Frock Flick Free-for-All March


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 start of 2018 has seen a few costume dramas premiere, but nothing great. The Alienist (dull, with a chance of chafing), Britannia (a review is coming, but it’s like pulling teeth), another season of Victoria (anyone still watching that?), nothing really to rock one’s socks. And a lot of upcoming movies and TV shows still have no confirmed dates.

Alan Rickman - I say we get drunk because I'm out of ideas


Alrighty then, 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.

56 Responses

  1. thedementedfairy

    I can’t stand ‘The Crown’ but the missus loves it. I wander across to look at the occasional frock- Princess Margaret’s wedding dress was rather nice. Jackie Kennedy’s hair looked WEIRD [mind you, I suppose it really did] and some of the wigs irk me. Anyone else?

    • RikeThePolishSeal

      I like watching the Crown, but there are a lot of things that the series does that I don’t like. It’s sorta entertaining to watch most of the time but I wished it would take itself less seriously.

      As far as I am aware, the Kennedy episode was wrong on a lot of levels. The dress that Jackie wore was different in real life, her hair looked nothing like this on that day or most other days that she was photographed, not to mention that the rivalry between her and the Queen seems entirely made up and JFK was as far as anyone knows not physically abusive.

      • thedementedfairy

        It did all seem a bit dramatic [yes yes I know it’s a drama, but blimey!] I found it easy enough to believe all the Maggie and Snowdon stuff though

  2. mmcquown

    My issues are hats and hair: the men not wearing the one when they should and the seeming notion that combs didn’t exist before the 19th century. I’m sick of messy hair and hatless heads. On a more positive note, how many of you caught the throwaway in this week’s “Alienist” ep? Alice Roosevelt in her blue dress.

  3. picasso Manu

    I have a general “meh” these days, but at the same time wonder if we’re not getting spoiled… a couple years ago, any costume drama would have me excited, but now I’m nitpicking like crazy. On a happier note, sewing getting better and better, just finished an Anglaise retroussée I’m very proud of!

    • Trystan L. Bass

      This is so true! When we started Frock Flicks, TV (in particular) was just entering what I’ve called the golden age of costume drama. Downton Abbey had started up & EVERYONE wanted to copy that success. There was also Mad Men, & Game of Thrones helped kick things into high gear, bec. even tho’ it’s fantasy, it showed Hollywood, et. al., that audiences wanted complicated non-modern stories.

      Now, every network will give a costume drama a try, so we get a wider range of quality. And more meh along w/the good stuff.

  4. Saraquill

    I attended a lecture on the history of 20th century women’s clothes by decade. I asked the professor if she heard of this website, and gave her the address.

  5. ljones1966

    I’m a big fan of “The Crown”, even when they got some of the facts wrong. Right now, it’s the only TV period drama I have any respect for.

    The second television adaptation of “Howard’s End” should be making its way to American TV soon. I realize that some have dismissed it, but I want to see how Forster’s novel was adapted in this production.

    Another movie version of “Wuthering Heights” from the UK will hit the theaters soon. Huh. I wish someone would do a third version of “The Tennant of Wildfell Hall”.

    A movie about Mary and Percy Shelley called “A Storm in the Stars” is also slated for the movie theaters in July.

    There is a miniseries called “Britannia”, which is about the Roman Empire’s conquest of Britain.

    And there will be a TV movie called “Chappaquiddick”, which is about Ted Kennedy’s accident in 1969.

  6. Jenni

    I’ve been wanting to recommend Fröken Frimans Krig (suffragettes in Stockholm putting up a shop in early 1900s), but I can’t seem to find a streaming service / online version of this swedish series. Sigh.

  7. elizacameron

    I’m finding Victoria pretty tedious. If someone is not mansplaining to Victoria, then her freeloading relatives who have countries of their own to govern, keep popping unannounced. And then there’s all the soapy stuff that never happened, the love stories between Ernst and the Duchess of Sutherland, Alfred Paget and Edward Drummond. However, the worst offender is the Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart where none of the women wear their hair up or even corsets.

    • Jana Hill

      To be fair, Albert was indeed a serial mansplainer IRL. Apparently he would give her grades for her behavior, based on how reasonable or unreasonable he felt she was being.

      • Frannie Germeshausen

        I read the joint biography, “We Two,” and, yeah, he was always trying to “improve” her, and was basically a pill and a drip.

        • M.E. Lawrence

          I liked “We Two” but, as I recall, it could have put their relationship more in context. (We probably would have smacked Albert, hard, but he was not a bad 19th-century husband, and very encouraging of their eldest girl.) Elizabeth Longford’s Victoria bio is pretty even-handed. I think Albert was just born too early; he would have been better understood as a 21st-century techie.

          Back to topic: Why is PBS so attached to “Victoria”? Hoping for multi-season popularity, like “Downton”? It’s entertaining, in a sleepy, polite sort of way, and I like her lace fichus, or whatever they are, but I so miss Rufus Sewell, and the peripheral relationships are boring.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I’ve recorded the latest season of Victoria & am waiting until I catch a cold or have a migraine or otherwise feel like shit to cruise thru them. Basically, I need to be braindead to kinda sorta watch that & not mind the story & just look at the somewhat pretty clothes.

