SNARK WEEK: Shit That Doesn’t Fit

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We frequently critique and mock the costumes in historical films for inaccuracies — making the wrong choices for the period. But sometimes the problem is much more basic: shitty sewing and fitting skills. A costume can be 1000% historically accurate, but if it doesn’t fit right? It’s just BAD. Here’s a wander through some particularly stellar bad decisions committed to celluloid:

 

Somebody’s Eyes Are Bigger/Smaller Than Their Head

We’ve complained about face-eating wigs before, but it’s not good when ANYTHING eats the actor’s face… or makes them look like their head just suddenly swelled up to twice its natural size.

THE TUDORS

Let The Tudors (2007-10) display how a hat that is sized too small for the head can look stupid (Photo: Jonathan Hession/Showtime).

The Other Boleyn Girl

IT’S NOT A HEADBAND: The Other Boleyn Girl (2008).

Amadeus (1984)

Amadeus (1984) is just full of wigs like these, where they’re trying to use an inaccurate style (the little face curls) to make the wig look natural.

Let Them Eat Cake (1999)

But this can go downhill quickly, as Let Them Eat Cake (1999) did — for comic effect granted.

Witches: A Century of Murder (2015)

It’s not always the wig, however: Witches: A Century of Murder (2015).

2015 Carlos Rey Emperador

I feel MANY MANY things about this dump truck masquerading as a French hood: Carlos Rey Emperador (2015).

Needs More Fabric

We know, balancing a budget is hard. But buying enough yardage is just baseline, people!

Lampshade Hoops

Skirts should fit over hoops with room to spare — and I’m not talking a few inches! Otherwise, you end up with the dreaded lampshade effect, where the skirt hugs the hoop too closely at the hem and your actress looks like an idiot.

1946 Anna and the King of Siam

Case in point: Anna and the King of Siam (1946).

1998 Our Mutual Friend

I constantly stare at this dress and try to figure out what’s wrong here, but the main offender is that skirt, which barely fits over that hoop *shudder*: Our Mutual Friend (1998).

I’m Guessing This Was Made for Another Actress

Okay, yes, costumes are FREQUENTLY recycled from one production to another — that’s the breaks of dealing with a budget, which means productions have to rent/buy from costume warehouses. But maybe don’t put your leads into the outfits that really clearly aren’t the right size?

2012 A Royal Affair

So part of the problem is using hooks and eyes instead of just pinning or basting the dress closed, but they have BARELY got Alicia Vikander into this sucker: A Royal Affair (2012).

Gunpowder Treason Plot

This one kills me on MULTIPLE LEVELS, but more than anything, I feel confident in saying this CANNOT have been made for Clémence Poésy — or if it was, some serious mismeasuring happened: Gunpowder, Treason & Plot (2004).

 

Too Much Fabric

On the other hand, there’s buying more fabric than you need, and then there’s USING all that fabric…

Plausibly for Character/Story Reasons

1986 Lady Jane

Many of Helena Bonham Carter‘s dresses are too long-waisted in Lady Jane (1986), but her wedding ensemble in particular is just totally oversized. Character-wise, I think we’re supposed to see her as too young to be married/forced into such an adult role, and maybe her wedding dress was rushed or originally made for someone else?

Satin Isn’t Your Friend

Of course, fitting is hard, and costume makers often have too little time to fit their actors. But if you’re in any doubt, don’t use satin. It shows EVERYTHING.

2015 Wolf hall

Everyone mocked Wolf Hall (2015) — which otherwise had 99% stellar costumes — for this wrinkly fit on Claire Foy’s bodice, which was probably caused by not having enough fittings with the actress.

I’m Guessing This Was Made for Another Actress/Actor

See above about needing to reuse/recycle costumes from previous productions. But you might want to make a few alterations…

2013 Rubinrot

Both of these actors are about a size too small in width AND length for these costumes: Rubinrot (2013).

