Frock Flick Free-for-All the Merry Month of 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!

Are you enjoying our Gentleman Jack recaps? Guess what starts this weekend — The Spanish Princess! Aww yeah, if fancy 1830s lesbians aren’t your style, then bring on the snark for Phillipa Fucking Gregory in Tudor times, mwaahahhahahahaha…..


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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.

36 Responses

  1. Saraquill

    Which streaming services offer Criterion Collection movies? I’m having no luck on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and there are period pieces I want to see.

  2. Sam Marchiony

    There’s finally a trailer for Ophelia (being released in June), which I loved in book form as a teen; the costumes (Massimo Cantini Parrini, Tale of Tales) look really pretty for the most part (though I did spot a few WTFrock moments in the trailer), and although there does appear to be hairpin rationing for Ophelia, there are also WIMPLES.
    Could be fun to see you guys tackle that down the line.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Been waiting for Ophelia since it was on the film festival circuit last year. Don’t know if it’ll actually play in theaters I can get to — but hopefully it’ll show up on streaming or something after!

  3. Susan Pola Staples

    I still can’t understand why Philippa f**king Gregory is still popular and the fact her less than historical researched books get made into miniseries and films. They’re bad in all aspects.

    Why don’t they do more like Gentleman Jack, Wings of the Dove, Il Gattopardo, Importance of Being Earnest, and Age of Innocence?

    I totally enjoyed The Happy Prince.

    Dame Judi’s new film looks interesting and so does Tell it to the Bees. Can’t wait to Dame Helen as Catherine II.

  4. Karen K.

    I started watching the latest Vanity Fair adaptation and I’m just not into it — the costumes are gorgeous and I get that they want to modernize it, but something about it is just bugging me — something about the way the characters are acting is just too modern (and I don’t mean the color blind casting, which I very much favor). It’s just something about the way they walk and talk — or am I just too conditioned to expect certain things from Regency period movies because I’ve watched so much Jane Austen?

  5. mjsamuelson

    There’s one screen capture I keep seeing of Ruairi O’Connor in The Spanish Princess in which he’s a dead ringer for Sam Heughan. And it drives me nuts.

  6. Vincent

    This isn’t about film costume specifically, but I would like to say that I am Very Irritated at that absolute FOOL who wrote that horrible wrong inaccurate twitter rant blaming Beau Brummel for the boring-ness of the modern suit, and even more irritated that she got to write an Esquire article about it despite clearly having done no actual research at all. And all the actual historians who’ve written about why the rant is wrong never get nearly as much attention. Alas.

  7. Charity

    The Spanish Princess starts this weekend. Ugh. Kill me now.

    The entire 8 episodes apparently leaked online and people have watched it and said it’s even worse than they expected. At one point, Margaret Beaufort offers her grandson whores so he’ll “get over” Katharine of Aragon. Yeah. I can see the pious MB doing that. NOT.

    I have sworn to watch and epic-bitch-rant about every episode, but I may wind up making dying whale noises and sobbing uncontrollably instead. We’ll see. :P

    • Susan Pola Staples

      Try watching it with wine, and popcorn to throw, or if you’re not a wine afficionado, your favourite tipple. I will avoid it. Luckily I dropped Starz for HBO (Gentleman Jack, GOT and CatherineThe Great.

      • Charity

        I really hope Catherine the Great is fabulous. Helen Mirren is awesome in everything she does, so that has it going for it. Recently re-watched her Elizabeth for HBO and realized that must have had a shoestring budget. There are literally no extras and the entire thing takes place in one or two locations. Here’s hoping they shell out some $$ for Catherine the Great. ;)

    • LadySlippers

      For the safety of myself and others, I cannot watch anything THAT woman (Philippa Fucking Gregory) has touched. Why? After starting The Other Boleyn Girl I almost went postal after watching the first fifteen minutes. The history was so, so, SO wrong. (Breathe. Breathe. Remember they did get ONE thing correct. The setting and story did indeed take place in England. Concentrate on the positive. It was set in England. It was set in England. It was set in England).

      She appeals like porn does, it satisfies the visceral in us all. Just misses the mark in me… lol

      • Charity

        Her favorite thing to do is take every nasty, false rumor said about historical women and make it “true” in her stories. Which I might mind less if she wasn’t often “consulted” to give her “learned opinion” on BIOGRAPHICAL stuff about the Tudors. Like, this woman acts like she “found” Mary Boleyn. And then she villifies and turns every historical woman into a back-stabbing bitch (I challenge you to find ONE healthy female friendship in her books … there’s none) and she still gets interviewed on HISTORICAL PROGRAMS!!!

