Interview With the Creator of Black Girl in a Big Dress

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We’re always on the lookout for historical costume movies and TV shows with a more inclusive view of history. The past wasn’t all lily-white caucasian, even in the U.S. or Europe, but looking at some frock flick fare, you’d think black people didn’t exist until the 1960s. While we wait for the next season of Harlots and wonder if there even will be another season of Timeless, in our search for interesting shows featuring people of color in historical settings, why not check out a clever web series about a fan of historical costume dramas who is black herself? Yeah, that’s totally a thing! It’s called Black Girl in a Big Dress (2018), created by Aydrea Walden, and the massively successful first season was nominated for a Webby Award.

Described as “an African-American Anglophile cosplayer in love with the Victorian Era who’s trying to bring a fantasy courtship from her re-entactment events into the real world,” Black Girl in a Big Dress has seven 4-minute episodes so far. The story follows the main character Adrienne (Aydrea Walden) through her real life and everyday friends, contrasted by her Victorian costume fandom with Lord Fitzhugh (Ryan Murray), a Darcy-like fellow. The series has great fun combining ‘fish out of water’ storylines with historical cosplay while skewering racial stereotypes. The characters feel real and fresh and like people you want to hang out with (or maybe you already do, if you’re lucky!).

You can watch the whole series here:

Writer, producer, and star of the series Aydrea Walden was kind enough to share some insights about Black Girl in a Big Dress in this interview.

Frock Flicks: There’s a line in the interview episode, number 5: “I’m black and this is my story so doesn’t that make this a black story?” that you said ‘was pretty much the thesis for the whole show’ in a Facebook comment. Can you go into that more?

Aydrea Walden: I’m a screenwriter living in Los Angeles and it’s been great to see that people are definitely more interested in meeting with diverse writers than in previous years. One of the challenges is that people are often still looking for more “familiar” diverse stories. I.E., they’re looking for stories of a more stereotypical “black” experience — they’re looking for stories that feature hip hop/rap/etc., or that are set in the inner city, or that use a lot of pop urban dialogue, or are about struggle, etc. I think those stores are awesome, but they’re just not my experience … and the fact that they’re not my experience is often very confusing to people. I made Black Girl in a Big Dress to have a chance to just be totally me on the page and on screen; and to bring light to the fact that there’s diversity within diversity, and that some of us black girls like putting on big dresses and English accents fantasizing about our country estates.

Black Girl in a Big Dress (2018)

Frock Flicks: On Frock Flicks, we’ve tried to address racial diversity in historical costume drama. How does BGBD address racial diversity among fans of costume dramas?

Aydrea Walden: By talking about it in the first place. And by showcasing a character that is full on in the middle of her fandom. This isn’t a story about someone who was brought into this world and learned to love it in spite of themselves. This is a story about a character who’s already totally involved in this world.

Black Girl in a Big Dress (2018)

Frock Flicks: Looking on your Facebook page, at least, it seems that the BGBD audience is pretty diverse and very supportive. Were you surprised, especially in today’s political climate? Have you gotten negative feedback?

Aydrea Walden: I LOVE the BGBD audience!! And I LOVE that it is so incredibly diverse! The show has fans of all ages, all racial backgrounds, all political backgrounds and from all over the country (and we’re growing outside of the U.S. as well!). I truly was not expecting such an awesomely varied group of fans, but I’m so happy that the show touches so many people — especially in today’s political climate. One of the things that’s been extra awesome is that through messaging with fans, I’ve been able to build relationships with people who I would have just never known before; and if I’m being honest, I’ve been able to build relationships with people who I would have assumed I wouldn’t want to get to know. And that been amazing for my own personal growth. I figure if a few strangers can bond over a shared love of corsets and courtship, there’s hope for politics!

There really hasn’t been much negative feedback at all. I’ve been making and posting content for years and I’ve definitely had my share of nasty comments. But almost all the feedback on BGBD is love and support. I’m so thrilled that the show has resonated with so many people!

Black Girl in a Big Dress (2018)

Frock Flicks: Were the blue Victorian dress and the veiled hat custom-made for the series?

Aydrea Walden: You can also find BGBD‘s very talented dressmaker here. I ordered the dress from her after seeing a version of it on her Etsy page. The hat was made here.

Black Girl in a Big Dress (2018)

Frock Flicks: In your BGBD blog and The Oreo Experience, you mention attending and working Renaissance faires. Why not set this type of story at a renfaire or with a Renaissance persona instead of Victorian?