2012 War Flowers

The bodice is a little gappy, but WTF with those sleeves?? You could fit both of Christina Ricci‘s arms in one! War Flowers (2012).

 

Where Is My Waist?

Modern fashion has completely borked most people’s ideas of where their waist is — both men and women think it’s higher or lower than it is (it’s generally around your belly button, or wherever you are smallest on your torso). Consequently, we get a whole host of problems, like:

2011 Anonymous

There should not be air between your bodice point and your petticoat: Anonymous (2011).

2016 Doctor Thorne

Unless she’s pregnant, this woman’s center front waist is not higher than her side waist measurement. Trust me. Doctor Thorne (2016).

I’ve Worn Low-Rise Jeans All My Life

This one is a KILLER! The problem is that if you drop a woman’s waist over a full skirt, it causes some seriously wonky fitting issues. To wit:

2012 Hell on Wheels

Okay, so you’re initially horrified by the pieced underskirt showing on the sides. But turn your attention to where the actress’s actual waist is, at the red arrow, about 2-3″ higher than this bodice: Hell on Wheels (2012).

The Musketeers (2014-16)

Alright, so The Musketeers (2014-16) was all about the crazy. But they REALLY had a thing for drop-waist stays (corsets), which, huh??

2015 La española inglesa

Even if the fit is okay, it just looks stupid: La Española Inglesa (2015).

2017 Maria Theresia

Ditto! Maria Theresia (2017).

2017 Maria Theresia

These KEEL ME!!! Do you really WANT your actresses to look this dumpy?? Maria Theresia (2017)

2017 Maria Theresia

It can also cause massive bodice wrinkles, as the bodice tries to scoot itself up to the narrowest point on the body: Maria Theresia (2017).

2013 Moonfleet

90% of those wrinkles are caused by the fact that her waist is where the red arrow points, about 1″+ higher than it is: Moonfleet (2013).

I’ve Worn Low-Rise Jeans All My Life: Boy Edition

I’ll never forget hearing an interview with Jon Hamm from Mad Men, who said the first time they put him in 1960s-style trousers (which fit at the natural waist), he’d never seen a zipper that long in his life.

1998 Elizabeth

See above re: looking stupid: Elizabeth (1998).

2006 Robin Hood

SO stupid! Robin Hood (2006). (Please feel free to join me in my horror at what SHE is wearing, while we’re here)

Da Vinci's Demons (2013-15)

“What up, bro??” Da Vinci’s Demons (2013-15).

Gaposis

The other side of the coin is when you cut your waistline too high, without accounting for that in the skirt. Most high-waisted eras have gowns with bodices sewn to skirts, because otherwise you get the dreaded gaposis between the bottom of the bodice and the top of the skirt.

2014 Da Vincis Demons

This dress CANNOT have been made for this actress! Da Vinci’s Demons (2013-15).

2014-Da Vincis Demons

Here they’re trying to make it into a style choice. NO. Da Vinci’s Demons (2013-15).

2015 Banished

The theatrical solution would be to sew hooks on the bodice and bars on the skirt, or by basting the bodice to the skirt. This can be fixed! Banished (2015).

2014-Salem

SO MUCH WRONG HERE, but let’s focus on the waistline gaposis. Salem (2014-17).

 

Wait I Have Shoulders?

We get it. Fitting is hard! And shoulders are these bony protrusions that can get in the way of your sewing fu. But they must be accounted for, because otherwise you end up with this:

2010 Henri IV

Clearly there was some miscommunication between whoever made the corset and the bodice: Henri IV (2010).

The Musketeers (2014-16)

There’s off-the-shoulder, and on-the-shoulder-point, and then there’s “we didn’t measure correctly agh things are wonky”: The Musketeers (2014-16).

Armscyes ARE Hard

Or, the dreaded cold-shoulder look.

2017 Still Star-Crossed

Sometimes it seems like it was a conscious choice to forget to make the top 1/5 of your sleeve: Still Star-Crossed (2017).

