War & Peace (2016) Recap, Pt. 3

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A&E, Lifetime, and the History Channel are currently airing the BBC’s 2016 adaptation of War and Peace. There’s some good … but there’s also some bad and some very, very ugly. We’ll be recapping each of the four parts (six episodes if you’re in the UK), focusing on the costumes, praising what needs to be praised and snarking where it’s required. Today it’s part three (US), but essentially the second half of episode 4 and first half of episode 5 (UK).

Nikolai heads back to the war, leaving everyone bleak except Natasha.

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Natasha hasn’t seen Andrei in FOREVER. She gets a letter from him, saying that he has to stay in Switerland longer because his war wound has reopened. Instead of thinking, “Yeah, that doesn’t sound good, he should get better,” she basically goes all Lydia Bennet:

"I WANT TO GO TO BRIGHTON"

“I WANT TO GO TO BRIGHTON”

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Or as Natasha puts it, “I want him here NOW!”

The Bolkonskys have come to town (Moscow?). Dad is clearly heading into emotionally-abusive-dementia-land, screaming about how he needs to do stuff that wimmin can’t understand, then flirting with Mademoiselle Bourienne and saying, “Oh, I didn’t mean YOU, I meant MARYA. She sucks.” Satisfyingly, Marya tells Mademoiselle Bourienne off — although really, the person she needs to stand up to is her father.

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Mademoiselle Bourienne is clearly hoping she might get to marry Prince Bolkonsky on his deathbed, or at least have him leave something to her in his will. She’s also psychic, because she’s wearing an 1830s bonnet.

At Prince Bolkonsky’s name day party, Anna Drubetskaya tells Frodo to hit on Marya, because she’s got money. Marya stands around like the abuse victim she is. Frodo is irritated. Prince Bolkonsky is a jerk.

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Anna owns only two dresses. This is her fancy one.

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Frodo tells Mom not to worry; he’s got heiress Julie Karagina all figured out. She mysteriously thinks of herself as a tragic figure, so he just goes all “Nobody understands us” and she eats it up. It’s actually pretty hilarious, with him writing her terrible poetry.

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I’m not sure if that’s appropriate cleavage for an unmarried lady…

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…but I do want her jewelry.

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Drubetskaya visits the Rostovs. She’s excited to annouce that Frodo and Julie Kuragina are on their way to getting engaged. She suggests Natasha and Dad go visit Marya, to get to know Andrei’s family.

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Mom is in her vestment fabric, Drubetskaya is back in her weird-sewn-in-chemisette dress. From other pictures, it looks this is a drop-front gown, hence the weird inverted pleats over the bust — but clearly something isn’t fitted right here.

Natasha, having just come back from Berkeley c. 1995, is down. For once, Sonja is dressed better in a rust print dress.

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I think Natasha is secretly wearing Doc Marten’s with that dress.

Natasha and Dad head to the Bolkonskys:

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Natasha is wearing a dress with yet another badly-thought-out, flopping-over collar. Mademoiselle Bourienne greets them in a c. 1975 Holly Hobby dress. They hear Prince Bolkonsky throwing a temper tantrum from the other room.War and Peace (2016)

Marya is traumatized by her father, and also by the fact that unlike all of the other too-high-underbust-seam dresses, her dress goes too low under the bust, leaving weird puckers below her nipples.

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I feel like I’m looking at the album cover for Carol King’s “Tapestry” here.

Prince Bolkonsky comes out and is totally calm. Natasha and Dad are offended and leave.War and Peace (2016)

RGjdwhl

Meanwhile — Pierre heads home to find BitchWife hanging with Frodo. They’re all, “Dude, can you get Frodo into Freemasonry? It would totally help his career.” Pierre is all, “YOU HAVE TO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY.” But agrees.
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“‘Sup. Just bangin’ your wife.”

The Rostovs, minus mom who is sick, are off to the opera. Natasha is wearing a satin and crepe dress. I kept hoping she’d have a nip-slip, but no dice.

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At the opera … Julie Kuragina is annoyed when Frodo checks out Natasha:War and Peace (2016)

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Somebody thought this head-jewel was a good look.

Dolokhov has attached himself to some Persian prince or something and gone full Orientalist:

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And just as the singing starts, BitchWife turns into that obnoxious person at the movies who speaks in full ringing tones, asking Dad Rostov if Natasha can come sit with her. She seems to have psychically sensed her Douchebag/brother/lover’s desire to despoil Natasha.

