Frock Flick Free-for-All May


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!

Things are looking up in upcoming movie land — this month sees the latest remake of Little Women on PBS, the big-screen biopic Mary Shelley (coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein‘s publication), and the miniseries remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock on Amazon Prime.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (2018)


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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.

62 Responses

  1. Emmalia Harrington

    I forget, is there a Frock Flicks bingo card for questionable costuming? With tidbits like poly fabric, corsets on bare skin, etc for the squares. If there isn’t, what do you guys recommend, especially for the center square?

  2. Moon_custafer

    Are there any blogs that look at the finer details of historical menswear? Sometimes when I watch older movies a can plainly tell “this guy’s meant to be a slob, this guy’s meant to be overdressed, etc.” but there are some characters/outfits where I’d love to see a discussion about how stylish/dorky they would have looked at the time.

    The best I’ve found so far is, but as you can guess from the name, it’s pretty narrowly-focused (although it will occasionally turn some attention to the villains’ clothes as well, like the different incarnations of Le Chiffre and his white dinner jacket).

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Menswear really is our weakness, & esp. 19th-c & beyond. Earlier non-military menswear, each of us know a fair bit about, & that’s where we can get into how accurate they are & what the costumes are supposed to mean about their characters.

  3. Ashley

    I won the lottery to see Hamilton last weekend and now I have an overwhelming desire to make/own a green silk taffeta frock coat.

    • Ashley

      I don’t even do 18th c. costuming, like, I would just wear it to work and feel fabulous.

    • Saraquill

      Congratulations! Do keep an eye on the clothes of the female corps. The basic outfit becomes super versatile when it comes to quick costume changes.

      That said, I have no idea how they keep parchment colored pants clean during that Time of the Month.

      • Janette

        Yes. I often wonder if that is why women wore so many petticoats. Fashion and necessity have always gone hand in hand thought not always in obvious ways.

  4. Sarah F

    With the Mary Shelley film fast approaching, I wanted to recommend a book- Romantic Outlaws, The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon. I’m really enjoying it.

  5. Elizabeth

    I just watched the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice for the first time since it came out and it was as awful as I remembered. It’s like they tried to turn it into a Brontë novel….and failed. So much peeling paint, loose hair, and those PIGS, ugh.

    All it did was remind me of how great the 1995 version is. I aspire to own Elizabeth Bennet’s ball gown as much now as I did in high school. Yes, I love the “snoozy” (as you are so fond of calling it) Regency! Even the Little White Dresses. What can I say, I love Indian shawls and I happen to look great in an Empire waistline.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I just watched the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice for the first time since it came out and it was as awful as I remembered.

      Why would you do that to yourself? Punishment?

      • Elizabeth

        Because a person I respect was gushing over it, and there was a copy available at the library, so I thought, maybe it wasn’t so bad and I’ll see some pretty dresses?

        Nope. I think even a milkmaid in 1797 would have turned up her nose at Keira Knightley’s rags.

        • Kendra

          I was at the dentist once and had to sit around while they did something, and they offered me 3 different movies — P&P&Pigs was one of them, and I went for it!

          • Elizabeth

            I would have too in that situation! I wish my dentist had movies. He just has fancy German magazines.

      • Brandy Loutherback

        To be fair they did do a good job with Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s romance! They hardly touched and yet the intensity of their chemistry just leapt of the screen, especially in a ball scene where the intensity of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s focus on each other makes everyone else in the room disappear! And about the hair and costumes, The hair was noticeably messy because before Hairspray was invented, there was only so much rag curling could do against the vagaries of British weather! The dresses colors had to be strong because they had to show up well in candle light.

        • Charity

          I loved the disappearing background dancers too. The director also must have enjoyed it, since he pulled the exact same stunt in his Anna Karenina. :D

  6. Cheryl Washer

    Want to give a shoutout to “The Frankenstein Chronicles.” Visually, much of it is the contemporary tired tropes about the past (dirt, mud, etc.), but having Anna Maxwell Martin play Mary Shelly after she wrote Frankenstein is amazing. People forget she lived for close to 30 years after Percy Bysshe died. Also Sean Bean.

    • Jana Hill

      I love the Sharpe shout outs. Oh, you happened to have been in the Rifles, huh? Huh. Also, someone whistles “Over the Hills” on the street.

        • Nzie

          Please do! I haven’t seen tons of her work but I just find her very likable. I thought Death Comes to Pemberley was wonderful.

  7. Yael

    I know the 1980 Pride and Prejudice didn’t have a very flexible budget (thinking of some of the small sets), but compared to the 1995 version, I always feel like the 1980 version captured the general look of the time period more accurately. Especially for the women’s day wear. Tho the fabric…. hm. It’s been a while since I have seen either. But what do y’all think? Which Pride and Prejudice is more clothing-authentic?

  8. Jana Hill

    Have you seen the trailer for the new Robin Hood movie? It… I… I can’t…. I accept a good deal of license with Robin Hood, it being a legend, but some things just ain’t right.

  9. MCMom

    I ❤️ you guys! Just thought I would share that Amazon has added a bunch of British historical miniseries that I have seen mentioned on this site but either couldn’t find or wasn’t willing to pay for (over and above what we already subscribe to). Plus, Picnic at Hanging Rock with Natalie Dormer is coming later this month.

    Of particular interest to me was Charles II – The Power and the Passion because, come on, Rufus Sewell. Good gravy!

  10. Charity

    I can’t seem to find out if Mary Shelley is going to play anywhere close to where I’m living at the moment — “Limited Release” sometimes means: “Congratulations, you get to wait another four to six months to rent this.”

