Frock Flick Free-for-All November


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!

Where has the year gone? Just a few more frock flicks to squeeze in before the year ticks down.

I just love TV so much


What are you watching right now?


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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.

28 Responses

  1. Nzie

    I put this on last months but it was a bit late… anyway, I’m excited for Harriet. Hope I can see it before a trip I have coming up, because I’m worried it will disappear from theaters before then and I really want to see it.

    Also, I got to see The Current Wars (director’s cut). I quite liked it, and apparently it’s a bit improvement on the cut Weinstein fiddled with. Mostly male characters, but the few women get to be more than a generic feminine presence. I think on the frock flick side, it looked to me like they had small bustles, rather than natural form dresses, in the beginning, which was around 1880, but they were smaller than I’d expect. It covers from about 1880 to the early 1890s, the men look good (they definitely made Matthew MacFayden look like JP Morgan with his reddened nose), and the ladies look good with some truly gorgeous formal gowns. Aside from a child, I only saw one woman without her hair up in public, an extra towards the end. I hope you all get to see it, as I thought it quite interesting and enjoyable, and hope that the costumes were as good as they looked to me on the historical side, as a non-expert.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I’ll have to catch Current War on streaming / on-demand — I was really wary of what would happen to it post-Weinstein & am glad to hear it got a better cut. Going to try hard to see Harriet in the theater, but this is such a busy time of year!

      • Nzie

        The story of the cut itself was rather interesting and not something I’d heard much about beyond Salma Hayek’s story of Weinstein holding Frida hostage until she filmed a sex scene she didn’t want to. One article described him as having the nickname Harvey Scissorhands. The director was unhappy with his fiddling which apparently put more of a gloss on Edison’s faults and didn’t include as much of Tesla. But with all things changing hands after Weinstein Co. folded, somehow Martin Scorsese (a producer) had a clause where he had to approve any cut, and the new IP owners were all set to start selling DVDs of the original theatrical release (which got very middling reviews) when the director, who knew Scorsese, got him to block it and allow a new cut. What’s interesting is the film is shorter and yet even those reviews that aren’t that impressed do seem to think it’s an improvement. Plus they added some more Tesla in reshoots and let Edison have both some really good qualities and some flaws which really let him justify doing some wrong things and overstep his own boundaries. There’s also a fascinating storyline about capital punishment woven in. Overall I quite liked it.

        I am going to see if I can squeeze Harriet in tomorrow, even just going by myself, because I think it’ll be great and I want to support that kind of film. I wrote out all the movies I’ve seen this year and it’s about 50-50 wide releases to mid/small and I’ve enjoyed all of them (some aren’t great art but just fun, but many are really quite excellent). Hoping Harriet adds to my good streak.

          • Nzie

            I hadn’t heard that! But I also haven’t seen it because my limited movie dollars mean I winnow out things I’m not certain about. What a shame. He was apparently good both at spotting talent and with messing with what they did.

      • Nzie

        *seen in theaters. Averaging one a month, and saving money with matinees and screeners (got to see Current War for free which was awesome). Plus Harriet would be a second frock flick for theaters this year, and looking forward to A Hidden Life (1930s/40s Austria).

      • Julie

        I just saw “The Current War: Director’s Cut” today.
        I had read “The Last Days of Night” last year, which covers a lot of the same ground, and which I loved, so I was ready to be entertained.
        The costumes and hair are gorgeous, and seem to correctly follow fashion trends from 1880-1893 (with a few flashbacks to 1860’s and flash-forwards to 1910’s as well). Not a lot for women to do in this plot, so they don’t get much screen time, but when they do, they are perfectly lovely. And Michale Wilkinson does do a very nice job on the menswear (particularly Tesla’s: swoon.)

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I too want to see Harriet, but hopefully it will still be in the theatres in my area on 15 November when I plan on going.

    What bugs me is why do we get a MoS Film that is more accurate than we have available? A version of Mary R as good as Elizabeth R.

    This is only one thing of several.

  3. Brandy Loutherback

    Who awaits the shit show that is Little Women eagerly! I can’t wait to snark!

    • Colleen S.

      I was beginning to think I was the only one who is not on board for this movie. The costuming and casting is all wrong. Even Louis Garrel as Professor Bhaer can’t make me watch.

  4. Sam Marchiony

    I needed to see a movie because I had a free popcorn about to expire so I forced myself through Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and ended up spending WAY too much time trying to figure out the period. Michelle Pfeiffer’s walking around with blinged-out semi-16th-century gowns, some of which reminded me a bit too much of The Tudors, Elle Fanning’s got high waists that look more 15th century, but basically no one is wearing a hood because, well, we can’t have a pretty princess Disney movie with covered hair. It’s all very pretty, but for frock’s sake, pick a time period and stay there!
    The costumes were done by Ellen Mirojnick, who also did The Greatest Showman, so…. I don’t know why I was surprised.

