Costume Designer Dorothy Jeakins: The Frock Flicks Guide


Dorothy Jeakins (1914–1995) was a multiple Oscar-award winning costume designer who created iconic looks in some of classic Hollywood movies. This includes more than a few costume dramas, and while the results may not hew strictly to a historical line, Jeakins illustrations show her strong historical research chops. She began her career studying fine art and working as an illustrator, only falling into costume design later. But she very quickly made an impact, and now her work is easily identifiable. Let’s give her some frock flicks love!



Joan of Arc (1948)

joan of arc on film

Starring Ingrid Bergman.

joan of arc on film

Dorothy Jeakins won the first-ever awarded Oscar for Best Costume Design, Color, which she shared with Barbara Karinska.

joan of arc on film

This was Jeakins’ first film costume design job — she’d previously worked as an illustrator.


Samson and Delilah (1949)

Dorothy Jeakins, Samson and Delilah (1949)

Newp, neither Biblical nor historical. But pretty!

Dorothy Jeakins, Samson and Delilah (1949)

Jeakins won another Oscar for Best Costume Design, Color. This one was shared with Edith Head, Elois Jenssen, Gile Steele, & Gwen Wakeling.


The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1952)

Dorothy Jeakins, The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1952)

It’s a western, not too bad.


Les Miserables (1952)

Dorothy Jeakins, Les Miserables (1952)

I like her pelisse!


Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

Dorothy Jeakins, Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

A biopic of the composer John Philip Sousa, set in the late 19th century. I Think these are stage costumes?

Dorothy Jeakins, Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

These look more like 1890s daywear.


My Cousin Rachel (1952)

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

The dress from above, in a catalog photo.

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Alas, the costume designer can’t do anything about an actress’ skirt-hiking!

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Here’s what survived of the gown in a catalog photo.

My Cousin Rachel 1952

Lovely gown, if more 1950s than 1830s.

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

This gown is particularly non-historical but so pretty.


Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953)

Dorothy Jeakins, Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953)

Something vaguely 18th century


Titanic (1953)

Titanic (1953)

Barbara Stanwyck gets a good 1910s gown here.

Titanic (1953)

You know the rest of the story.


Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Dorothy Jeakins, Friendly Persuasion (1956)

American Civil War Quakers.


Annie Get Your Gun (1957)

Dorothy Jeakins, Annie Get Your Gun (1957)

The musical about sharp-shooter Annie Oakley.


The Music Man (1962)

Dorothy Jeakins, The Music Man (1962)

Not one of my favorite musicals, but the costumes are lovely!

Dorothy Jeakins, The Music Man (1962)

Wish I could find good color pix because these are both fun in that 1960s musical way *and* a decent representation of 1910s fashions.


The Sound of Music (1965)

The Sound of Music (1965)

Y’all know this one!

1965 The Sound of Music

From kiddie clothes made from curtains…

The Sound of Music (1965) costumes

To an elegant baroness’ wardrobe…

1965 The Sound of Music

These costumes may not be historically accurate for pre-WWII, but they fit the story!

1965 The Sound of Music
1965 The Sound of Music

Dorothy Jeakins had a small, uncredited role as “Sister Augusta” so I hope she got to see the wedding gown in action.


Hawaii (1966)

Dorothy Jeakins, Hawaii (1966)

A big, ponderous boring movie with costumes that often look more 1960s than 1820s. Dorothy Jeakins has a small role as Hepzibah Hale.


The Fixer (1968)

Dorothy Jeakins, The Fixer (1968)

Set in Czarist Russia, around 1911, that’s all I got!


The Molly Maguires (1970)

Dorothy Jeakins, The Molly Maguires (1970)

About Pennsylvanian coal miners in 1876, so mostly grubby men’s clothes, but hey, here’s an appropriate bustle gown!


Little Big Man (1970)

Dorothy Jeakins, Little Big Man (1970)

Something of a western about a guy who’s fought alongside General Custer. And apparently takes a few breaks…


The Way We Were (1973)

A love story that spans the 1930s-1950s. Not that you can tell by the costumes.

I wonder how much of this was the director or Barbara Streisand’s idea?


The Iceman Cometh (1973)

Dorothy Jeakins, The Iceman Cometh (1973)

Set in 1912 in a flophouse.


Young Frankenstein (1974)

Dorothy Jeakins, Young Frankenstein (1974)

More of a historical homage, this movie has a 1930s-40s style.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Especially in Madeline Kahn‘s costumes.


The Hindenburg (1975)

Dorothy Jeakins, The Hindenburg (1975)

Disaster films were all the rage in the ’70s. At least this one had a cool retro vibe.

Dorothy Jeakins, The Hindenburg (1975)

Oh the huge manatees!