Aydrea Walden: I didn’t set this story in the world of Renn Faires because I felt there was already a good amount of Renn Faire jokes out there and I wanted to stay away from familiar territory or overused jokes. The Victorian Era is less well-trod in comedy and so I felt like it gave us an opportunity to do some fresh material.

Black Girl in a Big Dress (2018)

Frock Flicks: Congrats on being nominated for a Webby Award – what was that like?

Aydrea Walden: Thank you!! Ohmygosh, I remember getting the notification email and having to read it like 10 times because I just couldn’t believe it. I was so proud of the whole cast and crew for creating something that was able to get such an honour! Even though we didn’t win (we did come in a close second to Netflix in the popular vote — which, considering Netflix has a publicity budget of infinity and BGBD did not, I’m super okay with that second place finish), it was awesome to be a part of this amazing group of nominees.

Frock Flicks: Any hints at where season 2 will take Adrienne? When will season 2 premiere?

Aydrea Walden: TBD on all of the above. :)

Planning season 2 now and will announce as soon as we have the info nailed down.

Black Girl in a Big Dress (2018)

 

Check out Black Girl in a Big Dress, and let us know what you think!

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

16 Responses

  1. LydiaR

    Thank you, FrockFlicks, for bringing this delightful endeavor to my attention! I await the continuation with eager anticipation!

    Reply
  2. Nzie

    YES! I saw some eps and loved this but lost track and didn’t finish… Well, I’ve seen it all now, and it’s all awesome. :-) There are a lot of moments where I feel like Adrienne speaks for all of us history-loving women, and I appreciate the ones where I get a glimpse at the presumptions that she faces. Clever and super enjoyable. I will make sure I subscribe on YouTube so I don’t miss the next season. :-)

    Reply
  3. Sarah F

    I LOOOOOVE BGBD! I found it online some months ago and started watching the first episode. About 30 seconds in I was yelling to my roommate “Get over here now!” We just parked right in front of my laptop at the kitchen table and watched the series, laughing until we cried. There is so much to love about this show. I can’t wait for more.

    Reply
  4. Becca

    Thank you for posting this! I enjoyed every episode that I may or may not have just binge watched, and immediately sent the link to a friend of mine that I think will enjoy it too!

    Reply
  5. Susan Pola Staples

    I am definitely going to watch this. The blue dress is so totally awesome.

    Reply
  6. Saraquill

    Regarding the rap/hip hip/inner city thing, it’s a massive peeve of mine when people insist black people are a monolith. It’s not my experience, yet people, including black ones tell me I’m in the wrong. @#$%

    Will add this to my list of things to watch.

    Reply
  7. Anne Foster

    Thank you! I loved this and wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.

    Reply
    • Kate D

      Same! This was great! I just binged it and sent the link for the show to several friends!

      Reply
  8. Laura L

    Whoo! I just posted a link to this on my gothic lolita group page. This right up our alley! (And as someone whose last cosplay needed a full wedding petticoat plus panniers, I can totally relate to trying to get in a car. My solution? We’re what you can to the event, but stash the petti and pannier in the truck to quickly slip on in the parking lot. I’m cover by five layers of poof and bloomers, so no harm. Plus weirder things go on at a con, so people really don’t bat an eye at it)

    Reply
  9. Susan Pola Staples

    This is a truly wonderful and unique show. Adrienne/Lady Katherine struggles to find Mr Darcy err Mr Right is humourous and a telling point in today’s society. I’m a bit like Adrienne, I prefer old world charms and a courtship period.
    Can’t wait to see season 2

    Reply
  10. M.D.

    Just some info & quotes to explicate why the lack of diversity in these historical costume dramas isn’t really innocent and is quite calculated and should be viewed skeptically:

    “DUFF, a surname adopted from the Celtic, in which language the word means BLACK. Sibbald, in his History of Fife, says, ”that as NIGER and RUFUS were names of families amongst the Romans, from the COLOUR AND COMPLEXION OF MEN , so it seems Duff was, from the SWARTHY AND BLACK COLOUR OF THOSE OF THE TRIBE,” or clan of Macduff. DUFF, king of Scotland, son of Malcolm the First, succeeded Indulph in 961. The name was Odo, according to Pinkerton. By the Celtic part of his subjects he was surnamed Duff, or THE BLACK” – The Scottish nation; or, The surnames, families, literature, honours, and biographical history of the people of Scotland (1877) by William Anderson

    “I shall only remark here upon the name Duff, that as Niger and Rufus were names of families amongst the Romans, from the colour and complexion of men, so it seems Duff was from the swarthy and black colour of these of the tribe.” – The history, ancient and modern, of the sheriffdoms of Fife and Kinross (1803) by Sir Robert Sibbald

    “Duffy. Dub, black ; cac, an individual. A black person.” – Family names from the Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman and Scotch considered in relation to their etymology (1892) by Thomas G. Gentry

    Reply
  11. M.D.

