Frock Flick Free-for-All February


You asked for it, so here’s an occasional open thread to bitch about anything tangentially related to history, costume, movies, or TV shows! Or whatever else is on your mind right now. Note that URLs are automatically held for moderation, but most anything else goes as long as you’re not bitchier than we are!

Fun fact: It’s birthday season for the Frock Flicks staff! Sarah’s was in January and both Trystan’s and Kendra’s are in February. If money / time / space were no object, what would you get us as birthday gifts?

David Tennant - We can have cake!


OK, you don’t have to be play nice. Go on, bitch about something, we understand!


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Three historical costumers who decided the world needed a podcast and blog dedicated to historical costume movies and everything right and wrong with them.

56 Responses

  1. broughps

    If money were not object and science could do it, a time machine so you all could go back in time to check out those time periods where there is very little evidence for the clothes people wore.

  2. Becca

    I would bribe the makers of Drunk History to do an episode starring you guys. Happy Birthdays.

  3. Jana Hill

    A friend was in a community production of Oliver Twist, as a background poor person. She had to provide her own costume. I lent her two of my early Victorian calico work dresses. The director nixed them, on the grounds that they were “too pioneery” and “poor people wouldn’t have prints or colors”.

    Instead, they put her in a brown elastic waist skirt, a jersey knit top, and a wide corsety belt thing.

    On the plus side, a friend of hers borrowed my straw cottage bonnet. When the director said it also looked “too pioneery,” she refused to take it off because IT MAKES ME FEEL PRETTY AND FANCY. Director caved in the face of the unexpected passion.

  4. Gosia

    99 tiaras for the 3 queens of Frock Flicks ;-). They would go nicely with Trystan’s goth outfits and Kendra’s and Sarah’s 18th century dresses ;-).

  5. picasso Manu

    What could I wish you ladies?… Hmm… What about a trip to the Post Office with Sir Thomas Sharpe? (Sis not included) It sure beat my own trips to the post office. Or a twirl in the Tardis with 10? Otherwise, IRL and in appreciation of a glorious snark week, would you like some 1900 Mode Illustrée with hand painted covers? I haz connections. Would be present, free of charge.

  6. Bex

    I’d buy you some of the 15th century couture from Reign that Mary, Queen of Scots would totally have worn if only the 16th century had been just like Coachella (man was I shocked when I realised they weren’t just wearing prom dresses from Asos but really expensive dresses).
    Anyways I need to bitch about some local tv here but I think it’s symptomatic of a lot of issues in historical television. So last year, DR (Denmarks Radio, a public service broadcasting company) did a 10 episode documentary about Denmarks history from the ice age until today and I was sat there, sunday after sunday, watching the costumes get worse (but hey, it’s a documentary, I wasn’t really expecting much and I know how low their budgets for these things are). Then last week I read an article about the casting for the prominent figures (like famous kings and queens, politicians etc.) and how much they had “strived for accuracy” in casting these. I found this really interesting since I had been baffled by their choice of casting a 20-something skinny, tanned, very beautiful (by 2017 standards) girl as Queen Caroline Mathilda (the one from ‘A Royal Affair’). But then the casting director for the documentary goes on to defend the casting choice for Caroline Mathilde, saying no one would have believed that Struensee would want to hit that if they had cast someone pale and chubby, like Caroline was in real life (his comment was actually pretty derogatory towards plus size women but that’s a whole other issue). And, I don’t know, it just made me so angry that they can be so lazy about these things, like: this would have been a great occasion for educating people about 18th century beauty standards and differing beauty standards throughout history in general but instead they just do the lazy thing which make people think a thigh-gap and a tan have always been the pinnacle of beauty standards. It such a shame and it’s something we see a lot in the casting of historical movies and tv-shos. Instead of enlightening people to the idea that beauty and fashion was different back in time, we always have to make it as modern and ~relatable~ as possible and I just think it’s a real shame and a dumbing down of the audience. Anyways, that was just my rant.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Ugh, in a documentary? I expect those kind of excuses in a fictional story, big blockbuster style movie / TV show that has the express goal of just making money. But a historical documentary ostensibly is supposed to be about, oh, IDK, actual history…

    • Barb Donaghey

      I thought the use of only pretty pretty people was a Hollywood problem. I don’t know if I’m happy or mad that we Americans are not the only ones with this issue.

