Frock Flick Free-for-All August


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!

The three of us spent last weekend at Costume College, and you can bet we still haven’t unpacked or fully recovered, even though we returned to our day-jobs on Tuesday and kept on posting to the blog here on Monday (see, we do love you!). So yeah, we have a backlog on the new shows that finally turned up, including The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco on BritBox and season two of Harlots on Hulu. But let us know if you’re watching!


Harlots (2018), Liv Tyler


What’s on your mind?


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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.

43 Responses

  1. Elyse

    So excited for your comments on Harlots! I loved last season’s hair discussion and am curious what you’ll say about this season.

  2. Saraquill

    Back in college, one of my for fun books was “Inside the Victorian Home,” a nonfiction piece. I went back to reread it after not touching it for a while. I was struck by inconsistencies in the text and details that now seem outdated.

    On one hand, yay I’m reading and learning more, to notice these things. On the other, boo to the book not being as enjoyable.

  3. Jana

    Once upon a time too days ago, I was reenacting 1864 but also sneaky finishing up doing eyelets on my 18th c. stays (in silk floss! On triple layered linen, bound with chamois leather!) and a dude comes up and is all, “Hey did you know that historically, they used to use whalebone in those? And that whalebone is not bone at all, it is baleen? Baleen is like the teeth of the whale, it filters out…” (etc. etc., with hand motions). THANK YOU PASSING DUDE, FOR YOUR MANSPLAINING. I CERTAINLY NEEDED THAT SUPER BASIC FACT BECAUSE CLEARLY I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM ABOUT.

    And that’s my snark for the day.

  4. picasso Manu

    The next person that asks me : “But what is it for?” when I tell them I sew historical clothes as a hobby is going to get a kick in the altogethers, whatever their gender. Am I asking you what’s the use of watching sport on TV drinking beer and eating pizza? still fuming

    • Fae

      Amen! I’ve never understood the mindset that my hobby is “silly” and “pointless,” while theirs, which is passive and uncreative, is hunky dory.

    • Sarah Faltesek

      “Wow, wasn’t that fabric expensive?” Really? How much was that SPORTSBALL JERSEY with someone else’s name on it, KEVIN?

  5. Frannie Germeshausen

    “Are you in a play?” When I’m sitting at a restaurant with a cocktail and lunch.

    • Tanya Stewart

      Years ago, when I was doing the Agoura (California) Renaissance Pleasure Faire, I would go to the grocery—in garb—before heading home (had I gone home first, I would not have made it to the store at all), and that question was a constant. That, and total nonchalance on the part of fellow shoppers—this was southern California, about 30 miles from Los Angeles, after all. I couldn’t do this now, in my small Kentucky town.

      • Aleko

        I love the British public. A couple of years ago I was taking part in an 18th-century event at Guildford Museum in Surrey, and during our lunch break a friend asked me to nip a few hundred yards down the High Street to Monsoon to check out a white suit she thought might be just the thing for her wedding outfit. So we did. It was a tight fit getting around the shop in our hoop petticoats, and we several times had to ask people apologetically to make way for us (which they very graciously did) , and not a single person even stared, let alone asked us why the heck we were dressed like that. You’d think ladies in powdered wigs and hoops were seen shopping in Guildford every day.

  6. mmcquown

    I think sometimes costumers get misled by experts in other fields. For instance, most of the terms used to describe swords are Victorian or later and were never used at the time. A sword was just called a sword for the most part, no matter what type it was. For example, a “backsword” describes a two-sided blade with one edge and one unsharpened, or “back” side. Not a sword worn on the back, as some might think In the same context, a “broadsword” is a two-sided blade with both edges sharpened. In Scottish and English usage, there are both basket-hilted broadswords and backswords which look the same except for the number of edges. It is extremely difficult to draw any blade of more than a foot long from a back scabbard. Another mislead is what is often referred to in this column as “studded leather” may actually be meant to represent a brigandine, cloth or leather lined with mail plates, of which only the top of the rivet is seen from outside.

    • Kendra

      As a vocabulary/etymology geek, I feel you. I am constantly trying to figure out what things were called IN the period, and it’s usually not what we think is the official term.

  7. Nzie

    Just watched the Lizzy trailer. I feel like the style of trailer tells me it will be a lot slower than the trailer, and naturally a lot of the costumes were cut off or just in too dark an area. TBH not sure it’s my type of movie—happy to look at the costume review but ax murder ain’t my thing.. also, ‘It’s America every man with a pulse has an enemy’ is just a bizarre statement.

    On a different note, just getting started on an 1880s get up for a con… cross fingers for me because a lot to do in the coming weeks! :-)

  8. Sarah Faltesek

    The thing that confuses me/makes me sad is how many people seem to feel that creativity is somehow outside their life potential. For example, when my historical sewing comes up in conversation, people will say something to the effect of “That’s really cool. I wish I had a hobby.” And I’m like… so… find one?
    A hobby isn’t a wish a seahorse granted, it’s a thing you can have! What are you interested in? What’s something you would like to try?
    It’s like there’s this combination of fear at not being good at something right away, concern that it might not be ‘cool’, and being overwhelmed at diving in.
    They’re all “How do you find the time?” and I’m all “Like seriously what do you DO when you aren’t at work? WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?”