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Obviously BitchWife’s wardrobe will make far more sense if we just pretend that it’s 1912 when we’re looking at her.

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Douchebag slimes in and starts whispering in Natasha’s ear and trying to touch her. Ew.

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Natasha is flustered. When they go home, she looks at a miniature of Andrei.War and Peace (2016)

The next day, Natasha is being fitted for a new dress when BitchWife visits her, wearing what could be a plausible outfit if flocked taffeta were ever made in silk and that triangular brooch didn’t make her look like she was on Star Trek.War and Peace (2016)

BitchWife wants Natasha to come “advise her on clothes.” Suuuuure. Natasha agrees.

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On her way to a party at BitchWife’s, Natasha looks great in a white fur-trimmed hood:

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What we don’t see on screen.

Taking a page from BitchWife’s playbook, underneath Natasha is wearing a dress taken from your Florida grandmother’s curtains. Douchebag is hot to trot.
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But who cares, because WAR AND PEACE BARBIE IS HERE, BITCHES:

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I just…

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I can’t…

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OKAY WHO LET THE CAT WRAP THE CHRISTMAS PRESENTS THIS YEAR

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Because otherwise why…

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Are they doing it to taunt us??!!

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Golden Dreams Barbie (“She’s Got the Billion Dollar Look!”) + Crystal Barbie (“She Shines With Glamour!”) = War & Peace Barbie (“What the Fuck Is She Wearing!”)

Natasha dances with Douchebag, who is all, “I love you.” She’s all, “I’m engaged.” He’s all, “Doesn’t matter.”

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She flees him, he chases her into the cloak room, and Natasha being too young to understand the difference between stalking and love, makes out with him.

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EW.

The next day, Natasha gets a note from Douchebag asking her to run off with him. In yet another plot point that confuses me, she doesn’t see any problem with this. WHY??? Natasha is wearing a floral print dress that looks fine from a distance:

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But close up (look at the bottom left) is clearly a 1930s-esque Liberty of London print.War and Peace (2016)

Douchebag goes to Dolokhov, says “I’m in LURVE you have to help me elope with her!” Dolokhov is all, “Uh you’re married to that chick in Poland, but okay!” Because Dolkhov is nothing if not Team Douchebag.

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SUCH A DOUCHEBAG.

Sonja stumbles across Douchebag’s note while wearing a “the poor didn’t want this” dress from The Sound of Music. She rightly tries to point out to Natasha that 1) she’s engaged, 2) she’s in love with Andrei, and 3) if Douchebag was even the slightest bit reputable, he’d ask her parents for her hand. DUH NATASHA. Natasha is petulant, and threatens to never speak to Sonja if she tells.
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Marya turns up to apologize for the cold reception Natasha received at her house. Natasha basically says “Imma stop you right there — tell your brother I’m sorry, but I can’t marry him.” Marya is flabbergasted.

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Douchebag turns up to run off with Natasha, but Sonja clearly did the right thing and told, so instead he is greeted by a couple of servants who, satisfyingly, beat him up.

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“You can’t beat me up! I’m a DOUCHEBAG!”

Natasha is locked in her room, screaming and crying. Because everyone’s a big meanie because they don’t want you to run off with some loser who can’t even meet your parents? I SO DON’T GET NATASHA’S LOGIC HERE. I mean, his sister is married to Pierre, so it’s not like he’s some nobody!

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Mom Rostov is basically all:

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Pierre has heard about Douchebag and Natasha. He heads home, grabs Douchebag off of BitchWife, and threatens to beat him up if he  ever so much as looks at Natasha again. Douchebag cowers, and it is again satisfying.

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Normally I’d point out that that’s a lot of fabric for BitchWife’s dress, but nothing she wears can ever compare to War & Peace Barbie.

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The next day, Pierre goes to visit Natasha, who is all, “NOBODY IN THIS FAMILY UNDERSTANDS ME.” He’s all, “Uh, Douchebag is MARRIED.” She initially disbelieves — RIGHT NATASHA. BECAUSE THIS WHOLE RUNNING AWAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT THING SEEMED TOTALLY REPUTABLE.

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Black with purple stripes, reflecting HER SOUL.

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And Andrei arrives in Moscow, eager to see his fiancee.War and Peace (2016)

Natasha has a sad.

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Andrei has a sad. He tells Pierre to tell Natasha not to worry, she was always free to shack up with a douchebag, and asks Pierre to return her letters and portrait. He never wants to speak of her again.

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Collars, baby.

Pierre goes to see Natasha and comfort her.