    • Emily

      I cannot watch it because it is so inaccurate, historically. The Crown does do some things for dramatic license, but Victoria is just WRONG WRONG WRONG.

  8. Kate in England

    Caught an episode of some horrendous Canadian version of Miss Fisher (also a total snoozefest IMO – hey, you guys should review that ;-) ) called the Frankie Drake mysteries and MY GOD the costumes are horrific.

    • Lady C. Longue

      I understand security measures…but I can’t even with this one. You have those hideous, fugly “gala” events, and you actually turn away someone that not only highly respects art, but is knowledgeable of it as well and is in the process of educating others – even bringing others into history where they might not have been interested before.

      So the MET prefers typical touristy slobs and troglodytes walking around staring into their dumb phones.

      I have been to museums from all over Europe to the East Coast (the MET included- multiple times in fact) to the West Coast of the U.S. and have never heard of such pretentiousness. I have even seen historic weddings in Firenze/Florence where the entire wedding party was dressed in 15th century costume at the Palazzo Vecchio!!! (before digital cameras, alas)

      Can we please go back to a pre 9-11 world?

      • Trystan L. Bass

        Plenty of museums & historic sites around the world do not allow costumed visitors (or wedding parties, for that matter) at all — or only if you pay a fee for the privilege. That’s the key thing to remember. It’s a privilege to dress up in funny clothes & swan around in someone else’s space. Costumers are not a protected class.

        • Lady C. Longue

          Very True & thank you for the links provided below! Helpful friendly reminders.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I have lots of opinions, but I think this post says more than I can, and more politely — not written in response to the Met issue specifically, but it applies. Also, costumers, remember Wheaton’s Law, it always, always applies!

      PS: Same principles my friend The Lady of the Manners has been preaching for goths over at the Gothic Charm School for AGES:

      • Me

        Thank you!! Costume displays are “costumes” in a different sense. They are real artifacts thst visitors want to view unencumbered. Unless somebody is hired by the museum and meets restrictions on costuming and interacts with visitors in a certain way they should be respectful of the exhibition. Learn from it, don’t try to upstage.

      • Lady C. Longue

        Had read the article but not the comments until now from the link you posted:

        The comments are very informative & such a spectrum of experiences! It has even jogged my memory of times past – the more decades that go by you want to throw out any unsavory or misfortune/unfortunate encounters. (Makes fun re-telling at parties, however). But all & all we certainly have been privileged!

        Thanks again!

  9. Charity

    I watched Britannica with a giant dose of WTF??

    I understood no one’s motivations, they gave no reasons for doing anything, and much of it made zero sense to me from a logical perspective. I could read between the lines on a few occasions when the motives were so blatantly obvious as to be obnoxious, but WTF? would the Roman general give a damn about that druid stuff? WTF? why would you do THAT at the end of the first season finale? WTF? is this plot even going? WTF? Do they have a PLAN?

    I watched the entire damn thing in almost one sitting (weirdly addicted to it, before the last episode made me go WTF?!?!?!?) and as a writer, felt deeply offended on multiple levels because it feels like the writing team HAS NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE DOING, OR WHERE THIS STEAMING PILE IS GOING. It’s like they sat around a table and threw out ideas and then sort of formed them into a timeline and tried to figure out how to string them together.

    I have no more words.

    The druids were batshit insane and fun as hell to watch, tho, with their dilated eyes and freak zone hairstyles. And I have to hand it to their leader, he gave me the creeps. Quite a different performance from wooden eyeball dude in Pirates of the Caribbean. Props, whatever your name is — I did not recognize you!

    • Kat Clowes

      I have to agree with you on Britannia, watching it in fascination to find out where they were going with it. Despite all of that, I (perhaps guiltily? Not sure how I feel about it yet) am looking forward to another season. Just to see what they do with it. I was surprised that they didn’t necessarily take the cliche way out in everything.

      The Druids remind me of the fairies in Midsummer Night’s Dream, oddly.

      The costumes? Well…at times I felt like they were in an alternate Star Wars world, other times they were in the typical “tunic old-timey outfits,” or wearing wardrobe from the extras in Braveheart, minus the kilts. I don’t recall any blatant head-necklaces though, so they have that going for them. Unless I was so absorbed in figuring out where they were going with the characters and the story that my brain glazed over that detail.

    • Kathleen Norvell

      Sounds like you need to catch “Roar,” a mid-1980s series about Roman Britain starring the late Heath Ledger as a Celtic prince and Sebastian Roche as the Roman general with an agenda. I can’t say much about the costumes — the usual Celtic fantasy crap — but I enjoyed the hell out of it.

  10. Brandy Loutherback

    The Jackie episode was one of the worst of the series so far! “Hey random monarch I don’t know very well, did you know my husband beats me when we’re High?”

