Best Red Dress in Frock Flick History


The trope of the lady in red is supposed to mean she’s a vamp or a femme fatale a la Jessica Rabbit. But that isn’t always the case in historical costume movies and TV series — sometimes red shows a deeper side to a woman’s power or red indicates that the woman is at the center of the scene’s conflict. Or maybe red just looks really damn good on the actress or it fits really well into the historical period.  Whatever the reason, red frocks show up time and again in costume flicks, so why not pick a favorite? Which do you love the most?


Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Mina Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Ellen Olenska in The Age of Innocence (1993)

Rose in Titanic (1997)

Rose in Titanic (1997)

Satine in Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Satine in Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Mary Queen of Scots in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Mary Queen of Scots in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

2012 Anna Karenina

Anna in Anna Karenina (2012)

Claire in Outlander (2016)

Claire in Outlander (2016)



Are there other great red dresses in historical costume movies and TV shows we missed?

38 Responses

  1. hsc

    I’m surprised the red dress Julie wore in “Jezebel” (1938) didn’t figure here, since it was a plot point– but I guess the film being made in B/W and the actual costume not even being red kept it out?

  2. Janeheiress

    If Crimson Peak had been a choice I would have voted for that one!

  3. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Ok, why is Mary Queen of Scotts wearing a ren faire chamise? Its pretty but not quite right.

    • Christina

      She was making a final point against Elizabeth. Red is the colour of Catholic martyrs. Martyrs. Catholic ones. Killed by those heretic Protestants. A year later Spain sent the Armada

      • MoHub

        It’s not the color; it’s the cut. Histories say that Mary wore a white gown to her execution and then pulled on a pair of red sleeves before she kneeled at the block. The outfit in the movie looks like RenFest wear.

        • robintmp

          I thought it was a black overgown, which she took off to reveal a red kirtle underneath that, yes, was intended to make a statement regarding what she and many (most?) Catholics regarded as her martyrdom for her faith. (If the kirtle was sleeveless, as they tended to be at that point, she could, and probably would have put sleeves on at that point to cover her chemise sleeves, as the kirtle usually wasn’t worn alone without sleeves.) The kirtle certainly wouldn’t have looked like THAT, which does indeed look as if it skipped away from a renfaire for the afternoon and mistakenly took refuge on a film set. Even as a chemise, it’s sewn wrong (what’s with the gathering at the sides of the sleeves?) and definitely worn wrong–they managed to behead various other noble and royal ladies without yanking their chemises off their shoulders; they weren’t tied up with ribbons around the waist, and they most certainly weren’t worn alone as a dress, even if there was (by some weird chance) yet another layer underneath! While it looks spiffy enough in the scene, as actual historical costume it makes me want to bang my head against a stack of period illustration guides. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG!!!

  4. Susan Pola

    Lucretia Borgia’s red gown from second season of the Borgias. But I adore Claire’s which you’ve included.

  5. Ellen

    How about Peggy Carter’s red dress in Captain America The First Avenger?

  6. brocadegoddess

    I have to vote the Bram Stoker one. I used the bustling and pleating on the back of that skirt as a direct inspiration for my wedding gown (with a Charles James bodice ;o)).

  7. JoanPeel

    What’s the one at the top of the article? I want to vote for THAT one.

    • Alisa

      It’s from Crimson Peak. The most gorgeous costumes ever made are in that movie. Also the most gorgeous sets.

  8. Victoria Stewart

    Honestly, every one except Anna Karinina and Mary, Queen of Scots.
    And like someone else said, the one from Crimson Peak was gorgeous too.

    • Janette

      Yes indeed. That would have been my choice just for the sheer impact of that red though I do much prefer bustles to crinolines

  9. Adina

    There’s also the dress that Eva Green wore in Penny Dreadful for the “Blood Ball”, also the one with gold beading that Ann Marie Duff wore in the virgin queen.

  10. Linda Merrill

    I just saw the costume exhibit Cut! that’s touring and the red dress worn by Lara Flynn Boyle in “Land of the Blind” is spectacular! Costume Design by Phoebe de Gaye.

  11. Janette

    Much as I love red dresses nothing can save that tragic thing that Mary Queen of Scots is wearing and Anna K’s evening gown might be winner on the red carpet for the premier of the film but for a Russian ball in the 1880s no, no and NO.

  12. Sonya Heaney

    I always LOVED that Titanic dress, more than the one that was more heavily featured in the film’s publicity. The top of it is just gorgeous.

    I’m sure I once saw a website where someone had remade it in blue.

    I see the Outlander fans are out in force. ;) I actually really dislike that dress. The fit looks terrible.

    • Ella

      I have only read the first book in the series, long go, so I have no idea when in Outlander that red dress appears, but perhaps the ill fit might echo Claire’s outsider status, not only as a “Sassenach wench” but in time? However, I don’t recall any events in the first half of the novel that would require her to dress so nicely, so perhaps it was just a bad fit after all.

  13. Alba

    I wish Lucille’s red gown in Crimson Peak would have been an option. I would have voted for that one.
    But all the option (expect Mary’s red chemise in Elizabeth:The Golden Age) are actually stunning, so it was hard to pick.

  14. Alisa

    Geez. You use the Crimson Peak dress at the top of your article, and then don’t let us vote for it? Well, then. I won’t vote.

  15. pmhermes

    I love Julie Christie’s red dress in Doctor Zhivago. And maybe Jessica Rabbit’s?

  16. charie

    I know Claire’s red dress isn’t really very accurate to history or the book itself, but Jesus do I think it’s gorgeous. Would that I had an occasion to wear one like it.

  17. Susan Pola

    I don’t like horror films, but the costume pics for Crimson Peak look so effing awesome and gorgeous, I reserved the DVD at the library. Did you review it?

  18. LadySlippers

    I voted for Rose’s dress in Titanic! Her clothes were divine but that one exceeded them all (the details!). Sabine’s red dress in Moulin Rouge was also stunning. I adore red so it’s hard to pick just one… *sigh*

    Another red dress I like that is not listed is from Pride & Prejudice (2005) on Caroline Bingley, while it’s not accurate I forgive it because it’s beautiful.