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Natasha is wearing the Empire equivalent of a pea coat.

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Pierre really likes this waistcoat.

Natasha has a REAL sad! Doctors are called! Leeches are applied!

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Mom and Dad Rostov wonder when they’re going to get their manic pixie dream girl, aka Happy Natasha, back.

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Mom has a handle on print-mixing, unlike Sonja.

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Dad is sad, because even his fun cap tassel isn’t enough to cheer up Natasha.

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Mom’s thing is a loose shortgown type thing. Probably has a Russian name that I don’t know.

Natasha joins the proletariat heads to church to have a sad.

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I wear headscarf. It symbol of repression. And sad.

Apparently the costume designer was inspired, for this ensemble, by an 1840s Orientalist painting of a Persian woman. Just hang out with that idea for a while.

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I guess Orientalism captures her sad better than actual 1810s-wear?

Nappy is heading back into Russian territory!

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No chicken hats for the French.

Tsar Alexander the Hot is DISPLEASED. He selects Frodo to take Nappy a message saying “GTFO of Russia!”

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Those sticky-uppy-over-the-knees boots are HOT.

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Frodo visits Nappy. Somewhere, we can feel Frodo’s mom being all “YASSSSSSSS!!!”

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I want Nappy’s tent.

Nappy’s not going nowhere.War & Peace 2016

Back in Moscow, the Rostovs are worried about Nappy’s invasion of Russia. Petya REALLY wants to join the army, and promises to run away if his parents won’t let him. Please, do. Let me help you pack.

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Sonja is wearing a nicely cut dress for once.War & Peace 2016

Andrei heads home to visit the fam, before heading off to battle. He wants to warn them that they need to get out of Dodge and into Moscow.

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NICE collars!

Mademoiselle Bourienne welcomes Andrei, which irritates him because she’s a grasper. He shuts her down.

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Mlle Bourienne is in the “I don’t care if it’s historically accurate, I just want my tits out” camp. Also, that’s a weird spencer/overbodice/thingie.

Marya apparently has one overdress to ever wear. It continues to ride below her bustline, giving her weird poochy-bust.

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I like her hair though!

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More hot collar ac-tion.

At dinner, Mlle. Bourienne is super flirty with Dad Bolkonsky, while Dad B. continues to be an ASSHOLE to poor Marya.

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After dinner, Andrei tells off dad about being such a jerk to Marya. Dad basically tells him to F off.War & Peace 2016

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Collars!

Andrei reads a story to his son, and thinks about his sad.
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The next day, Andrei heads off to war with a giant rift between him and his dad. Marya wears the same exact outfit.War & Peace 2016

We get a great close-up of Mlle. Bourienne’s 1960s floral print dress.

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SERIOUS curtain action there.

Back in Moscow, Pierre is visiting Natasha to try to cheer her up. They have a heart to heart, where she basically is all “I’m a worm!” and he’s all “You’re fabulous! If I weren’t married…”

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Pierre rocks the SUPER long coat.

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Natasha wears a nice! black silk taffeta dress, because she HAS A SAD.

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Back at the Bolkonskys, Nappy is super close and Marya wants to evacuate, but Dad is certifiable and refuses to leave. She sends their servant into town to find out what’s up.

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Again, great wigs on the servants. Marya’s blouse looks to be eyelet of some kind.

Servant runs into Andrei, who says, “What the hell? Get out!!”War & Peace 2016

Dad Bolkonsky is in serious dementia land. He gets geared up in his military uniform — apparently he used to be in the army — and heads off to fight the French on his own. He gets on his horse and then promptly falls off — probably had a stroke. Everyone is upset, except me, who is relieved.War & Peace 2016

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Marya: one dress. Boob pooch.

Andrei takes a detour by the family ranch, where he sees some peasant girls picking fruit and frolicking. He clearly is all “Tomorrow I die.”

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He heads back to his regiment, where the soldiers have found a lake/river/pond and there are DANGLY BITS. Sadly, not on anyone you’d be excited to see, so I’m keeping it to just butts:War & Peace 2016

Dad Bolkonsky dies, after muttering to Marya that he loves her. She has a beautifully acted moment on the porch of being happy (to be reconciled/loved) and sad (to have lost her father). I am just happy for her.War & Peace 2016

Dad is laid out for burial. Marya manages to find a new dress for mourning.

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Where has this dress been hiding all this time?

Mademoiselle Bourienne is all, “Yay French! We don’t need to evacuate, I’m sure they’ll be SUPER nice to us!” Marya is offended.War & Peace 2016

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I like Mlle. Bourienne’s lace!

