From “The Tudors” to “A Little Chaos” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle?

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If you’ve listened to our podcast about 17th-century A Little Chaos (2015) starring Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman, then you know that costume designer Joan Bergin reused costumes she made for The Tudors (2007). Trystan pointed us to the following information:

The three-time Emmy winner designed all of the sublime 16th-century costumes for the Henry VIII drama, “The Tudors,” and when the series wrapped after four seasons, Bergin bought roughly 50 of the costumes back from the studio. “I couldn’t bear to part with the pieces,” she said. “So much work had gone into them.”

And Bergin can creatively re-purpose her stock for other projects, especially ones with tight budget constraints. She modernized early-1500s dresses style-wise by about 200 years for “A Little Chaos,” set during the reign of Louis XIV. “It’s a great quick lesson in understanding every detail of your period for a costume,” she said. “The waists went up and down and the necklines changed, so we added big lace collars to the front of the dresses.” Where All the Costumes Go After TV Shows Wrap

So I decided to do some sleuthing, and you know what? Many of the What-the-Frock costume moments in A Little Chaos came right out of The Tudors. So for your hilarity, I present to you:

Madame Le Nôtre’s Sparkle Motion Dress

When Helen McCrory (as André Le Nôtre’s wife) first came on scene, Trystan and I had our mouths hanging open. Partially because we were laughing so hard. “WHAT is that?” we kept asking each other.

sparkle motion

Madame Le Nôtre. HUH?

I wrote down in my notes, “Sparkle Motion.” Which, for those unaware, is a reference to the random-yet-hilarious pre-teen dance troupe referenced in the cult movie Donnie Darko (2001):

sparkle-motion-o

Sparkle Motion.

I guess what I should have written down was “Anne of Cleves by way of Little India,” because yeah. That ensemble was first worn by actress Joss Stone, playing Henry VIII’s fourth wife, in The Tudors. Where it is equally random. Looks like they swapped out the stomacher and called it good.

cleves

Joss Stone as Anne of Cleves in The Tudors. I have no idea.

What SHOULD Madame Le Nôtre have been wearing? Well, it’s 1682 and she’s relatively well-to-do. How about a “robe” or “mantua,” with a high, slightly off-the-shoulder neckline, short sleeves, and possibly a long overskirt draped up and back over an underskirt:

Here's a merchant's wife in summer at-home wear. Nicolas Arnoult, "Femme de Marchand en deshabillé d'Esté," Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1687. LACMA.

Here’s a merchant’s wife in summer at-home wear. Nicolas Arnoult, “Femme de Marchand en deshabillé d’Esté,” Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1687. LACMA.

Or, since she does hang out at court a lot, maybe she should be dressed even better, like this woman of quality wearing a summer ensemble. Nicolas Arnoult, "Dame de qualité en habit d'Esté," Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1682-1683. LACMA.

Or, since she does hang out at court a lot, maybe she should be dressed even better, like this woman of quality wearing a summer ensemble. Nicolas Arnoult, “Dame de qualité en habit d’Esté,” Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1682-1683. LACMA.

Instead, she’s in a lovely red, beaded Indian lehenga skirt and I-have-no-idea top.

Modern Indian lehenga skirt with choli top and dupatta scarf.

Modern Indian lehenga skirt with choli top and dupatta scarf.

Madame Le Nôtre’s Dinosaur Dress

With bonus contrast back lacing! This is the dress that Trystan swore was embroidered with a dinosaur. Note open skirt in front and different fabric for the sleeves and skirt. “What the hell?” we said.

dino dress

Madame Le Nôtre, rocking the dinosaur.

 

Silly us! We should have REALIZED that when they said Madame Le Nôtre, what they meant was Princess Mary Le Tudor! Yes, this is Sarah Bolger as Mary Tudor’s “peacock” dress (sadly, no dinosaur) from The Tudors. Without a hint of alteration or anything to try to make it 17th century.

peacock

Princess Mary. This isn’t very Tudor-period-appropriate, either.

 

The Princess Palatine’s Puffy Pants

I admit, I actually didn’t catch this while watching the movie (I was too horrified by everything else going on, costume-wise). It was designer Joan Bergin herself who outed this one when she was quoted,

Bergin was even more resourceful in dressing six-foot-one actress Paula Paul for a hunting scene. “She fitted perfectly into Johnny Rhys Meyer’s Henry VIII hunting outfit,” she said. Where All the Costumes Go After TV Shows Wrap

When I took a look at stills from the film, and looked at background characters — yes, there she is, in all her glory:

_D3S7097.NEF

The Princess Palatine, rocking the Johnny Rhys Meyers look.

