Alexandra Byrne grew up in Stratford-Upon-Avon in the U.K., so it’s no surprise that she started working in theater and became a costume designer. But she’s also made a name for herself costuming films in the Marvel cinematic universe, which hints at the wild flamboyance of her work. She can create precise historical costumes, but she’s often worked with directors who seem to have their own “vision” for the costumes that’s more “relatable” like modern haute-couture than true historical fashion. Thus, we may end up snarking her work as much as praising it, and that seemed appropriate on this Friday before our next Snark Week! Consider this an amuse-bouche.
This was Byrne’s first historical project, & she knocked it out of the park with classic, yet not totally boring, Regency frocks for this Jane Austen adaption.
Pops of color with velvet spencer jackets & matching hats.
Contrasting piping & embroidery.
Even the basic white dress is jazzed up with a delicate scalloped hem.
Anne Elliot’s evening gown is subtle but sparkly.
With elaborate sleeve treatments.
Adorable teeny “tails” at the back of the bodice.
And a bright red dress for the Regency bad girl. (Photoshot/Getty Images)
Alexandra Byrne earned her first Oscar nomination this Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare adaption that’s set in a vaguely 1890s Danish court.
Queen Gertrude gets a beautiful wedding gown to emphasize how important (& weird!) her marriage to her dead husband’s brother is.
Ophelia (Kate Winslet) is dressed as a proper, innocent girl before everything goes to hell.
“Look at my flowers. There’s rosemary, that’s for remembering. Please remember, love. And there are pansies, they’re for thoughts.”
For the pivotal closet scene, Gertrude (Julie Christie) wears an elegant Fortuny-style gown.
This movie is where we start to see some of Byrne’s designs that play fast & loose with history. Of course, that’s likely due to the Indian director Shekhar Kapur, who also went wacky with the historical facts of QEI’s life in this flick.
A slightly fanciful take on 1550s.
The coronation gown is pretty damn good though.
Looks right out of the portrait.
A flash of Indian fabric on Leicester’s (Joseph Fiennes) cloak.
A much better take on 1550s!
Why did they do this to Mary of Guise?!?
My favorite costume in this movie! It hits all the right historical marks, plus it’s cool AF.
This, while pretty, hints at things to come in the sequel. The design is only semi-historical (this is supposed to be a riding outfit), & really it’s just a big dress in sumptuous fabrics.
Interesting cross between the Armada portrait & the Ditchley portrait of QEI.
Does what it says on the tin.
Sorry, but it’s impossible to make Penélope Cruz look plain, no matter how you dress her in “simple” “country” WWII-era clothes. Nice try, though!
Johnny Depp as J.M. Barrie & the story behind the family who inspires Peter Pan. He first met the family in 1897 & socialized with them through the mother, Sylvia’s, death in 1910.
But the costumes are styled for the 1910s, as shown on Kate Winslet as Sylvia.
WIth some very light fantasy touches like…
This amazeballs dressing gown! I’m always stunned when a costume designer puts so much effort into things like an elaborate hem that are barely seen onscreen.
There’s one beautiful dinner gown too.
Which I still can’t find good screencaps of, boo.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that I hate Phantom of the Opera.
At least this one has some wild stage costumes!
Otherwise, it’s just these guys, as required by law.
I like the attempt at 1580s here — the elaborate wired veil is great & the fold-over skirt is period.
Looks awesome from the back too.
The costume on display.
Underneath, she even has a historically accurate effigy corset!
The general silhouette of the gowns is usually fine, but it’s the details, the embellishments, & the styling that are off in terms of historical accuracy.
This ice-blue gown is very pretty, but that sparkly embellishment down the center front isn’t something you’d typically see on a 16th-c. gown.
That giant sparkly embroidered bow on the center front — WTFrock?!? And this is basically a strapless gown with a sheer blue shrug.
Gorgeous, but more Victorian in fit than Elizabethan.
This one has a more 16th-c. shape, but the styling is too modern. It’s that “trying to be relatable” or “renaissance haute couture” thing *eyeroll*
The costume on display, including the fishnet-y partlet & random jewelry.
Even when the gowns are OK, the styling is so … strange.
I just don’t know what the point is there.
Then there’s the armor. Yeah, I know, Cate looks fabulous in it! Maybe that’s why Alexandra Byrne won the Oscar that year? But sorry to burst everyone’s bubble & remind ya, this ain’t historically accurate.
What this movie does to MQoS — both in plot & costume — is criminal.
The grecian chemise for her execution is just silly — & we’ll see it again.
A small, not terribly successful flick set in the 1920s.
Kind of cute?
Would like to see more of this outfit, but couldn’t find pix!
300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Just barely a frock flick, this is nominally set in ancient Greece.
But the costumes are very fantasy-inspired.
Or like this.
Bryne joined Branagh again, now for a stylish ’30s murder-mystery.
Slinky bias cut.
Smart day wear.
Elegant lounging wear.
Judi Dench as the posh Russian aristocrat got the most OTT outfits, as she should!
Hat! Jewels! Fur! Imperious glare!
OK, here’s where I have some serious beef with Alexandra Byrne. And the director & everyone involved with this film.
It’s not a good look.
Then there’s the kicky shrugs that are NOT 16th-c. partlets.
Hilariously oversized man-bags.
Weird attempts at renaissance undergarments.
I busted out laughing in the theater when this happened. The tear-away dress! And then the red chemise underneath is the same as in Elizabeth The Golden Age!
This Victorian adventure flick has several period-correct gowns.
One decently period stage costume.
A plausibly period “flying” suit.
And a guy in a nice suit.
Byrne returned to Regency for her most recent historical work & knocked it out of the park with designs that leaned heavily into historical repros but also reflected each character’s personality & arc. Yes, it can be done without sacrificing accuracy!
This elaborate spencer jacket is right out of a museum or fashion plate.
Emma’s ‘strawberry dress’ is a repro of an extant gown at the V&A Museum.
The level of detail & embellishment is wonderful.
Delicate yellow & green.
Excellent cut on his coat, & her white gown is beautifully fitted.
What’s your favorite historical costume design by Alexandra Byrne? Can you forgive her for the flicks that play fast and loose with history?