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Nice black lace chemisette on Marya.

The peasants are being difficult about giving horses to Marya & Co. They claim there are no horses, but Marya takes it as them being rebellious.

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“Yes, you’re right. YOUR need to get away from the French clearly outweighs any needs we might have. Please, let me bow and scrape some more.”

Soldiers are spotted, so the servants go off to explain that Marya & Co. need help.

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Interesting to see the differences in the two female servants. Lady on the right is obviously more Westernized, while the center lady is wearing a sarafan (traditional Russian dress).

It’s Nikolai! He’s pumped that he gets to be chivalrous. He meets Marya and they are clearly Into Each Other, in a respectful sort of way.War & Peace 2016

Nikolai and the soldiers escort Marya & Co. to safety.War & Peace 2016

Back in St. Petersburg, Bridesmaid-in-Waiting and the rest of society are stressed about Nappy’s invasion of Russia. B-i-W is worried about being guillotined.

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I don’t love this. It took me a good minute to figure out that those are revers/turnbacks, not a super wide gape-y neckline.

Helene is pregnant by her new (to us) lover. She tries to talk her lover into marrying her, essentially implying that she’s never shagged Pierre. Her lover is all “Sure!” but looks super doubtful.

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Pierre is stressed, and thinking about Going to See the War. Random family member who was going to disinherit him is really mean about it.
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The Rostovs get a letter from Nikolai, saying he’s fine and that he met and helped Marya.War & Peace 2016

Sonja JUST KNOWS something is up.

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I feel like IF I could see the print on Sonja’s gown, I’d have questions.

Nikolai and his army friend attend a party in whatever small town they’ve taken Marya too.War & Peace 2016

All the ladies are hot to trot.

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All the ladies also have random balls trimming their bodice seams — check out the spencer in the center (why is she wearing a spencer at an evening party?) and looking-over-her-shoulder to the left.

Nikolai has clearly grown up, because he ignores all the lay-deez in favor of discussing Marya with some rando with weird gold trim along her neckline. She offers to fix him up, he sighs, “If only it were that easy…”

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I don’t know why, but I find her neckline trim confusing.

The next day, Nikolai pays his respects to Marya, who is very Full Mourning. They continue to have a (adult, respectful) connection.

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Andrei heads up to the war. It’s TIME for the big battle (of Borodino) with Nappy and the French.

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General Kutuzhof is wearing a jaunty sailor hat.

Pierre decides to Go See the War. He shows up dressed super dorkily in a floppy hat and huge cape. He’s bumbling and in the way.

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He runs into Dolokhov, who offers an apology.War & Peace 2016

And finds Andrei, who is annoyed that he has to take care of Pierre when he’s going to be busy dying tomorrow.War & Peace 2016

 

Are there any other Barbies that we need to put into that War & Peace Barbie equation? Did YOU let the cat wrap the Christmas presents?

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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.

25 Responses

  1. Clara

    Seriously Natasha? You seriously want to leave (hot-very-hot) Andrei for the (not-hot-and-very-creepy) Douchebag? My suspension of disbelief dropped here so hard it made a hole on the floor.
    Also, poor Marya. Poor, poor Marya (give her some happy, she needs it)
    Also, this has to be some kind of pseudo-reenacting by a group of very confused time-travellers where they only got the uniforms right. (or any other option that involves time-travelling)

    Reply
    • Kendra

      It’s from the source novel (since the same plot points show up in the 2007 version), but — WHY??!! Someone out there who has read the book, please ‘splain it to us.

      Reply
      • Clara

        I know… But it’s just… not reasonable here. They should have made Douchebag look less creepy and douchey so we could actually buy Natasha being all lovey dovey over him, as opposed to Andrei, who is hot, handsome, tortured in a very Russian way, very much in love with her and allows her to be kind of free while he is away.
        Here I just kept hoping the Sassy Gay Friend would appear to ask Natasha “What What are you doing?”

        Reply
        • Sarah E.

          Yeah, the book (via Marya’s reaction before she catches him with Mlle. Bourienne) *almost* manages to convince us that Andrei is attractive if you don’t know him that well.

          Reply
        • Sarah E.

          Dorky as Pierre’s floppy hat is, it’s not as ridiculous as the white hat he wears to observe the battle in the book.

