Top 5 Black Dresses in Historical Costume Movies & TV

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Who doesn’t love a little black dress? Or a big one? It can be chic and sophisticated, dark and spooky, morbid and mourning — all things to all people. And historical costume movies and TV shows have plenty of opportunities for fabulous black dresses. I love so very many of them that these aren’t really my top five, just five that I’m thinking of right now. Enjoy!

 

Marie-Antoinette’s Black Masquerade GownMarie-Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette (2006)

This is more about the scene than the dress itself, because, let’s be honest, the black dress is neither all that historical nor terribly interesting on its own. What she’s wearing looks like a modern ballgown. But the little sheer mask makes it delightful, and I lovelovelove that ball itself. If I believed in heaven, that’s what it would look like, and I want to go there.

Marie Antoinette (2006( masquerade scenes in historical film

 

 

Claire’s Black-and-White Vandyke Dress – Outlander (2016)

Outlander 2x2

During season 2, while in France, Claire wears this wonderful black satin gown with white sleeves that we call her “Vandyke” dress because the style references the 18th-century trend of women being painted wearing a certain 17th-century fashion. I’ve been obsessed with these portraits for YEARS, starting when I saw the portrait of Lady Frances Finch by Thomas Hudson, 1741, at the Huntington, and then I looked online and discovered dozens upon dozens of similar portraits. I’ve had materials set aside to make my own, and then bam Terry Dresbach goes and does it. Now I feel like if I do make it, people will think I’m doing Outlander cosplay. Oh well, I still love the dress! At the very least, I need to write a scholarly paper about it (in my copious free time…).

outlander 2x07 outlander 2x07

 

 

Lady Mary’s Beaded Black Dinner Dress – Downton Abbey (2016)

Downton Abbey 6x08

Mary often wore black for dinner, but this dress from season 6, episode 8 is special. It’s long, ultra-elegant, and super-sexy. She’s even wearing a rather fashion-forward beaded net thingy on her head. And it’s all to make an impact on Henry Talbot, as she tries to tell him off and say “I don’t need you” even though she really does. Whatever, Mary, you’re going to marry him at the end of this episode.

Downton Abbey 6x08

 

 

Lucile Sharp’s Black Velvet Bustle Gown – Crimson Peak (2015)

Crimson Peak (2015)

I’ve had a deep, visceral need for a black velvet bustle gown ever since the first pix of this came out, long before the film did. This dress is simple gothic perfection. It was only on screen briefly, for a picnic, but it made an impact. Lucile’s whole wardrobe is a goth girl’s wet dream, but this black dress is a classic ideal.

 

 

Mary Sibley’s Spider- and Bug-Trimmed Black Dress – Salem (2014)

Salem (2014)

It’s a pity that Salem was such a bad show because the costuming was really pretty and showed a ton of creativity and detail work. But, like the plot, the costumes didn’t make much sense for the historical period or the characters. Set in early 17th-century New England, the clothes were entirely too elaborate and mixed details from 50 years earlier and in the future. But dayum, they were beautifully dark and spooky! This season 1 gown does have a reasonably 1630s silhouette, and being decked out with silver spiders and bugs kinda makes sense for a witch getting in touch with natural powers, I guess.

Salem (2014) Salem (2014)

 

What are your favorite black dresses in historical costume movies and TV shows? Bonus points if they’re not mourning gowns!

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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.”

22 Responses

  1. picasso Manu

    Monica Belluci had a pair of interesting outfits in “Le pacte des Loups”, if I remember right.

    And hey, Morticia Addams! In any incarnations.

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Eva Green’s black wardrobe from Penny Dreadful designed by Gabriella Pescucci. There are several and each is better than the one before.

    Reply
  3. Lynn

    They’re all gorgeous, but the Vandyke dress is my favorite, so far it’s my all time favorite of Claire’s dresses.

    Reply
    • A Little Bit of Bad Taste

      Its my favorite too, Im obsessed with the 17th century fashion at the moment, particularly posing gowns, although they dont seem to be real lol. But I love the asymmetrical vibe of the van Dyke dress, reminds me of Worth gowns from the early 20th century too…

      Reply
  4. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    The black and white dress Winnona Ryder wore as Joe March is my favorite. The one that Madame Alexander used for the doll they issued from the movie.

    Reply
  5. Liutgard

    The black dress with the ivory lace that Emma Thompson wore for Evie’s wedding in Howard’s End. I would KILL to have it- and the figure to fit into it. And the hat, of course.

    Reply
    • SarahV

      Yes, that meshwork dress was amazing!!! I always wonder how it was constructed whenever I am watching that movie.

      Reply
  6. SarahV

    I know this is not in any way remotely historical, but I’ve always pined for Mia Sara’s uber-Goth disco fabulous black gown in the last scene of Labyrinth. I mean the movie is kinda historical in in its Medievaloid setting and generally vague princess wear, right?

    Reply
  7. Saraquill

    As a cat mom, that black velvet bustle dress fills me with fear. That thing looks like a fur magnet!

    Reply
  8. Kathleen

    Josie Marcus’ (Dana Deleny) black riding ensemble in Tombstone. Alma Garret’s (Molly Parker) Black ensembles & Martha Bullock’s (Anna Gunn) AMAZING mourning gown in Deadwood.

    Reply

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