Thieves of the Wood (2018) Is Shockingly Entertaining: Part 2

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On Tuesday, I posted the first half of my review of Thieves of the Wood (2018), the Belgian miniseries set in 1747 about a group of outlaws. In that first post, we looked at the men’s costumes, as well as the lower-class women. Now I want to look at the more well-off women!

 

The Women: Town

Nobody is filthy rich, upper aristocracy, more well-to-do bourgeois. Let’s first look at mid-18th century women’s middle-class fashion, particularly in the Low Countries if possible, including England, Germany, and France as needed.

The first thing to notice is the preponderance of jackets and caps. Secondly, no one is wearing giant hoops, and the hair is relatively small and close to the head.

This well-dressed French servant is wearing a jacket with short tails and pleated cuffs, petticoat, “pinner” apron (note the apron bodice pinned to the jacket), fichu, and cap. She probably has a few petticoats on underneath and maybe some very small pads but that’s it:

Jean-Etienne Liotard, The Chocolate Girl, around 1744 - 1745, Old Masters Picture Gallery Dresden

Jean-Etienne Liotard, The Chocolate Girl, around 1744 – 1745, Old Masters Picture Gallery Dresden

This middle-class English woman is wearing a pet-en-l’air, the jacket version of the robe à la française. This is a hip-length garment that’s otherwise cut like the française. She too has cuffs on her jacket, as well as a cap with lace framing the face:

Marriage A-la-Mode: 2, The Tête à Tête, William Hogarth, c. 1743, National Gallery

Marriage A-la-Mode: 2, The Tête à Tête, William Hogarth, c. 1743, National Gallery

Although this is from a bit later, this is probably the best reference for the kind of style worn in the Low Countries (Flanders, Netherlands, Luxembourg). She’s wearing a whole lot of printed cotton: in browns for her jacket, blue/pink for her petticoat, and navy or black and white for her apron (which again has a bodice portion). Printed cottons were particularly popular in the Low Countries, as many were imported by the Dutch. Note again the fichu and frilled cap that frames the face, and the full skirts that aren’t over big hoops.

An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes, Turin, c. 1775, Bunka Gakuen Library

An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes, Turin, c. 1775, Bunka Gakuen Library

These are “Regentesses,” and I’m not 100% clear as to what that means — are they school benefactors? Something religious? Nonetheless, they’re not aristocracy and they’re Dutch. Most are wearing the robe volante, the full gown that predated the française, but the standing woman is wearing something more fitted in a printed cotton. Note all the fichus and caps:

Regentesses of the St. Elisabeth Gasthuis by Frans Decker, 1740, Frans Hals Museum

Regentesses of the St. Elisabeth Gasthuis by Frans Decker, 1740, Frans Hals Museum

Now, let’s look at Thieves in the Wood!

Our first of two main female characters is Héloïse. She works in her father’s print shop, but they allegedly have a French title, so she varies between more workaday and fancy looks.

This is the kind of thing she wears for everyday, which looks great:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

Jacket with cuffs over a stomacher (printed cotton), quilted petticoat (also in printed cotton), small-ish hair, cap.

When she dresses up, things vary. She still favors printed cottons, which checks out for this region in this period. The main issue is that her hairstyles (and that of other well-off townswomen) are way too big for the 1740s (try 1770s).

This printed cotton gown seems like it’s a fitted-back nightgown, although we never really see the back:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

It looks very much like this extant 1740s gown:

Gown, originally 1740s but altered 1760s and 1950s, Victoria & Albert Museum

Gown, originally 1740s but altered 1760s and 1950s, Victoria & Albert Museum

The main thing I’ll note is that those tabs:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

Usually a fichu that shows through:

Portrait of an unknown lady by George Beare, 1740s, Bridgeman Images

Ok so it’s not exactly the same thing, but you get the gist | Portrait of an unknown lady by George Beare, 1740s, Bridgeman Images

She also has several (what I think are) jacket-and-skirt ensembles:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

Jacket?

2018 Thieves of the Wood

You don’t really see this full ensemble on screen, hence the weird screenshots.

2018 Thieves of the Wood

But this behind-the-scenes shot shows that it’s definitely a jacket.