    • picasso Manu

      I guess creativity isn’t for everybody. Me, when I ‘m not sewing, I’m painting, glass engraving, embroidering… or reading books about all that and more, LOL! I went into historical costuming because I love history and it led me to millinery and shoe making… And, oh, so much more is still to be learned! Love it! But a lot of people, even if they are appreciative (NOT Kevin) like more to BE entertained than to make their entertainment, I guess. Hence, hours in front of TV. My TV is well rested… My PC, on the other hand… blush

    • Tanya Stewart

      Creativity tends to be crushed out of people at a tender age in US society—according to the “elites” of this country, anyone not born to money is meant to be a worker drone, without aspirations or independent thought. As a visual artist, it bothers me, too, when people say that they have no talent, as if one has to be a genius to be creative. Good cooking, making a beautiful garden, raising children to be decent human beings—those actions and so many more that reflect love and integrity are every bit as creative as painting, writing, dance, and sewing a beautiful and historically accurate piece of period clothing.

      • Dawn

        My mother has often felt she’s not creative. But I can remember her doing ceramics, Tri-Chem, embroidery, etc. And while they were often kits or set pieces, there was always a level of individuality there, plus things she made without a guide. but she’s “not creative.”

        Now that she’s retired, she’s found an outlet in exploring watercolors and I personally think some of them are beautiful. I tease her about Grandma Moses once in a while.

  9. Lyssipants

    My 4-year-old daughter is obsessed with historical fashion (early reader + American Girls + Laura Ingalls books). She won’t countenance a skirt shorter than ankle length. She’s constantly asking me the meaning of specialised terms; also for me to make her calico dresses, stays, petticoats, sunbonnets, etc. Does anyone know of a book aimed at a younger reader/beginning historical fashion enthusiast? Or where to find patterns for Victorian era children’s clothing?

    • picasso Manu

      For that age, it’s going to be hard. Burda has a couple of costume for kids, and if it’s little house on the prairie, Mc Calls has one with dress and pinafore. I don’t know if you’ll get for 4 years old, though. You may have to make do with a “christmas dress” in calico (once you change the fabric from velvet to cotton, it looks completely different), and then hunt free patterns for pinafore and bonnet on the net. I’ll ask around in my gang if anyone made some for their kids, but most little girls I know are not f****g around and want to be princesses or nothing!

    • Saraquill

      Here’s the Internet Archive text of The Mary Frances Knitting and Crochet Book, published in 1918. It’s part story book, part instruction book for children. If your girl is interested, she can make her own late Edwardian doll clothes with this book. Librivox has an <a href’=””>audio recording of the book.

      Dressing Bleuette has amateur English translations of French doll patterns from 1905 to 1933. These too were made to teach children about sewing and other crafts.

      I’m less familiar with Victorian sewing books for kids I’m afraid. However, Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s Compendium does have free mid-Victorian patterns for petticoats, sunbonnets, pinafores etc. Scroll down enough, and you’ll find printable paper dolls as well.

      Hope these help.

    • Jay

      Have you tried looking for vintage Gunne Sax dresses? I’m dating myself here, but I seem to remember there being a lot of “Little House on the Prairie”-passable dresses for little girls in the late 70s/early 80s. My mom even made me a bonnet to go with one. I wore both in my 3rd grade school photo…

    • Dove

      A child after my own heart! Bobbi Kalman’s 19th Century Clothing and 18th Century Clothing are written for kids and have lots of pictures. Also (maybe when she’s a little older?) paper dolls. You can find the official American Girl ones on eBay and Pinterest, but I also love Tom Tierney’s historical fashion paper dolls.

    • Rebecca

      Amazon DryGoods (not that Amazon) has a nice selection of children’s patterns in a variety of eras

    • Saraquill

      It looks like the blog ate my earlier comment. I’ll try again, without links this time.

      On the Internet Archive you’ll find the Mary Frances Knitting and Crochet book, a 1918 book which uses cute characters to teach kids to knit and sew. There’s both text and audio versions, both free.

      Dressing Bleuette has translations for Bleuette doll patterns, also aimed at teaching children textile work.

      On Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s website are articles and free patterns on mid 19th century dress for children, and a couple of free paper dolls.

      • Trystan L. Bass

        Sorry! We have to approve comments with links, & a couple of us also had a costume event to setup for halfway thru Friday & then perform at all weekend, so we missed the comments.

  10. broughps

    I’m sure you guys know already, but am sad to hear that Terry Dresbach won’t be designing the costumes on Outlander anymore. She did a fantastic job and it was great the way she interacted with fans. Loved seeing her comments here.

  11. Susan Pola Staples

    Also I’m loving season 2 of Harlots. Any reviews pending? Pretty please with your choice of tipple.

  12. Brandy Loutherback

    Just Curious what y’all think of the Downton Abbey Movie? I want it to be set in the 30’s/Early thirties to see Edith in Vionnet or Mainbocher!

  13. StellavG

    I’m really curious what you think of the new Harlots! The hair definitely got turned way up this season, especially Liv Tyler’s hair is so huuuge all the time, which I think is a bit early? Lucy gets more bouffants as well, while Charlotte sticks to her wigs-over-short-curly-bob. In other news, I wore my first ever historical costume yesterday, light yellow jumps with a blue-green taffeta skirt – thanks to this site for feeding my interest in historical costume and teaching me that jumps are a thing!

  14. Peacoclaur

    I just saw Orlando (1992) for the first time at a film festival at my home town. I had to buy a ticket a month in advance as it sold out and there was only one screening. So worth it. This film is proof that you can have accurate (give or take) costumes on a budget if you do your research properly.