SNARK WEEK: Plunkett & Macleane (1999) Movie Costumes WTF?

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Plunkett & Macleane — starring Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, and Liv Tyler — was never trying to be Shakespeare. It’s clearly a mash-up of 18th century with a big injection of Adam Ant. No matter, the costumes are some serious WTFrock!

I think the idea was to have one foot in the 17th century and one foot wherever we wanted. — Johnny Lee Miller, Plunkett & Macleane Behind the Scenes

The plot: Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle play highwaymen — Miller is the classy one, Carlyle the down and dirty — who team up to rob from the rich in a generally very light-hearted, dark comedy, “modern” take on the classic buddy/adventure film.  Miller falls in love with Liv Tyler’s character, who’s a well-to-do lady who falls in with the bad boys.  Alan Cumming plays a super fop who is hilarious.  It’s fun and fast-paced and not too deep.

“The entire look is rococo,” says Mr. Cumming, one of the film’s stars, who brings to life the foppish, decadent Lord Rochester. Cumming says that the look of the film echoes the film’s themes: The characters are “all cocking a snook at authority,” he says, meaning that the irreverence evident in the period costumes, makeup, and set decoration echoes the Gentlemen Highwayman’s own attitude toward law and order. — ‘Plunkett’ mixes lavish costumes & MTV, Christian Science Monitor, 10/1/99

Now, Janty Yates (the costume designer for the film) knows her stuff. She’s designed costumes for Jude (1996, with Kate Winslet), GladiatorEnemy at the GatesCharlotte GrayDe-LovelyRobin Hood (2010, with Russell Crowe), and Exodus: Gods & Kings. Clearly, she and the director (Jake Scott) wanted to twist the 18th century.

Nonetheless, if you start your movie by telling us that it’s 1748, I’m gonna say WTF? when I see costumes like these:

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

The only time Liv Tyler’s hair looks even vaguely 18th century. There’s a lot wrong with it — it’s about 30 years too late, and it’s missing a lot of the details — but, hey, at least it’s up.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

Sheer black lace. Exposed plastic boning. Livin’ the dream.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

Liv Tyler’s shooting dress and Felicity, the American Girl doll — separated at birth?

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

Blue eyeshadow FTW!

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

Wait, is there boning in this bodice? IT’S ALL SO UNCLEAR!

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

Are we eating with our gloves on? WHAT WOULD EMILY POST THINK? Oh right, eyebrow ring.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

I think there was a sale on upholstery fabric that day.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

SO GOTH IT HURTS. Joan Crawford approves this hairstyle.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

Big Pimpin’.

 

And, the pièce de résistance — Lady Estelle’s wedding gown. This can be yours for the surprisingly low price of $659. Sadly the Jetsons hat isn’t included.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes
Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

You’re right. 2x4s probably ARE a cheaper option than building panniers.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

I’m not kidding. 2x4s!!

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

Guy on the right: “Dear god, that dress is SO 1747.”

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

“SO I LIKE TINSEL. SUE ME.”

Plunkett & Macleane (1999) movie costumes

I actually quite like the pantless version! Think of the entrance you could make.

See this dress in action yourself in this Behind the Scenes video starting at 2:55!

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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.

5 Responses

  1. Joanne Renaud

    The problem with movies like “Plunkett & MacLeane” and “Knight’s Tale” that try to be …”creative” with their respective periods is that fifteen years later everyone looks incredibly dated (I swear Liv Tyler almost looks like she could have stepped out of a 1990’s dELIA’s catalog), more so than if they’d been a little more faithful to the actual historical styles.

    Reply
    • Trystan

      So true! Just like you can tell what “historical” movies were made in the 1930s (Gone With The Wind) or the 1950s (Auntie Mame).

      Reply
    • Trystan

      It’s pretty hilarious on that account (& I love that black lace Liv Tyler dress — for a goth club more than for the movie, natch).

      Reply

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