Dressed in Black: 19th 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!

I’ve gone through the 16th century, plus the 17th and 18th century, now we get into prime territory for fancy black gowns in historical costume movies and TV shows! Sure, this is mostly mourning because Victorian is alllll about dead stuff, that’s where we get the cliches I love.

Here are some of my favorite 19th-century historical frocks in black. What are yours?


Lady of the Camelias (1981)

Lady of the Camelias (1981)

Who says you can’t have ruffles and black?


My Cousin Rachel (1952) & (2017)

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Sexy sheer black for mourning on Olivia de Havilland in the original My Cousin Rachel — if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

2017 My Cousin Rachel

OK, so the 2017 remake of My Cousin Rachel (with Rachel Weisz) went more strictly historical, but it’s still super goth.

2017 My Cousin Rachel

Veils for days.


Queen Victoria

Victoria (2017)

As young Victoria in the 2017 TV series, Jenna Coleman steps into her role wearing mourning for her uncle, King William IV.

Victoria & Abdul (2017)

Judi Dench plays the queen later in life, when she wears permanent mourning, in Victoria & Abdul (2017).

Victoria & Abdul (2017)

But costume designer Consolata Boyle did her research & showed that Victoria wore elaborate black gowns with trim, pattern, & light accents.


Gone With the Wind (1939)

Rhett & Scarlett dance

Scarlett defies mourning conventions to dance with Rhett.


Scarlett (1994)

Scarlett (1994)

In the soapy sequel, mourning figures once again, here for Melanie Wilkes.

Scarlett (1994)

Along with an elegant black dinner gown.


Ludwig (1973)

L'Innocente (1976)

Stunning bustle gowns designed by Piero Tosi.


The Crimson Petal and the White (2011)

This outfit on Romola Garai always strikes me as more steampunk than strictly 1870s, & that’s not a bad thing for once.


Deadwood (2004-2006)

I’ve barely watched this series, but I freakin’ love these costumes.


Crimson Peak (2015)

Crimson Peak (2015)

How many more times do I need to gush over this?


Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

Penny Dreadful

Eva Green wears stunning gothic Victorian costumes by Gabriella Pescucci in this series.

Penny Dreadful



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


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

8 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Crimson Peak, Penny Dreadful, Crimson Petal and The White. Those are my favourites, but both Mrs Brown and Victoria and Abdul run a close second.
    When you get to the 20th are you going to mention Rocky Horror Picture Show?

  2. Saraquill

    Jenna Coleman’s dress is pretty, but that satin would show way too many wrinkles for my liking. I’ll go with the smocked “My Cousin Rachel” dress.

    On a related note, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s mourning clothes exhibit. My main reaction was “why are so many outfits golden brown… Oh right, fading dye.”

  3. Brandy Loutherback

    Crimson Peak was Goth As Fuck and I loved every single second of it!

  4. Marie McGowan Irving

    I missed this series. Because I was in Whitby, at a goth festival. Oh, the irony :D

    Isabelle Huppert’s ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ black dress from Madame Bovary
    Sophie Marceau’s black ballgown in ‘Anna Karenina’
    Deborah Kerr’s black velvet crinoline in ‘The Innocents’
    Nicole Kidman’s assymetrical black velvet gown in ‘Portrait of a Lady’
    The black stage costume from ‘The Prestige’ (risque!)
    The ‘gothic tower’ gown from Moulin Rouge.