Now, I haven’t actually been able to find an image of Jonathan Rhys Meyers wearing this delightful ensemble in The Tudors — if you can find one, please let us know!! But we can still enjoy the images above, and compare them with women’s riding habits of the late 17th century:

Nicolas Bonnart, "Dame en habit de chasse," Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1670. LACMA.

Nicolas Bonnart, “Dame en habit de chasse,” Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1670. LACMA.

Antoine Trouvain, "Mademoiselle de Loube, Fille d'honneur de madame, en habit de Chasse," c. 1692-95. Rijksmuseum.

Antoine Trouvain, “Mademoiselle de Loube, Fille d’honneur de madame, en habit de Chasse,” c. 1692-95. Rijksmuseum.

Jan Frans van Doeven, "Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici in hunting dress," c. 1695. Pitti Palace.

Jan Frans van Doeven, “Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici in hunting dress,” c. 1695. Pitti Palace.

Did women ever wear men’s clothing for hunting? Possibly. I’m not an expert on the 17th century, but I do know that both Marie Antoinette (queen of France) and Catherine the Great (empress of Russia) were painted in men’s riding habits in the 18th century:

456px-Equestrian_portrait_of_Catherine_I

After Georg Christoph Grooth, “Equestrian portrait of Empress Catherine I (1684-1727),” mid-18th century. Kadrioru kunstimuuseum.

Louis-Auguste Brun, "Portait équestre de la reine Marie-Antoinette," 1783. Palace of Versailles.

Louis-Auguste Brun, “Portait équestre de la reine Marie-Antoinette,” 1783. Palace of Versailles.

But I somehow doubt that IF this was done in the late 17th century, the woman in question would be wearing Elizabethan ham pants trunkhose (remind me to do a post about “ham pants” someday!).

The Princess Palatine’s Swapped-Out-Sleeves Dress

This dress isn’t BAD per se, it just isn’t good:

suspicious

It looks like they took this dress worn by Catherine of Aragon and swapped out the sleeves:

Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors.

Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors.

I could snark more, but I’m saving it for the next round of Snark Week … Instead, I will leave you with costume designer Joan Bergin’s response to the question of “How accurate are the costumes in A Little Chaos” (okay, she was specifically asked: “The costumes in A Little Chaos are fabulously flamboyant. How accurate are they?”):

The period was astonishingly camp, though I think camp is the wrong word. It was more the fact that these people lived together in court in their hundreds and the men tried to outdo each other as much as the women.

Stanley Tucci was a joy to dress and to be around. He will always be daring and, from what I read about the time, it was true that they were that camp. Costume designer Joan Bergin talks about period drama A Little Chaos and dressing Meryl Streep

In other words, “No comment.” And, this tidbit:

Bloggers always try to tell you it’s not entirely accurate, but we consume every bit of knowledge we can about the period and run with it. Costume designer Joan Bergin talks about period drama A Little Chaos and dressing Meryl Streep

They certainly did “run with it”!

Reused costumes from The Tudors. Discuss!

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About the author

Kendra

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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.

12 Responses

  1. Gabriela

    I recently watched this film and the whole time I kept thinking “wait, what century is this in?” and also “doesn’t the Princess Palatine have a royal hairdresser or something?!?

    Reply
  2. Trystan L. Bass

    Sad that it wasn’t a dinosaur! Not surprised that it’s just as inaccurate. Oh Joan, if you’d only pay attention to us bloggers instead of ‘running with it’ (which sounds like ‘running away from it,’ & “it” is historical accuracy).

    Reply
  3. Julia

    So… is the movie worth watching other than costumes? I mean Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet!

    Reply
  4. Melissa

    On my own tangent after looking at these, how in the name of holy hell was a woman supposed to climb ON a horse, much less RIDE one, sidesaddle, no less, in one of the outfits in the historical plates??

    Reply
  5. Drea Leed

    I tried to watch it but had to abandon it ten minutes or so in, to go and take some antacids for my eyes.

    I should try rewatching it, continually reminding myself: “It’s not atrocious costuming, it’s just alt-fashion”

    Reply
  6. Rosemary Richards

    I stumbled on to this while searching info on “A little Chaos” Wow, you do realise this isn’t a history lesson??? considering the story is fictitious, it doesn’t surprise me that the costumes aren’t accurate. I’m glad Hollywood doesn’t listen to bloggers, creative people shouldn’t be so restrained!

    Reply

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