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Might be too early — the only new May 25th film I can find listed at all for the entire SF Bay Area is the Han Solo flick (bec., obviously, geek fans need to buy tix a month in advance, LOL).

      • Charity

        On rare occasion they’ll say “Limited to… New York & LA” but so far no luck this time. I’ll keep checking as we get closer to the release date.

    • Kendra

      Yup, usually it means NYC & LA, and the rest of us MIGHT get it in theaters someday if we’re lucky.

      • Lauren Rachel

        Check your local Landmark Theaters closer to it’s release date (if you have one). They’ll probably carry it, even if for just a little bit.

    • Nzie

      I can keep an eye out.. I’d be interested and I think I know some friends who might go along with me. (I’m in NYC… usually someone has the small films.)

  11. Nzie

    I just saw the Robin Hood trailer on another video I clicked on YouTube and OMG. I’m done. Legitimately decent actors in “Robin Hood” which seems to just be like a mix of Zorro and the Arrow (CW show) in theme and costume… sure, those dudes are crusaders.

    Have any of you heard of Woman Walks Ahead? I guess technically it came out last year, but I only spotted a trailer on YouTube this week. It’s based on a true story (1880/90s) of a woman named Catherine Weldon (among several names) who following a very unorthodox life in New York decided to go west to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull. I’m not quite sure what to make of it, and it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of female characters, but it piqued my interest, and it starts Jessica Chastain, who I really like.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Woman Walks Ahead showed at some film fests last year & is supposed to get a wider release June 29, 2018 in the US (it’s on our upcoming movies list; check the top nav).

      • Nzie

        Ah gotcha. :-) I checked back on the last post on tv/film but forgot about the tab. I hope with Chastain involved it’s a nuanced/non-white-savior film. Also, I googled her character… really unique woman for the era in terms of her personal life.

  12. Elizabeth

    For Trystan: Just wanted to pass on a compliment from my husband, who found your Bonnets are the Derpiest piece hilarious. And he agrees with every word! (He really hates bonnets, and the whole aesthetic of what the Germans call Biedermeier.)

  13. Karen K.

    Finally got around to watching Season 2 of Victorian and I have just about given up on this series, they really do play fast and loose with history. And WTF there are HEAD NECKLACES on Lady Harriet! I did go back and read your post on head necklaces and just MAYBE but still made my eyes twitch.

    At least the contact lenses seem a little better this season, she looks less like an alien.

    • Janette

      yes I am not sure I will bother with season three. Queen Victoria being so compassionate about the Irish Famine was too much for me. The story of the priest would have made a great stand alone drama, it was the way it was shoehorned into Victoria’s story that I objected to. When a series/film claims to reflect history it should actually reflect history.

  14. Sharon

    I’m watching the new BBC production of “The Woman in White”. Marion is too attractive, but she wore some interesting wide legged trousers when on the estate, would that be a thing then? Laura, pre-marriage, wafted about in white muslin night-dresses and flowing unpinned hair, but become decently corseted and pinned when she did get married. To my very amateur eye the costumes look good. Hair is pinned up, (although Marion wears her in a plait most of the time) woman are corseted and the fabrics look lovely. The housekeeper has a gorgeous lace caplet and cuffs and there are lots of bonnets, hats etc. Hope it comes to U.S. soon, I think it’s worthy of a look.

    • Astral Marc

      I thought it was set in the 1840s, when afaik it wasn’t a thing, but in the 1850s (when I think the book was set) it was definitely a thing but not in the way they styled it in the series, and also I don’t know how it was in the UK, I don’t recall it happening there.

      I’d have to check to know for sure but in Joan Severa’s book about the 19th century she has an overview of dress reform fashion of the mid 19th century, and there were numerous women wearing skirts/dresses over trousers. These were radical and mostly living in communes and stuff though, with a couple of them living out in the world. I seem to recall one wearing a big frock coat with trousers though, but everything would be much more voluminous and longer than on the show, plus the rest of it was highly formal, ie ties and neat hair etc.

      All that’s about the US though, and as a person from continental Europe I don’t know any examples from here, except for George Sand. There’s a famous Dutch novel about a super masculine tomboy from the 1870s and even she’s only masculine because she wears a shirt and no crinoline.

      I’ll tell you what though I’m loving the series whatever the costumes.

  15. Nzie

    OOOH I knew I was forgetting something… So, I’ll cop to spending a bit too much time on the women-centered buzzfeed channels… and they have done a couple wearing historical clothing—hoops and corsets are the ones I spotted.

    I really think they could use your advice if y’all wanted to tweet at them with your myth-busting posts linked, because you a) have credibility and b) can help correct the misconceptions… As far as I can tell the most historical guidance they got was in the hoop skirt video where they went to a costumer (if she gave much practical advice it was cut from the video… also, they had a really hard time sitting, which some guidance would’ve helped)..

    Here’s the links… in my ideal world this leads to an invite from Buzzfeed to Frock Flicks to dispel some of the myths their women-centered channels are promoting. :-)

    We Wore Vintage-Style Corsets for a Day:
    We Wore Hoopskirts For a Day:
    We Tried the Corset [Belt] Trend:

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Gah! If we were doing this full-time, we’d be able to smack down that crap immediately every day. In my ideal world too :)

  16. Janette

    so family are playing D&D. S/O project up an image of a magician. I immediately see not magician but Richard.Armitage. S/O says no it is a character image. I google R.A. first image that comes up is the one on the wall so now we have R.A projected up on our wall. Must say he makes a good magician. Nobody here of course appreciated this so thought I would share with friends that do.