Costume Designer Lucinda Wright: The Frock Flicks Guide

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Writing for this blog means that now when I see a costume movie or TV series and like the costumes, I actually bother to look up the costume designer. I thought the recent Vanity Fair was quite well done, so I wanted to take a tour through designer Lucinda Wright‘s resume. Unfortunately she hasn’t done many “top tier” productions so it was hard to find much in the way of her thoughts on her work, so I’m including some comments about the costumes from others involved as well. She seems to be a great example of the concept of “costume designers don’t always call the shots” and “sometimes the goal isn’t historical accuracy” — because she can do Vanity Fair, but she also did the first season of Jamestown. Enjoy and ponder with me!

 

Deathwatch (2002)

A World War I movie.

2002 Deathwatch

 

Henry VIII (2003)

The Ray Winstone/Helena Bonham Carter bio-miniseries.

Producer Francis Hopkinson: “There is certainly no ludicrous dancing in pantaloons! … at the end of most period dramas, you want to hug the costume and set designer. But we didn’t want to show off the production values; rather, we’ve concentrated on telling a cracking story. We didn’t want to prettify the era, which was raw and tough. This is certainly not chocolate-box drama.” (A gangster king thing)

Emily Blunt, Henry VIII (2003)

Emily Blunt as Catherine Howard. Seriously questionable.

Henry VIII (2003)

Helena Bonham Carter as the sparkly version of Anne Boleyn.

Sean Bean historical costume movies

Ray Winstone as gangster Henry, Sean Bean as Robert Aske.

Ray Winstone in Henry VIII (2003)

Henry gets a few more layers here, but it’s not good.

2003 Henry VIII

Anne of Cleves. I don’t hate it, so that’s something?

2003 Henry VIII

What they did with Catherine of Aragon, tho…

2003 Henry VIII

And then they bust out all relatively historically accurate (this has to be recycled from another production, right?) with Emilia Fox as Jane Seymour.

 

Doctor Who: “The Unquiet Dead” (2006)

Wright was the designer for the first season of the reboot.

The Doctor & Rose, street-walking, in "The Unquiet Dead"

It’s Doctor Who, we probably shouldn’t look too closely.

 

Fanny Hill (2007)

The entertainingly smutty adaptation of the 18th-century prostitute novel.

2007 Fanny Hill

Nice shawl, ignore the feathered hair.

2007 Fanny Hill

I hate the ribbon ties, and the dress looks cobbled together from different ensembles, but it’s nice.

2007 Fanny Hill

Again with the hat, but otherwise, thumbs up!

2007 Fanny Hill

Alison Steadman as a madam. LOVE the mantlet wrap, which you don’t see enough of on screen!

 

Miss Marie Lloyd (2007)

Biopic about a famous Edwardian music-hall actress.

2007 Miss Marie Lloyd

It’s theatah dahling!

2007 Miss Marie Lloyd

Love the lace, stripes, and hat!

 

Enid (2009)

A TV movie about children’s author Enid Blyton, primarily set in the 1940s, starring Helena Bonham Carter.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter: ““I loved the costumes! In fact most of them are my clothes! I was even paid a rental fee that was practically more than I earned as an actor!” (Helena Bonham Carter on playing Enid Blyton)

Oooo!

That is a great blouse.

 

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: “The Murder at Road Hill House” (2011)

A series of British TV movies about a Scotland Yard detective. This one is set in 1860.

“The costumes needed to portray the harsh, raw story of a child murder in a very bleak and unforgiving Victorian England; also to show the clashing ideals and traditions of the upper middle classes versus the working classes with the contrasting worlds of the city and the countryside. It was necessary to create a distinctive colour palette, with bold harsh silhouettes for each character to convey the mood of the piece. The major colours were purples, greens, metallic greys and, of course, black. This was not a romantic story, so gone were the yellows, reds, blues, or any pretty patterns of that period. Fabrics were slightly shabby, stained cottons, scuffed leathers; out were the quaint Lacy collars, stripped down to the basics.” (Clothes on Film)

2011 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher- The Murder at Road Hill House
2011 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher- The Murder at Road Hill House

Fine for the era.

 

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: “The Murder in Angel Lane” (2013)

This one included Olivia Colman!

“As Susan Spencer, Olivia Colman’s first outfit had to reveal wealth, being completely out of place in that world (London) and hopefully this was achieved by the use of colour in cotton brocade and silks and lovely fur. It was an added bonus that when we went to film it snowed heavily so completed the look. We needed to put white against the dark to give a strong visual image at the opening of the drama. We had one mourning dress for Olivia due to the very small budget. I used various accessories: shawl, different earrings, belt, hats and brooches – one with her ‘niece’, Mary Drew’s hair in it. Olivia’s last dress needed to be out of mourning, to have an uplifting end so I based it on the locket that she had given to Mary of green, blue and gold. Also she wears the actual locket in that scene as well.” (Clothes on Film)

2013 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher- The Murder in Angel Lane

1860s-70s?

2013 The Suspicions of Mr Whicher- The Murder in Angel Lane

This seems more 1880s-90s to me, maybe there’s a time jump?

 

New Worlds (2014)

Various interconnected stories set in 17th-century England and the American colonies.

New Worlds (2014)

Jamie Dornan is a robber. His hair is BAD.

The wealthy ingenue. The dress is 90% fab, THE HAIR THO.

The wig isn't yanking my chain, but I'm reserving judgement.

Colonists. Zzzz.

2014 New Worlds

The Earl of Monmouth. Thumbs up to that wig!

 

Home Fires (2015)

Women living on the home front during World War II.