    “In looking over the books, he was surprised to find a statement, not one, but many, in proof of the allegation that the Irish tongue had been spoken, and was still understood, in Africa. Of these, he would mention two— one was, that an Irish-speaking person penetrated through Africa, even to Ashantee, being thoroughly understood, and the other in which an African without any European education was able to read Irish manuscripts, and to converse with Irish-speaking people in this country” – Ereuna : or, An Investigation of the Etymons of words and names, classical and scriptural, through the medium of Celtic, together with some remarks on Hebraeo-Celtic affinities (1875) by Celtophile

    “The Welsh tend to be small and dark, descended – so it has been alleged and subsequently, I believe, disproved – from people of Iberian stock who migrated from Asia when the world was young. I have just read in a book of 1903 that the primeval population belonged to what is called Hamitic stock represented by ancient Egyptian and modern Berber, and that many words common to Welsh and Hebrew are borrowed from the Tongue of the Hamitic people….for I went to Egypt a few years ago and people kept saying to me, “If you’re Welsh you’re going to enjoy this soup” (pressing upon me a green liquid the ingredients of which I could not begin to recognise), or, “If you’re Welsh you will like this monument.” I couldn’t think what they were talking about, but then I began to discern similarities between Welsh and Egyptian in the family structures, the most marked being the preponderance of aunties common to both peoples…When I came home I read about a ‘new’ theory that the Welsh and the Berbers share the same blood group to an unusual degree. And death. The Welsh — or their ancestors, whoever they may have been — and the ancient Egyptians felt the same way about death. The master idea in both their religions was the cult of ancestors, and the menhir and the obelisk have much in common. The dolmen, the burial mound, expresses the same concern with the afterlife as the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.” – A Welsh Childhood (1990) by Alice Thomas Ellis.

    “There is no such enemy to a black skin as your Anglo-Saxon who has done so much for liberty.” – William Howard Russell

    A website run by a Welshman discussing these issues and why some Irish, Scottish, & Welsh don’t really like to be associated with the English and the U.K. and call themselves British after the indigenous Celtic people of the British Isles: http:// robt. shepherd. tripod. com /welsh.html

    Reply
  12. M.D.

    I love studying human history, but the way that documentaries and historical films & TV literally harass The Tudor Era and the Six Wives of Henry VIII over and over again is not only worn-out, stale, and boring, it’s also suspect because false narratives of history and humanity are habitually utilized as propaganda to prop up fraudulent ideologies (like patriarchy and racism) that justify systemic socio-political oppression. Honestly, I’d LOVE to see a mainstream film about how patriarchy TRULY started, but it’ll probably never happen – even though the truth is often stranger and more interesting than fiction. If we examined patriarchy, we’d actually be able to better understand it’s monstrous results in someone like Henry VIII. Anyway, when you literally fixate on one historical era from one country’s perspective (England) and then export images of that historical era and your particular culture’s (English) language, ideologies, beliefs, and concepts that are very loaded with a particular social and political agenda stretching back hundreds of years all around the globe, it’s suspect. Human societies and thus our “interpretations” of human history were FIRST dickwashed and then whitewashed. If we all truly want rectify some of the gross inequalities we see in our contemporary societies, telling the truth about human history (in our educational systems and in our media depictions and imagery of human history) is the place to start.

    Furthermore, the intellectually lazy and short-sighted miscreants who can’t come with up better lie than “too much diversity/inclusion is unpopular” are simply showing how lazy, stale, boring, and close-minded they are. We wouldn’t know if diversity & inclusion are really “unpopular” because we’ve barely experienced this so-called “diversity” and “inclusion” in any meaningful and sustained way on a LARGE scale (especially if we look at most of the people in gate-keeping, powerful, decision making positions in the U.S. and elsewhere in the “West.”) Tokenism and one-dimensional stereotypes don’t count. The reprobates who keep propagating that asinine “too much diversity is unpopular” lie just shouldn’t be allowed to have access to any powerful or important decision-making positions anywhere in society, let alone in the entertainment and media industries – that is what would solve the “diversity” problem permanently.

    Reply

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