At one point, she has a cute riding habit, but it’s never really on screen for more than half a second, so the best I could do was screencap the hat:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

It’s too bad, because it has a really nice skirt shape to it — padded but not TOO padded!

At one point she has an Extra Special Outfit:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

I think that corset is embroidered, which I haven’t really seen before, but I like that it’s white-on-white so relatively subtle, and the peacock is beautiful.

2018 Thieves of the Wood

I think this is a française with an embroidered stomacher. Again, loving all the printed cottons, as those were super popular in this area even before they took off in France and England.

The other main character is Anne-Marie, who goes from a prostitute to a “lady.” First, she’s dressed up as a lady in order to help facilitate a robbery and wearing in a pet-en-l’air (short française) that reads really well on screen:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

Especially THAT HAT!!

2018 Thieves of the Wood

Up close, you can see that the ruched trim is from printed cotton, which isn’t something I’ve seen in the period, but you can’t really see it on screen so I’m giving it a pass.

2018 Thieves of the Wood

SO much of the series is dark and murky, so screencapping was hard. She later gets this dark red robe à la française:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

I’m not 1000% about that lace in close-up, but it’s fine on screen. Also, the lipstick is FAB but so not 1740s middle-class Flanders.

2018 Thieves of the Wood

She later gets this printed jacket over a stomacher, with a solid skirt, and wears it outside, so I could actually get some decent views:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

If you look TOO close, the background of the print is too busy (and 19th century) for the era, but once again it looks good on screen, and this is such a minor quibble.

2018 Thieves of the Wood
2018 Thieves of the Wood

I like that they got that jackets were a Thing for this class, and the pleated cuffs which were fashionable in this era (before sleeve ruffles came along).

Looking at more minor characters … Magda is the bailiff’s secretary. COLOR ME SHOCKED to see an actually appropriately dressed middle-class character, from her CAPS to her pinner aprons:

2018 Thieves of the Wood 2018 Thieves of the Wood

There’s a snobby, social-climb-y family; this is the mom, and she too has high 1770s hair, but at least she’s got a cap:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

I’m not 100% on that fabric — it seems too paisley-ish for the 18th century — but once again it reads fine on screen.

There are also about a million well-dressed extras, primarily in jackets (many many pet-en-l’airs) who have big 1770s hair, but otherwise look great:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

This is fab, minus the hair height!

Although I did notice some (VERY QUICK, blink and you’ll miss it) back closures on extras in one scene:

2018 Thieves of the Wood

I think that’s (subtle) lacing on the left, and a possible zipper on the right, but again these are on screen for a hot second.

 

Have you seen Thieves of the Wood? What did you think of the better-off ladies’ fashions?

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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.

7 Responses

  1. Shashwat

    Regentesses were probably members of the aristocracy involved in community service to orphanages or asylums and they tended to be associated with local churches.Regents were also called trustees.Somewhat like the people today who donate or register at NGOs if they are unable to take an initiative themselves.Some of them were actually very committed to charity work though.
    The costumes are a bit too good than expected.The Dutch aesthetic of mixing pastel florals with baroque,dark brocades is something that I love,but unfortunately we don’t get to see much of it in films.I think they also used contrasting robes and underlayers a lot,unlike the French and English fashions which favoured a more monochromatic look or at least the entire ensemble in the same ground fabric with varying levels of embellishments.

    Reply
  2. Vee

    Regentess in this instance simply means member of a governing board. Usually local business mens wives, the sort of time wealthy busy bodies that put most people off joining boards – even today.

    Reply
  3. Damnitz

    I loved the character of the maid, which was at least in the first Episodes somehow realistic. I would say, that they did a better Job on the women’s costumes although the high hairstyles just don’t match with the 1740s/50s clothes from an esthetic Point of view, although I found the selection of different styles of beards through almost every period except the mid 18th century a lot more irritating. However I have to thank you, that you made it through this series.

    Reply
  4. 992234177

    There’s a type of regional embroidery/quilting in France that is white on white, the corset might be imitating that.

    Reply
  5. mmcquown

    As far as I can tell, the styles of everything ran from France to the Low Countries and then to England, and as they did, they grew in volume in the Low Countries, then slimmed down a bit in England. One of the clearest examples is the drums on furniture legs: they are light and graceful in France, sturdier in the Low Countries, then more middling in England. And the clothing did the same.

    Reply

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