Scriptwriter Julie Summers: “Just to be clear, I am not involved in the production of the drama – my involvement stops with the scripts – but I did have the great good fortune to talk to the series costume designer, Lucinda Wright, in the lead up to filming series 1 and she took me round the fabulous collections of clothes at Angels Costumes. Their website claims they have over one million items and eight miles of hanging costume. Well, I didn’t see them all but Lucinda and I did discuss colour and fabrics in some detail.” (Julie Summers Blog)

Home Fires (2015)

Practical wear seems appropriate!

Francesca Annis, Home Fires (2015-2016)

 

Maigret Sets a Trap (2016)

The fictional 1950s French detective is played by a serious Rowan Atkinson.

2016 Maigret Sets a Trap 2016 Maigret Sets a Trap

 

Maigret’s Dead Man (2016)

More of the same!

2016 Maigret's Dead Man

Love the fur!

 

Jamestown (2017)

Here’s where we go to crazytown: supposedly set in early 17th-century colonial Jamestown, but full of WTFery.

Actress Naomi Battrick: “Our costume designer Lucy Wright is an absolute genius. She creates stories for everyone. There are palettes for everyone that describe not only the characters and why they are in Jamestown, but their history.” (8 Reasons to Visit Jamestown)

2017 Jamestown

Hair.

 

Maigret in Montmartre (2017)

More!

2017 Maigret in Montmartre

That’s a great print!

 

Maigret: “Night at the Crossroads” (2017)

Even more!

2017 Maigret- Night at the Crossroads

BEAUTIFUL dressing gown!

2017 Maigret- Night at the Crossroads

 

Vanity Fair (2018)

The classic Regency novel by Thackeray.

“In the early 19th century, there was a huge amount of etiquette around what you were allowed to wear. It would tell people what class you were, what your personality was like; it really spoke volumes. You would be shunned in society if you tried to overstep the mark.” (How Becky Sharp’s wardrobe in Vanity Fair reflects her social rise and fall)

Vanity Fair 2018 itv

Super posh court wear.

2018 vanity fair

Just scraping by practical wear.

2018 vanity fair

Gotta put Becky in a slutty red dress!

2018 vanity fair

Lovely details on this pelissse.

 

Coming Up

Six Minutes to Midnight (TBA)

Currently in production: “Summer 1939. Influential families in Nazi Germany have sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English sea side town to learn the language and be ambassadors for a future looking National Socialist. A teacher there sees what is coming and is trying to raise the alarm. But no one is listening” per IMDB. With Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent.

Six Minutes to Midnight

 

What’s your favorite of Lucinda Wright’s historical costume work?

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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.

9 Responses

  1. Aleko

    AAARGH! Emily Blunt’s Catherine Howard gown – AAARGH! It isn’t even so much that its inaccurate: more that it’s so flimsy, tacky, ill-fitting and cheap-looking that I can’t believe that they didn’t hire it from a fancy-dress shop, and not a particularly high-end one either.

    Reply
  2. EA Gorman

    Rowan Atkinson is really good as Maigret. No traces of Bean or Blackadder, once again proving that comedic actors can do drama very well. As for the costumes, I admit I wasn’t paying much attention to them which must mean they were really well suited to the time period.

    Reply
  3. pandaemonaeum

    The costumes in ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ (both) are pretty good. I do Victorian and I wasn’t particularly offended by much except that they kept having actors in Victorian suits leave ties off/ collars open. I believe there is a time jump in Mr Whicher 2, with them having met when Olivia Coleman’s character was young and it starts out when she is older, with flashbacks.

    I think I saw a couple of dodgy bits in Vanity Fair (like TIE YOUR BONNET RIBBONS ALL OF YOU) but it was mostly okay. The red dress is intrinsic to the plot in Vanity Fair, because Becky just straight up steals the fabric from her sister-in-law and it’s the start of everyone realising what she’s really like. Anyway, the bonnets were a shape you almost never see as it can be very unflattering and I got really excited that they used it. Even if you can just buy the pattern from Lynn McMaster, it’s still a tricky one to make and trim.

    Miss Marie Llloyd was my unabashed favourite, they even did the ‘She sits among the cabbages and leeks’ story. The costumes were pretty good, the odd theatrical one where I hmmmmmed. I enjoyed it, even if it could have stood to be a bit longer – rather rushed over a lot of her life.

    I mostly study late Regency, Victorian and Edwardian fashion so I can’t comment on the Tudor stuff unless it’s really egregiously bad!

    Reply
    • hsc

      “The red dress is intrinsic to the plot in Vanity Fair, because Becky just straight up steals the fabric from her sister-in-law and it’s the start of everyone realising what she’s really like.”

      The stolen fabric was for the court dress to be presented to the Regent; Becky snatches it when she’s helping her brother-in-law sort out his newly deceased father’s estate. Thackeray lets the reader in on it (the novel has constant asides to the reader, and is hilarious), but the other characters remain clueless even though they do raise eyebrows at how Becky is able to dress so lavishly.

      The red dress appears to be from the ball just before the attack on Waterloo; there’s no color description in the novel, but it’s a killer dress.

      One thing that has always struck me about “Vanity Fair” costuming: William Makepeace Thackeray also copiously illustrated his own novel; he actually writes in the novel that he refuses to give his characters period-appropriate clothing, which he maintains would make them look ridiculous (and provides an example of how they’d really look). Instead, his illustrations all show 1840s clothing.

      Reply
  4. MrsC (Maryanne)

    LOVED Maigret until the episode with a Burlesque club scene when all the underwear costuming was modern. ERK, It was so noticeable, I had this weird – are we in a time war? moment.

    Reply

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