        Anyway. Ahem. The White Queen was pretty damn awesome. I even overcame my hatred of all things PFG to love it. I enjoy watching it, despite the hatchet job, because it’s so damn entertaining. But The White Princess was God-awful. And The Spanish Princess also looks God-awful. But I will do my best to hate-watch it, so I can bitch at length about it, actually KNOWING what I’m complaining about. Also, while on the rant trend — it pisses me off that they got freaking Harriet Walter, who is a great actress, to play Margaret Beaufort (which is great casting) IN A CRAPPY SHOW SUCH AS THIS. JUST WHY.

  8. Katie O'Donnell

    Even though it wasn’t particularly good, I feel like The White Queen was not that bad with its costuming (mediocre, basically, but I thought there were some good intentions). However, it’s like every successive series they’re trying less and less to be based on actual history until this latest one which looks like a sad knock-off of Game of Thrones fashion.

    I do love the snarky analyses of it though :)

  9. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Last weekend I went to my local Tangiers Outlet Mall to see the Golden Age of Hollywood exhibit. I took tons of pictures and was this close to the Gold Marie Anttionette gown that Grace Kelly wore in To Catch a thief. I might also have detailed, upclose pictures of both Bette Davis costume in The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex and Gary Cooper’s costume in Marco Polo.

  10. Rori

    I’m preparing myself a tons of booze for Phillipa Fucking Gregory Cinematic Universe.

  11. Susan Pola Staples

    Drool. And I’m a bit green with envy. I take that back, I’m a blooming shamrock in colour.

  12. MoHub

    Just saw an ad for The Private Lives of the Monarchs on the Smithsonian Channel. I hope the history will be better than the visuals, as there seems to be a plethora of terrible costumes and wigs in the reenactment scenes.

    • Roxana

      Documentary reinactments are always horribly costumed. I can’t think why unless it’s money. And even so they could spend it better.

  13. Jennifer L. Schillig

    I’d posted this question recently in the March Free-For-All thread, but I was kind of late to the party there so I thought I’d re-post it for this new one.

    I’ve been meaning to ask for a while–I know that you guys slam on certain inaccuracies (costuming or otherwise) in historical dramas and/or novels. And it is true that some of them can be pretty blatant. But often, to make such stories work as dramas, some liberties do have to be taken–nearly every work of historical fiction has to change, conjecture, or fudge certain plot points to make the story work more smoothy onscreen/on the page. Witness, for example, the musical 1776. It’s got one of the best scripts of any Broadway musical, but there’s a lengthy appendix to the published playscript where the authors explain what was accurate and what wasn’t–and where they had to make changes for the sake of a dramatic story, and where they had to make educated guesses when information wasn’t available.

    Then there’s the most memorable scene in Anne of the Thousand Days…the final confrontation between Anne and Henry. (“Get a son on Jane Seymour and hope he will live…but my Elizabeth shall be queen!”) Historically, that could never have happened. Henry never set eyes on Anne again after her sentencing, and with the marriage annulled Anne would have known Elizabeth had almost no chance to ever be queen. But that doesn’t get in the way of an excellent scene that’s a favorite among fans of the movie.

    So…in your opinion, when are historical liberties acceptable, and when aren’t they? Where do you draw the line?

    • Roxana

      Speaking for myself I will forgive costume inaccuracies if their pretty enough and I will overlook historical in the name of good drama but all to often the costumes are ugly and the inaccuracies blatant and not at all entertaining.

    • Heidilea

      I’m with Roxana. Sometimes, like in Ever After or Queen Margot, even The Favourite, there is a point to it and it looks very nice and is cohesive.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I think we all have our own opinions on this & even each of our opinions aren’t hard & fast — that may vary depending on the production. If you cruise thru our POV category & our FAQ, you’ll find some think pieces where we discuss, yes, we understand that movies & TV shows are big business & they have considerations beyond strict historical accuracy (like storytelling & making money!).

      But, in general, we’re focusing on the costume inaccuracies, that’s our specialty. And we have plenty of lists of specific things that bug us & reasons why that range from strict accuracy (back lacing!) to pet peeves (unfortunate biggins!).

      Beyond costume, I think that getting major historical facts wrong irritates us bec. it’s so often done in ways that cheapen & soften actual history in favor of cliche storylines. Historical facts can be fascinating, weird, complicated, & full of drama. It’s not just another rom-com or typical hero’s journey. That’s probably what bugs me the most. But do read thru our POVs & FAQs for specifics!