  7. mmcquown

    I’m with Bex on the beauty issue. My grotches are many:the lack of hats, especially for men, in periods when a man with any pretensions to social status wouldn’t be caught dead without one. It is ironic that Game of Thrones, a fantasy series, produces far more battle scenes exhibiting the use of historical tactics and strategy than all of the supposedly historical series that are on at the same time.On the flip side, their individual weapons work is the usual bish-bash-bosh, often inadequately armoured (even though they have some pretty good armour) and at a time when the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) movement has groups in almost every country in the world who could and would willingly have shown them authentic technique. Oh — and why, in the coldest placer on the planet, did none of the Night Watch EVER cover their heads and hands?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      SO many ppl complain about the Night Watch not wearing hats! My fave recap podcast — Nerdette Recaps with Peter Segal (from NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me) — bitches about it constantly bec. one of them is from Alaska. But you know it’s totally a theatrical thing bec. they think audiences wouldn’t be able to tell any of the characters apart without seeing their faces :D

  8. Sarah Faltesek

    Last weekend, some friends and I went ice skating wearing wintertime gowns and accessories from the Victorian era. It was delightful, and as our (Minnesota’s) Winter Carnival was in full swing, people thought we were royalty from the Winter Court (it’s a whole weird thing). We were just a bunch of nerds, but it was fun to have people ask “Are you royalty?”
    The thing I wanna bitch about happened as we were on our way to get lunch. Some woman walked by us and said “Oh hey! The Renaissance!”
    I just smiled and kept walking. I didn’t want to shame that woman, or discourage her from interacting with people in costume in the future, but… it took all my strength.
    Because seriously? SERIOUSLY?

    • Kendra

      Oh yes, I LOVE being asked “is there a Renaissance faire around here?” when you’re in a 300-years-different costume. Good times!

    • Kelly

      I once was Anne Boleyn for Halloween, with a big red tudor(ish)dress with petticoat, black french hood and “B” necklace and long strand of pearls (low budget version of that one painting). Everyone from the United States asked who I was except for the four (4!!!) people who thought I was Queen Amidala, and everyone from a commonwealth country knew I was Anne Boleyn.

      I guess there was this weird association between Natalie Portman’s face and regal red dresses or something that was leading people astray.

    • Vincent

      The comments that confuse me the most are the “Are you in a play?” ones.
      Do people SERIOUSLY think that actors walk around town in the middle of the day in wardrobe that doesn’t belong to them? I mean, maybe they do have cause to do that occasionally, but I’ve been asked that at house parties, and on the bus to school.

    • Frannie Germeshausen

      My husband and I were dressed in 30s/40s day wear (suit, tie, hat for him; dress, back-seam hose, hat for me) and we were asked if we were going to church. Cracked me right up – especially if you know me!

      Alternatively, I was on an Art Deco Society of California one Sunday, 20-some off people, all dressed, women wearing very cute 30s/40s hats. A group of friends we passed on the street asked if we were in “a cute hat club.” I’ll take that one!

  9. Brandy Loutherback

    Can I just Bitch about the cold shoulder snark week post from last week: Apparently the trend started in the 1930’s and even in Upstairs, Downstairs they had a few cut shoulders mostly in seasons 2 and three during the 1910’s-Teens! Even in the Alienist, there was a black cut shoulder dress, but it was near the turn of the 20th century. By the way The Alienist has a scene where you see Dakota Fanning’s undergarments, and you see she didn’t wear a damn chemise under her corset like A Goddamn Dumbass!

    • Trystan L. Bass

      About 10 seconds after that scene in The Alienist aired on US television, the Internet just about blew up with “HEY FROCK FLICKS ARE YOU WATCHING THIS SHIT?!?!?”

      No lie. A dozen ppl messaged us, tagged us, as a group or individually. It’s like we need a bat signal for snark or something!

      • Rori


        You guys should open up a live chat box so that we can share all our snarks and comments together on a particular movie or tv series.

      • Frannie Germeshausen

        My hubs is used to me pausing scenes like that and saying “Frock Flicks was just talking about this stupid shit last week . . .”

      • themodernmantuamaker

        Alright, so if money were no object, then for your birthdays I’d make a functional Snark Signal happen – one that could be seen the world over! Oh, and I would make it mandatory for every producer, director, art director, costume designer to read through the entirety of your blog and write punitive/detention-style essays on how their historical costuming work is so bad and how they should do it better in future.

    • Cat W.

      Yeah that whole bit with the corset welts was playing more to somebody’s kink than history. I do wonder if people in the future will look at, say, underwire bras with the same horror.

      I also had to question the skeleton only 3 years postmortem (buried and likely embalmed). I wonder if people swarmed Ask A Mortician on that one?

  10. Rori

    Recently i was looking for some history books in my local book store and i stumbled upon the cover of Tudors by G. J. Meyer and it brought me war flashbacks to the awful outfits in The Tudors and Reign.

    What the crack is up with that cover and outfit!! I understand that it’s normal for inaccurate outfits to be used for historical fictions, but this is a freakin’ history book!

    • Kaite

      Unfortunately the authors (even if they know better) have little to no control over the covers chosen for their books. The publishers just make things look pretty, no matter if it is so off from the reality the book represents.

      • Rori

        Really? I’m assumed that author would give permission on cover approval. Man that’s sad to hear.

        • Sarah Lorraine

          It depends. Most authors get pretty much no say, or a very limited say (like, “here are three proofs for the cover art, we might take into consideration what you like but ultimately we get to choose.”)

          Of course if you’re someone like JK Rowling, you probably get more control. But that’s more the exception than the rule.