2014 Da Vincis Demons

Other times, it seems like someone forgot to measure the actress’s arm length: Da Vinci’s Demons (2013-15).

2017 Knightfall

And then there’s Obvious Fuck Ups: Knightfall (2017). Check this post’s featured image for a back view. It’s not good.

2017 Knightfall

“I know! We’ll add a 5″ tie in back, and smoosh the sleeves down her arm, and people will think it was a stylistic choice!” Knightfall (2017).

 

Not Accounting for Bosoms

Boobs are hard, people. Sometimes you’ve got too little, sometimes too much, they’re annoying when you run or sleep on your stomach … But most women have some kind of curvature on their chest, so let’s start figuring out how to handle them, eh?

Needs Bust Pads

Mid-Victorian (1840s-60s) bodices have a particular problem, which is a dropped armhole creating wrinkling above the bust. Real Victorians solved this by padding this area. Clearly this is news to some modern costumers:

2018 Little Women

Yes yes, the Little Women (2018) don’t have much money. But trust me, Amy can find a scrap of fabric to shove into her armpit.

2019 Little Women

Ditto Meg: Little Women (2019).

Somebody’s Eyes Are Bigger Than Their Boobs

Sometimes it seems like a maker got overly optimistic about the cup size they were working with, and there’s Just Not Enough Boob to fill things out. Two words: chicken cutlets!

2014 Da Vincis Demons

She just took off her push-up bra? Da Vinci’s Demons (2013-15).

1986-On-the-Banks-of-the-Niemen

Room for growth? On the Banks of the Niemen (1986).

War and Peace (2016)

Poor Marya was from a wealthy family, but apparently all her dresses were hand-me-downs from a wetnurse: War and Peace (2016).

Uncomfortable Mashing

Then you flip the coin, and we’re Just Not Leaving Enough Room.

2017 Gold

OUCH. Gold (2017).

2015 Point of Honor

Boob mashing plus bonus gaposis! Point of Honor (2015).

Can’t Find My Underbust

The famous “Empire” line was worn during a few periods in history (late 15th century, early 19th, early 20th), and it worked like this: the “waistline” was moved up to somewhere around the underbust point. It did not, however, happen mid-bustline.

War & Peace

War and Peace (2016) tried to make its actresses look younger in the first few episodes by raising the waistline ONTO the bust, in order to try to make them look like they didn’t have much bust yet.

War & Peace

Unfortunately, it just looks stupid, since as soon as the actress moves you can tell she narrows about 2″ lower: War and Peace (2016).

War and Peace (2016)

And, sorry, it makes them look wider: War and Peace (2016).

War and Peace (2016)

AND then it causes problems like this, where a waist tie won’t sit in place without long belt loops, because it wants to settle where the body NARROWS: War and Peace (2016).

Can’t Find My Bust Point

The bust point is the fullest part of the bust. Generally, it’s at nipple point, but if you’re wearing a corset, it can be as high as the top edge of the corset. The issue is that the bustline then gets smaller from that point, and with a corset, that line happens dramatically. It’s important to know where your bust point is, because the bodice seamlines will need to change from that point on, or you’re left with this:

2015 Catherine the Great

Here the boning goes up about 1″ too high from the bust point, and sticks up into space. Nyet: Catherine the Great (2015).

2015 Catherine the Great

This poor lady needs 1. a decent corset to shove her boobs up, and 2. a stomacher that actually ends at her bust point — or hell, be historically inaccurate and shape the seams or take darts to fit the stomacher above the bust point, at this point I don’t care, I just don’t want to see that teflon-like stomacher sticking out into space like that! Catherine the Great (2015).

AMC-Turn-Washingtons-Spies

There’s a LOT of unnecessary room in them-thar bodices. Turn: Washington’s Spies (2014-17).