    • Brandy Loutherback

      At Least Maleficent Stayed in the vague Medieval-ish get ups and had her hair covered for the 1st act, Then it all went downhill from there!

    • Brandy Loutherback

      Velvet in pink tones worn by Holliday Grainger as Lucretzia Borgia would look breathtaking on Elle Fanning as Aurora!

  5. Trystan L. Bass

    OK, quick poll – opinions pro/con on the new Patreon post format with the plugin thingy? I’ve seen some problems but is it all problems? I’m trying to automate the process bec. it’s been really messy for us on the back-end but the tools Patreon offers seem to require a little more tech-savvy (or time to figure out) than I have. So trouble-shooting is taking as much time as the old process, ugh! Six of one, half-dozen of another… But I appreciate all the feedback, thanks!

    • Kate D

      The old process I’d just click the email (from Patreon?) and be able to read the post right away, easy peasy.

      With the new plugin process, I go to your post, then have to log in to Patreon through your website for each Patreon-only post and then exit your website and come back in and then I can see it. The old process was simpler for me, but whatever is easier for you, do that.

      I’ll jump through whatever hoops to read your work, so if there’s a way that’s less arduous to you, that’s my pick. If they are of equal bother to you, the old way was simpler for me as a reader.

      • Kate D

        Though if anyone knows if there’s a way to get the Patreon plugin on this site to remember a password or if anyone has any tips for reading Patreon-only posts on mobile with the plugin method, I’m all ears.

        My issues may just be me being clunky when there’s actually a simpler way.

  6. Rori

    So I was discussing on Discord a while ago about Mary Stuart and Elizabeth, and someone asks why Mary couldn’t escape to France instead of England? Since France is a Catholic country and Mary being potential successor to the claim for England would leverage to their advantage. Did she not have resources or supporters to take her to France? Or did she actually not thought about it.

    • Barb D

      She had already burned her bridges there years before when she was the dauphiness.

        • Barb D

          She was chased out of France much the way she was chased out of Scotland. She was too easily led by a pretty male face.

    • Roxana

      I believe France was a real option that Mary rejected because of the attitude her relations there had taken towards Darnley’s murder and her marriage to Bothwell. Elizabeth on the other hand had been supportive in that she’d showered Mary with good advice, which was ignored, and seemed sympathetic.
      Also Mary had had her eye on the English throne for years and thought her choic s were between becoming Queen of England or retirement as a Queen Dowager of France. She always overrated her support among the English.

  7. Nzie

    Reporting back from Harriet! Overall, I liked it and think it’s a good movie. I think she as a character seems largely accurate, and I appreciated that she and other enslaved and free black characters were shown with agency. My guess is that in order to get a storyline that showed what her experience was like overall they had to guess at, combine, or imagine specific incidents, and heighten some elements for dramatic effect. I also think it was a little bit much how when she spoke, by the end everyone just agreed. But it was a good portrayal of a great woman and focused on her experiences as an enslaved black woman, showing also in some ways (although not as deftly as 12 Years a Slave) the ways that oppressive systems pervert both those supporting them and the relationships and experiences of the oppressed. I also think they chose a good way to portray the abuses of slavery without having to see too much violence directly. (Also, the narratives collected by Mr. Still (I think?) as portrayed in the movie are available on Project Gutenberg, which is great.)

    For costumes, I generally liked them. I think since it starts in 1849, they have some skirts too big too early, I’m guessing to show class differences. (It’s pretty great to see middle class/decently well off black characters in the 19th century.) Harriet’s clothes do look like they could be simpler hand me downs, for example, and are simple cottons. Marie Buchanan, a free black woman in Philadelphia, looks like she’s in a full crinoline/hoop with taffeta and stays that way the whole time (she looks amazing, but it’s too early imo). Conversely, Harriet’s given a dress to wear by someone on the Underground Railroad and to my amateur eye it looks earlier in the 1840s, being less full and shorter, but still with some lovely pleated details, which makes sense to me like perhaps someone helping the UR donated that would be believable as being worn by a free black woman without drawing attention. I didn’t notice much about the men’s clothing changing, and I’m curious about the men’s hair (including facial).

    • M.E. Lawrence

      Thanks for the report, Nzie. “…they had to guess at, combine, or imagine specific incidents, and heighten some elements for dramatic effect.”: the historical film genre in a nutshell, although “Harriet” sounds classier than most. I look forward to seeing it this weekend.

  8. Damnitz

    I saw the “Portrait de la jeune fille en feu”. Not really pleasant and somehow boring. Even my female friend thought that it was too boring and screenplay only.
    Nevertheless I hope, that you will discuss it. The garment of the maid of the Castle was looking very nice. (all characters had only a few garments)).”