      • Jennifer L. Schillig

        Thanks a mil and keep up the good work! :-)

  14. Roxana

    Kingdom of Heaven is a really good example of changing a fascinating history into a cliched storyline. The real Sybilla was a strong willed if unwise woman who fought the powerful men of her kingdom to keep the husband she loved. Regrettably he turned out to be a lousy King but she didn’t desert him and her kingdom to live a bucolic life in France but died in a military encampment still fighting for her kingdom. What was wrong with that story? The fact that a woman was the protagonist?

  15. Nzie

    I saw the Tolkien flick last night! Since I love this blog, I tried to do my best to observe the costumes, but I do not have the same expertise as you all, so, forgive my errors. :-)

    From what I saw, the costumes are basically accurate to the period. You see mainly Tolkien and his 3 good school friends in school as preteens and teens and then Oxbridge students. I would need to get a closer look to see if they showed the class/money difference between him and his friends in the materials, but their costumes weren’t super individualized/varying… he wore more browns, if that says anything? They have different actors for them as tweens and them going to college. So basically we get Edwardian school boys, Oxbridge kids, teachers/schoolmasters/professors, and soldiers, and those are all believable as that.

    For women’s costumes, we see only 3 women in individualized roles: his mother, the lady who runs the boarding house where he lives, and Edith, his fellow orphan-boarder and future wife. His mother died in 1904 and her costume looked good—she has her hair up (except briefly at night with her sons), she’s got a long skirt with some fullness at the bottom, and a blouse. The boarding house lady has somewhat finer clothing; I can’t say I remember getting a full view, but it’s definitely fancier than her boarders (as she has a better income I think).

    Younger Edith kind of has one look that is inoffensive about looking vaguely period (skirt and blouse, basically). As the older Edith, when their friendship as orphans without means is growing into love, she’s in a red outfit fairly often that’s nice but I’m not sure I buy the blouse entirely? Interestingly it shows up in the flash forward into the 20s at the end—I think they were economizing and counting on low lighting and shorter hair. Her silhouette is on the more slender side, I think to reflect that lack of wealth (at one point they go for tea and she realizes she’s the only one without a hat—they both look less well off than everyone else there). I did notice as they got into the 1910s that her clothes got a little more of that suit look, and the skirt was a bit shorter, and her clothes got a little nicer as she took a job teaching piano and was supporting herself more. Overall, to my less educated eye, nothing screams out of period, although I expect some details aren’t where we’d like them to be (I would love to hear your thoughts on her red outfit). I really like her coats.

    For hair, it doesn’t look like a general hair pin shortage! Most of the times when hair is down, it makes sense (young Edith, the mother at home telling her sons a story before bedtime). Some of them it makes less sense, but it’s mostly in private still (she seems to take her hair down on a walk with him when she dances (inspiring Luthien story)), and to have it down in the boarding house when she’s been in her room. She also has a strange mostly up but with a trailing braid (?) do at the opera? We don’t see it down until the 20s bob flash forward once they’ve been broken up by his guardian. Every other woman (mostly background) has her hair up the whole time.

    For the story, I think the briefest way to put it would be to say I enjoyed it and class it along with The Man Who Invented Christmas and Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society—all three very different plot lines, but similar themes of story, learning, creativity, love and loss. Focusing on his younger years shows the foundation for the man who would be Inkling and myth weaver, with his first artistic society composed of boyish boys who want to change the world with art (poetry, painting, music, and language/literature). Those elements were especially charming. I also loved how his mother was credited for not just nurturing him as a person (obviously super valuable) but her creativity and excellence at languages. And there’s a moment I think will be FrockFlicks approved where Edith argues with Tolkien over something and expresses, in a period appropriate way, her frustrations with her lack of intellectual and artistic opportunities.

    Anyway, I’m happy to be corrected on the costume elements, and hope you all get to this film eventually. :-)

    • Nzie

      Also heads up for anyone sensitive to it that there is a portrayal of gore/violence from WWI.. it’s not gratuitous but there’s quite a few corpses, several pools of blood, and some actual battle moments including with flamethrowers, some portrayed as through his fevered visions.

  16. Damnitz

    Is there any reasons why you never discussed “Pirates” by Polanski in depth?

    I love the costumes and the idea of a mix of old garments on the old guys on the island of the Dutch and the Spanish. The ships are just impressive, although not of any interest for Frock Flicks.

  17. Lillian

    So get this: I went to get my haircut. When the barber asked if I wanted “beachy waves” I almost said no immediately- because I had heard the term used so often as a bad thing on Frock Flicks! :)