  11. Janette

    If money were no object I would buy you DVD sets of all the old costume dramas I would love you guys to critique, starting with The Pallisers. Oh and I would also have to pay out so you can all quit your day jobs in order to have time to do so.

  12. Saraquill

    A Snark Cannon of which can pierce time and space. Fire it at dubious frock flicks, “pink isn’t period,” “more period than thou” people, and any and all which catch you ire.

    As for something completely different, I recommended the blog to a costume history professor. She looked delighted.

  13. Kelly

    So, I went to Downton Abbey The Exhibition a few weeks ago with my mother and I thought I’d share some thoughts.

    The Good:
    – Some of the actors recorded little videos, which were corny and obviously filmed on a green screen, but it was cute and neat to see some new “footage.”
    – You could get really close to most of the costumes and they encouraged pictures. The recreations of the sets are closed off, but if you angle it right you can get a picture to look like you’re standing in the room, so prime social media opportunities there.
    – They had a lot of small props like a cookbook that were amazingly detailed recreations of period items. It was neat to see up close because obviously that sort of thing doesn’t really register on screen and they’d taken the time to make it in the first place anyways.
    – They had ALL the wedding gowns and other “major” outfits like the scandalous harem pants, Mary’s red proposal gown and Rose’s presentation dress.

    The Meh:
    – They had a ton of costumes from the later seasons (beaded flapper infuenced gowns especially) but not as many from the earlier seasons (daytime edwardian stuff especially). I’m guessing this is because they didn’t save as much from back then.
    – There was no effort at sorting clothing by time period, probably because it would have made the lack of earlier stuff more noticable.
    – All the jewelry looked like, well costume jewelry. But I guess that makes sense.

    The Bad:
    – It is VERY crowded, and although they make sure to say that people can go on their on pace, in practice it’s hard to manage to get in close without waiting for other people to move and you feel bad lingering too long.

    Link to imgur album below, pending moderation.

  14. Susan Pola Staples

    If money waso not an object. I would send all three of you on a tour of the textiles and costume collections in the world: Kremlin Armoury for the coronation garments of the tsars, tsaritsas and tsaritsas, the State Hermitage for their ceremonial and evening dress, Alexandre Vassiliev’s collection of Worth, the Zizi Museum, Galliera de Costumi Palazzo Pitti, Palais Galliera de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, Les Arts Décoratifs, V&À, MFA Boston, Met, Kyoto Costume Institute, Bunka Gakuen, several National Trust houses, Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University, all along the trip i would include tipple.

  15. Cat W.

    If money were no object, I’d put you in charge of costuming for a miniseries adaptation of Alexander Chee’s The Queen of Night. Worth gowns, opera costumes, courtesans and Empress Eugenie’s wardrobe-industrial complex, oh my!

  16. Janette

    Was just doing some research into Worth designs, because it was very, very tangentially relevant for one of my current writing projects and I just love Worth designs and thought there is potential for an interesting mini series, a rather humble English couple who go to Paris and establish the greatest fashion house of the time,, (Frederick’s wife was actively involved at least in the early stages of the business)
    I will throw in an original Worth, 1880s bustle gown for each of you as part of that birthday gift, that being my favourite fashion era and Worth being my favourite designer, (though more reds and purples rather than the pastels he tended to favour would have been good)

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I’d love to see either a good documentary on Worth or a fictionalized series — that would make a great story!

      And mwah thank you for the bustle gown, that’s one of my dreams :)

  17. Rigo Gonzalez

    Has anyone seen the costumes in The Greatest Showman? Good movie but the costumes had me so confused!

  18. MrsC (Maryanne)

    I have two birthday gift ideas and can’t choose so here’ both of them.The first is that once a week for however long it takes, you get taken out to brunch, lunch or dinner, by your choice of Man Candy Mondays. I’d be choosing Alan Cumming as a starting point myself.
    The other is that you get a tour of all the collections to see all the Janet Arnold gowns in their original, including being able to touch them. I offer this as I got to see (but not touch) a gown from Patterns of Fashion myself and it was so freaking magical!! Especially as the illustrations are all in drawing form. You could combine the two even, be escorted to the relevant museum by an MCM.

  19. izzytandem

    I just started watching The Alienist on TNT (read the book years ago) and I can’t stand seeing Dakota Fanning’s character (upper/middle class educated woman) wear her corset without a chemise underneath. The camera zoomed in to show the strings tight against her back and the red marks they left when her maid loosened them. A prostitute in just a corset and stockings, OK.

  20. izzytandem

    Also, in the 3rd episode of The Alienist, at the grandmother’s house, why are the 2 women wearing evening gowns in the afternoon? The daughter is being introduced as a marriage prospect and Mr. Moore is failing at small talk. I think the gowns were being reused from the lovely dinner scene. Their hair updo’s also looked more like 1860 evening styles, flatter to the head and coiled, and not like 1896 with a bit of a poof and height.