          Reply
        • Kendra

          Agreed. Again, the only thing I can compare it to is the 2007 version, and while Andrei is WAY HOTTER than whatever-his-name-is (I can only think “Douchebag” now!), Db is reasonably hot and far more plausible. In this version, a rock could see that Douchebag is a douchebag from 3 galaxies away. EW.

          Reply
          • Clara

            I think his name is Anatole? Anyhow, I might need to check the 2007 version to kind of see the appeal.

            Reply
    • Janette

      Natasha is basically a spoilt child who has always had everything her own way. She feels rejected when Andrey (way is it spelt in my version of W&P) goes away for a year. She is used to getting what she wants when she wants it and she is not yet 18. Her treatment by his family, which was rather offensive is her first experience of rejection. In contrast to Maria’s coldness and the father’s rudeness Helene woos her and Douchebag tell her he loves her. She only 18, Not the most sensible age when it comes to “affairs of the heart.” Well not from my personal experience anyway.

      Reply
      • Kendra

        Yep, that makes sense. Sounds like the issue, then, is having an actress who can play young enough to make that believable.

        Reply
  2. Stephani

    Excellent deployment of Strictly Ballroom clip! And yikes, the story just keeps getting worse and worse–as do the costumes. Was the acting good at least?

    Reply
    • Kendra

      HMM. The actress playing Marya is particularly good. Lily James doesn’t irritate me as much as Clemence Poesy in the 2007 version, so that’s an improvement!

      Reply
  3. Wendi

    I am most irritated by the ill-fitting bust in Marya’s dress. I feel like this production had the money to alter it to fit her! She wears it a lot, it looks like, so how could they have not noticed how weird it makes her look?

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Seriously! I didn’t notice it until the 3rd or 4th episode, but now I can’t stop staring at it. Especially since she wears it in 99% of her scenes.

      Reply
      • Sarah E

        Maybe it’s a deliberate attempt to make her look frumpy enough for the role? We’ll have to see if she finally gets something more flattering now her father is out of the way and she and Nikolai are clicking.

        Reply
        • Janette

          Marya should be plan and simply dressed but she is the daughter of a Prince. I am rather certain she would have had a dressmaker who knew how to fit a dress properly. A decent costume designer would not have resorted to badly fitting to convey Marya’s character. Also despite being quiet and unfashionable Marya is not week. She has strength of character which is not well represented by sloppy dressing which screams, “victim”.

          Reply
        • Janette

          I am loving this blog. I was in tears laughing so much reading this. Thank-you for the entertainment. Did they ask the tea person to design the women’s costumes? If not then perhaps they should. Tea person could not have done a worse job. IT is not just that they are totally wrong for the period, or any period for that manner, but they are UGLY and ill fitting. There is no redeeming feature and no excuse.
          Also could someone please tell Andrew Davies that the success of P&P was not purely due to Darcy’s wet shirt moment and that Colin Firth was hot with or without a wet shirt. I am getting sick of his now obligatory male torso moments.

          Reply
          • Kendra

            The thing I find funny is that in P&P, we don’t actually SEE Mr. Darcy with a plastered wet shirt! We see him dive in, then he’s walking up to Lizzie with his horse and his shirt is NOT stuck to him (it’s damp, but it’s not sopping). It’s so much more about the suggestion!

            Reply
        • Kendra

          Clearly she’s supposed to look VERY conservative, not in a political way but in terms of being shy, living in the country, etc.

          Reply
  4. Ester

    I had already decided to “just go with the flow” when it came to BitchWife’s totally inappropriate dresses. But when the untidy mess of tulle wrapped with gift ribbon came to the screen I couldn’t believe my eyes. What were they thinking? In what universe is that thing even pretty?

    Reply
  5. Black Tulip

    Discussing this with a friend, she was convinced that Helene’s latest conquest is the Tsar (he did ask her to dance at the ball) – thoughts please?

    Still can’t decide which is more distressing – Marya’s ill-fitting dress, or the gloriously-named W&P Barbie. The latter is far FAR worse, but the former gets more screen time to annoy me.

    Reply
  6. Sonya Heaney

    It’s amazing how it’s about minus five-hundred degrees, and even then nobody in the show puts bloody gloves on! I’m Ukrainian, and headscarves in that part of the world are quite common. But not with hairpin-free, flowing Barbie hair!

    And, for God’s sake: everyone, put your boobs away!

    Also, pretty annoyed what they’ve done to the character with my name…

    But I LOVE you for the Strictly Ballroom GIF. :) I knew the lead guy in it, and I get all nostalgia-feely when I see things from the movie.

    Reply

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