The Dead (1987)

The Dead (1987)

Anjelica Huston with her father, the film’s director John Huston, in this utterly engrossing film based on a James Joyce short story.

The Dead (1987)

Full of eccentric characters & subtle dialog.

The Dead (1987)

And subtle period costume details as well, like this lady’s shamrock brooch.

The Dead (1987)

This was Dorothy Jeakins’ final film, & she was again nominated for a Best Costume Oscar.


What’s your favorite historical costume movie or TV show with costumes designed by Dorothy Jeakins?

25 Responses

  1. MoHub

    I think we need a full feature on The Music Man. The hats alone are worth the price of admission.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      It’s on my ‘maybe’ list — I love musicals, but that one is not a fave. And yet, the costumes are really good! There’s a bunch of titles ahead of it, but it’s on my radar for someday…

      • MoHub

        Whether you like the movie/show or not (I happen to love it), the costumes deserve serious attention.

      • Heather Christine Ripley

        Yes please review the Music Man costumes. The hair…not so much.

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    The Music Man. Just live Hermione Gingold saying ‘Balzac’

    What about a WCW for her? She portrayed several characters you kinda wanted to grow up to be. She is amazing in Little Night Music.

      • Susan Pola Staples

        I love Gigi. Cecil Beaton’s costumes are fantastic, the acting first rate and the scenes where Gigi is getting courtesan lessons are humorous and telling. Yes, Hermione Gingold is a gem in it. Her and Isobel Gens scenes have the bite of the best Dowager Violet and Mrs Crawley scenes.

  3. susan l eiffert

    Before I started collecting and dealing in antique and vintage clothing ( 50+ years ago), I kinda swallowed the costumes in these and other films whole and without question. Yet there was occasionally something that bothered me like the anachronistic hairstyles (love your posts about these), as well as the wrong wrong wrong clothing. I love the Sound of Music, but even when it came out (I was 11), it was clear most of the costumes were WAY off. Revisiting some of them on this great post confirms this. Like that horrible dress Andrews is wearing along side Eleanor Parker’s weird ensemble.

  4. Nzie

    You all just give me so many movies I need to watch lol! Very curious about the James Joyce one. It’s been ages since I saw Music Man but what I remember does seem pretty good.

  5. Sam Marchiony

    Young Frankenstein for the best MOVIE, Music Man for best COSTUMES. Those hats!!

  6. Victoria Hannah

    Seeing that picture of Jose Ferrer in Joan of Arc made me smile today. I so wish you guys would do a MCM for him. But if you don’t that’s fine too.

    But back to the subject. I love the Sound of Music and the Music Man but I think I really need to check out “The Dead.”

  7. Jen in Oz

    Ha. The Fixer. I had to read that in school. (Early 1980s.) It’s by Bernard Malamud. It’s set in Russia. It’s about a guy who is jailed for murdering someone that he didn’t kill. Possibly pogroms and definitely anti-Jewish stuff. Don’t remember more than that and didn’t know there was a film of it!

  8. Katie O

    I’ll be honest, based on pictures alone and never having seen it, I always assumed The Way We Were was set in the 1970’s. It’s the hair I think.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Everything about ‘The Way We Were’ looks ’70s, but Jeakins’ sketches do look more historical & the story is supposed to take place over several decades. I just remember it being THE big romance when I was a kid, w/that damn song!

  9. Saraquill

    That is a very white Hawaii.

    I haven’t seen any movies on this list, so it’s hard to pick a favorite.

    • Heather Christine Ripley

      @Saraquill, the film is based on the novel by James Mitchener which takes place during the time when white American missionaries came to the Kingdom of Hawaii and the conflicts that took place. The costumer did have to dress native Hawaiian’s, which I found interesting. Not sure how historically accurate they are though…

  10. Colleen

    The black and white photo of the woman’s daywear for Stars and Stripes Forever seems period appropriate, except for the exposed forearms. Unless I don’t know better, women didn’t wear short sleeves.

  11. LydiaR

    Ooh, Little Big Man! It’s been decades since I watched it, so I don’t remember much about the costuming, but the story and the acting are superb!

  12. Martina

    Baroness Schrader’s red dress with the black beaded trim is one of my favorite dresses of all time. I’d make a duplicate and cram myself into a corset/girdle if I had a place to wear it!

  13. Maggie May

    Joyce describes the serious minded young woman in The Dead as not wearing a low neckline and pinning her blouse with a brooch sporting an Irish device and motto.

    Possibly something inspired by the Tara Brooch. But the Shamrock is fine shorthand for those not familiar with Celtic Renaissabce imagery. She accuses Gabriel of being a West Briton…