakespeare came up with his ideas for his plays. It stars David Mitchell and it’s hilarious. Many of those controversies and common debates by critics (both modern and contemporary) are covered and it is so brilliantly written. It shows him and his family and friends as well as the fellow actors. It’s well worth a look, especially if you know his work well and can get the subtle and not so subtle jokes about him and our modern times too.

                  Reply
              • Roxana

                I wouldn’t mind so much if they hadn’t picked the single most worthless nobleman in England as the ‘real’ author. Oxford was a cad, a bounder and a waste of oxygen!

                Reply
          • Nzie

            Also, what on earth are people thinking with the whole Prince Tudor theory?? Probably the best move the Oxfordians made was deemphasizing that. But how anyone can hold it is beyond me.

            Reply
            • Roxana

              It takes a complete ignorance of the Elizabethan period. If you study the evidence only people at a distance from the court and motivated by hostility to Elizabeth and/or the Protestant settlement talked about her having children. Observers with first hand knowledge, including hostile ones, invariably concluded that she was a flirt but otherwise chaste.
              Elizabeth herself pointed out that she was always surrounded by ladies in waiting who knew everything she did.
              It is most probable that Elizabeth was a virgin, exactly as advertised, and she was certainly never a mother.

              Reply
              • Katie O.

                I mean, it seems doubtful to me that she would have been able to hide a sexual liaison, let alone a pregnancy and childbirth. She would have had to spend an extended period of time away from court in seclusion, which would already be difficult, and then to guarantee that no maid or midwife would have spilled the beans? It feels extremely unlikely. Of course then there’s Mark Twain, who doesn’t believe Elizabeth was a woman at all, but a boy brought in to replace her when she died of a childhood illness (why in this theory she wouldn’t have been replaced by another girl I don’t know). He based all of this on the fact that she was too good a leader to have been a woman. So there’s a lot of credibility there.

                Reply
  17. Boxermom

    Don’t know if anyone else has seen this, but last night I watched ” The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan”. Haven’t seen it in years, and I must say how impressed I was with the costumes, especially when you consider it was a made-for-tv move from 1979. At one point Jennie takes off her dress and she’s wearing a corset WITH A CHEMISE UNDERNEATH. And, all the women have their hair up. Amazing.

    Reply
    • Shashwat

      That would really be great if they do so!I know everyone is pretty fed up of Frozen now,but it had some really gorgeous regency styles on Anna.

      Reply
      • Angie

        They’re going by order, so Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana. Rapunzel, merida, and then Elsa and Anna.

        Reply
  18. Amanda J Shirk

    I recall reviews of the Borgias costumes being not perfect but favourable here.
    I just read a review from a costume blogger on Tumblr who really bit into them from an accuracy angle which all seemed very thorough but then at the end of the review try said they favoured Borgia: Faith and Fear for accuracy so now I don’t know what to think.

    Reply

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