Fabric Nipples

Fabric nipples occur when you try to add bust darts to a cone-shaped corset. The problem is cone-shaped corsets are 16th-18th century, and bust darts are 19th-20th century, when bust curve was fashionable. So trying to take a fitting technique made for a curvy silhouette and apply it to a cone-shaped garment… not a good idea.

2017 Still Star-Crossed

Baby it’s cold outside: Still Star-Crossed (2017).

Roots

There are many problems here, but those nipples aren’t helping! Roots (2016).

To all of these, I have just one word:

NO

 

 

Got any similarly stellar examples of shitty sewing on-screen? Share them in the comments!

 

 

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26 Responses

  1. Nzie

    Fitting is challenging! But this is a professional situation and I don’t think it’s wrong to expect that things should fit correctly. Yes there will be some issues with re-casting or budget or time, but a lot of it can be mitigated by smart thinking.

    I laughed out loud at the armscye section! I’ve had to make a LOT of FBAs, upper arm adjustments, and armscye adjustments. I feel like I had a patternmaking baptism by fire on that area with a challenging historical pattern where I had to do all three, and as a result I learned a lot about drafting arms and adjusting armscyes. I guess I just figured if your job was costume designer or stitcher that would be something you’d know?

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Is Natasha channeling her inner dancing pixie?

    And Meg’s bodice looks in need of fitting.

    Reply
  3. Constance

    I thought that Claire Foy’s gown had some awkward pleating across the front…e gads…
    Also Natasha 2016 version in those bangs and that dress = hideous. Did not deserve Andre (was that his name) or Pierre…hated her character :)

    Reply
  4. Jennifer Faith

    The boob thing is a real issue for me. I have a large chest and small waist, making fitting anything on my torso a challenge all my life. That being the case my eye has the tendency to zero in on boobs in costume, to see how “they” did things.

    I have 2 big peeves. One is when they try to give cleavage to a woman with small to non-existent boobs. The poor woman usually looks like she’s holding her breath the whole time and it actually looks kind of cute yet sad, like a little girl putting apples in her dress to pretend she has boobies like Mommy.

    The other is whenever I see an ill-fitting or too tightly laced corset where the top slices across fleshy upper breasts, giving the quad-boob effect. Same when it’s an ill-fitting bra rather than a corset. My boobs hurt just looking at that and just want to reach into the screen and at least loosen the laces to alleviate the poor woman’s pain!

    Reply
  5. Charity

    These are all pretty terrible, for sure — here is another example to gawp at. I spent half of a Hallmark movie (… yes, I know… it was not my choice) going WHAT THE HELL IS SHE WEARING?

    http://www.tvgoodness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2243533.jpg

    To make it even worse, everyone in the show kept complimenting her on that ill-fitting monstrosity. There’s so much wrong with it, my brain had a hard time picking the main offender other than — it obviously wasn’t made for her. Or. Well, anyone.

    Regarding general fit — it can be a challenge for sure. I am greatly blessed with almost no top curves. When fitting a regency bodice to me, my seamstress friends and I had quite a time making it fit without it causing wrinkles in odd places, and I still wound up with the semi-inevitable “pregnant pooch” in the skirt. Ah well. Good enough for Regency teas.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      MY EYES!!! What movie is that? I need to snark it for real (also, we need the title so we can add it to our list for future Snark Week memes, heh). Yeah, I keep thinking the Hallmark / Lifetime movies could be a source of snarkable material, but just doing that xmas knight one was so bad ;)

      Reply
      • Charity

        It’s called The Gourmet Detective, and it’s “modern” — but they went to a costume ball and… yeah. I think I annoyed my family by going WTF is that??? for like 10 minutes and ignoring half the plot.

        Hallmark is SOOO bad. So, so bad. They half-way tried with the first season of When Calls the Heart, but after that they just hit up Macy’s Department Store and online prom shops for the cheapest dresses they could find, and then glued sequins on them to make them Edwardian.

