Dressed in Black: 17th and 18th Century


This Halloween season, Trystan is indulging her gothy love of black garb in frock flicks fashion by looking at some of the most fabulous black dresses in historical costume movies and TV shows. Black wasn’t just worn for mourning, after all!

Last Friday, I gave you my favorite black frocks in 16th-century historical costume movies and TV shows. While, of course black clothing was still worn during the 17th and 18th centuries, on screen, the frocks get iffy. For the 17th century, most of what’s shown in movies and TV in black is Puritans (snore), and for the 18th century’s frock flicks, everything goes pastel. Thus, I’m combining them into one post!

Here are some of my favorite 17th and 18th-century historical frocks in black. What are yours?


The Three Musketeers & The Four Musketeers (1974)

Milady’s stays aren’t the most historically accurate for the 1630s, but they’re memorable!

1974 Three Musketeers

The Queen & King’s black & gold outfits are off the hook.

The Girl King (2015)

The Girl King (2015)

Queen Kristina’s mother is in permanent mourning & rather insane with outrageous 1650s outfits.


Orlando (1992)

1992 Orlando

In the second part of the film, Orlando wakes up in 1650.


Salem (2014)

Salem (2014)

Ostensibly set in the 1690s, the show gives us this gothic witchy fantasy of a gown. And it’s awesome!


The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)

The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

Set in 1692, but this gown looks a lot later to me.

The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) - black suit at V&A Museum

This black suit (in the V&A’s collection) is worn by the eponymous draughtsman during much of the film while everyone else is in all-white.


Plunkett & Macleane (1999)

Supposed to be set in the 1740s, but Tyler’s gown screams goth nightclub to me (in a good way ;).


The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

Could be 1760s, or could be my gothic dreams.


Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette (2006(

OK so the masquerade ball gown isn’t very historical.

Marie Antoinette (2006(

But it’s black. And kind of sexy. Right?

Marie-Antoinette (2006)

Her mourning gown (after her mother’s death in 1780) is more historically accurate.

Marie-Antoinette (2006)

Although it’s probably dark blue & just looks black on film.

And it laces up the back. Oops.


Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Yeah, it’s not solid black, but it’s goth as fuck.


What’s your favorite black outfit in these historical costume movies and TV shows?

15 Responses

  1. Nzie

    I tried to appreciate all the lovely and interesting things but I’m kind of still stuck on what the frock is that first set of “stays”? I feel like things would start to dig in… winces

    • Aleko

      This is a sort-of copy of an iron 16th-century corset from a museum in Paris, only done in soft fabric. The similarity is too close to be accidental.

      I believe that (just like chastity belts!) many iron corsets are reckoned to be 19th-century or later fakes. There’s doubt also whether the few genuine examples weren’t corrective devices for people with spinal abnormalities, rather than fashion items.

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m going with 3: Plunkett and Macleane, Marie Antoinette and Sleepy Hollow

  3. Saraquill

    It’s hard to choose a favorite. I’ll definitely say no to the boob-star stays though.

  4. mmcquown

    As noted in other posts, Puritans did NOT wear black; it was too costly a colour and would have been considered too extreme by them. They wore greys, greens, browns and a colour called “murrey,’ which was probably a mulberry shade.

  5. Charity

    That last gown, and the striped one, from Sleepy Hollow are among my all-time favorite costume drama gowns.

  6. picasso Manu

    Monica Bellucci in brotherhood of the wolves FTW! We don’t see her that much in the movie, but every time it makes an impression. First because she’s fabulously (un)dressed, but also the Vatican spy/assassin gives it quite a vibe.

  7. misat0

    You missed my favourite in Marie Antoinette: the black dress with white fur.
    There never seem to be any decent photos of this costume, only a few screen grabs, I’d love to see more! Well, it’s black AND white, maybe not gothic enough, but looks beautiful!

  8. misat0

    You missed the black dress with white ermine collar in Marie Antoinette ;'( It’s black AND white, but there aren’t many photos of it, mostly a few screen grabs, but it looks gorgeous, and I’d like to see more of it.