        If the awful acting wasn’t enough, the lazy costuming makes me avoid them like the plague — but my mom (stereo-typically?) forces me to watch a Hallmark thing once in awhile. :P

        Reply
        • Nzie

          Hallmark Christmas movies are a guilty pleasure for me, but I avoid When Calls the Heart like a plague. I saw one ad and noped out. That said, they did have one which my cheesy side enjoyed involving a WWII widow time traveling… It’s mostly set in the 2010s but I thought they actually did a pretty good job on the 40s looks. It was called something like Return to Christmas and had Candace Cameron Bure.

          Reply
    • Colleen

      Don’t get me started on When Calls the Heart. The first season was pretty okay with regard to costuming and hair, but the second season was hair freed from buns, women wearing very modern clothing, and I quit.

      Reply
      • Charity

        Yeah, they “tried” with the first season, but after that just went — what the hell, quaffed hair and Macy’s dresses it is.

        Reply
  6. Charity

    I think it ate my comment because I included a link to another costume monstrosity that is ill-fitting. If you want a gander at it, image search “gourmet detective eat drink and be buried.” Trust me, it’s BAD.

    Costume fitting is certainly challenging. I have zero up top in a Regency corset, so when my friends and I made me a Regency gown, we had to wind up putting in discreet darts (and avoid them ending at the nipple mark) just to avoid me looking stupid. It didn’t help that all the modern Regency patterns are not made for going over corsets, either. And I still wound up with that “pregnant woman” pooch in the front but ah well. Good enough for the occasional outdoor tea. :P

    Reply
  7. Eronn

    The unnecessary lacing on both Robin Hood costumes, but especially on Robin’s…I mean, that’s just what you want when you’re a fugitive from the crown and constantly on the run – risking your pants coming undone at the sides.

    On a side note, I learn so much from your posts, thank you!

    Reply
  8. Roxana

    ‘ Maria Simonova, do me a favor; shoot my dressmaker.’

    Appropos of fitting: a biographer of George Washington after reading endless letters to factors in England about the fitting of fashionable clothes imported from the Mother Country, confessed to having a mental image of Colonial parties with everybody dressed up to the nines in clothes that don’t quite fit.

    Reply
    • Katie O

      That’s legit hilarious, and if a production actually wove that into the plot (fabric shortages maybe?) then I would be on board lol

      Reply
      • Roxana

        Ill fitting clothes could easily be a story or characterization point, but obviously that’s not the case in any of these examples.

        Reply
  9. Katie O

    I’ve seen better fitting costumes in university theatre productions that were made by work study students with the tiniest of budgets so I don’t understand how this can go so badly with professionals

    Reply
  10. BerkeleyFarm

    I’d certainly like some of those “armscyes ARE hard” ones a lot better if they had, ya know, a chemise under the works.

    Reply
  11. Misty

    If I remember my useless info correctly, Helena Bonham Carter was pregnant when she did Henry VIII. Which could explain, but not excuse, the costumes…

    Reply
  12. Sarah

    Thank you for confirming what I was beginning to suspect about Regency gowns re: the waistline is dependent on the bust size. I love the term lampshade hoops, I’ll be using that from now on. And a Rubinrot (2013) meme! I love those movies even if they are cheesy. The books are better. In English they’re called Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green.

    Reply
  13. Fabian

    wasn’t expecting to see rubinrot on this blog! i read the books as a young teen but never saw the movie because i was afraid it would disappoint.
    i loved reading the descriptions of period clothing in the book tho! that definitely helped foster my interest in historical fashion

    Reply
  14. Martina

    Re: the second bust point fail (Maria Simonovna), I legit thought she was wearing a Baby Björn.

    Reply
  15. Cassandra

    I finally know what gaposis is! I’ve been following this blog for three hears, and i was embarassed that i never knew exactly what it meant.

    Also, why did someone feel the need to put Alicia Vikander (an already thin woman) into a dress two sizes too small?! Where did they even find such a thing?!

    Reply

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