  11. Maryanne Cathro

    Because it is a free for all, and this is totally personal, I CANNOT ABIDE CLARA FROM DR WHO and every time I see an outtake of Victoria (because no way am I watching the actual series) I just hear her being all prefect-y and annoying; or stuck in a Dalek.

  12. Janette

    I preferred series two of Victoria to series one. It seemed as though there was a little more history and less soap. (A very little but it was an improvement) It was tolerable viewing. I get tired to re watching the same old favourites much though I love them. I will give Britannia a try and Troy as well but I really really wish contemporary script writers would realise that history is interesting and doesn’t need “sexing” up, chopping down and turning upside down to create good dramas. My 16 yr old son is currently rewatching a BBC series from the late 70s or early 80s depicting events in Europe leading up to WWI because it is educational as well as entertaining. I got high grades in yr 12 history thanks to a historical drama which remains one of my favourite TV series. Fiction can and should reflect truth. (yes even fantasy and sci fi) Unfortunately people do tend to believe what they see. So often I have heard friends comment on leaving the cinema, “I guess that is what it was like then,” to which I reply, “Well actually….” Which is why historical inaccuracies in script, costume, and direction really really annoy me. (even when they occur in some of my favourite series such as North and South, the BBC one.)

  13. Karen K.

    I loved the first season of Victoria but have all the episodes of season 2 piling up on the DVR and I am strangely unmotivated to watch it (I did love both seasons of The Crown, despite the crazy JFK episode.) I also have all of Brittania waiting for a binge session.

    And yesterday I went to see Phantom Thread as I’m trying to see as many Oscar nominees as possible for the awards — great costumes but WTF was with the plot twist? Has anyone else seen it?

    • Linda,Linda,Linda

      Yes, random plot twisty twist! The script immediately removed this film from best Oscar contention for me, and I made a point of seeing all nine. Blergh.

    • Milla

      I’m a weirdo who LOVED the plot twist, but leaving my adoration of dysfunctional fictional relationships aside, I thought it was a clever little subversion of the usual auteur/muse relationship.

  14. Nzie

    A lot of the shows getting mention above are ones I just can’t really get into… Somewhere along the line my priorities shifted around and “is set in history and mostly accurate” wasn’t sufficient without other qualities. (Maybe it was after Gods & Generals? Extraordinarily accurate historically, but it sacrificed storytelling for that (I think they could have done both with better writing and editing).) I will eventually finish The Crown season 2; I do find it engaging when I watch it, but not enough that it won’t take me months to get through 10 episodes. I tried Victoria for an episode but, sorry, she was just kind of annoying and I felt they didn’t show why enough (contrast with Young Victoria where you understood just how dominated she’d been). (I also can’t see Eve Myles, even in a frock, without seeing her as a character in Broadchurch S2 with a super disturbing relationship.)

    I did however just learn about a very interesting person I would want to see in a film—Nadine Turchin (Nadyezhda Lvova Turchinovina), born a Russian princess who married an officer under her father’s command at 30 before moving to the US, and actually traveling with her husband’s unit (and commanding them at one point!) when he was commissioned as a Union officer. Her husband wasn’t controversy free but he also seems interesting. There are so many great stories out there that it’d be wonderful to see some of the ones that haven’t been told yet get told.

  15. Karen K.

    Just seen The Greatest Showman and I am really looking forward to a FF roast of all the costume inaccuracies — even I as a lay-person was getting twitchy eyes from most of the inappropriate costuming decisions. And clearly, there was a hairpin shortage when they were filming. Please, PLEASE, Frock Flicks, you need to review this one ASAP!!!

    • jesslyncs

      It was truly terrible! But we must remember that we shouldn’t blame the costume designer for this particular decision. Ellen Mirojnick was basically told by the director that she had to make it modern and fantastical. She’s the person who did The Knick for God’s sake! So this is basically Dangerous Beauty all over again, but worse. We can roast the clothes all we like, but cut the costumer some slack.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I tried to get someone to watch Greatest Showman in time for Snark Week — even just to rundown the trailer! — but none of us could stomach it! I guess we do have standards, even for snarking. I’ve heard that awful song a couple times & it made me wretch (& I’m the one who loves musicals, LOL).

  16. jesslyncs

    Bonnet Discourse Time: You either think they’re the cutest things in the world, or ugly monsters. I’m on the cute camp. Fight me!

  17. Nora

    I’m not sure if these qualify as costume films here, but I can’t wait to see Mary Poppins Returns and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! I loved the Mary Poppins movie as a child (and still do) and the small snippets available of this sequel look lovely! Also the GLPPPS is one of my favourite books so it’s so nice that they’ve finally made a movie of it. Looking at the trailer ( it’s going to be a veritable Downton Abbey reunion :)

  18. Pam

    (MILD SPOILERS) Ok, so this isn’t film, but I have nowhere else to snark!!! The Luminaries, that Man Booker prize winner from 2013, has awful clothing! It wouldn’t be so bad if several major plot points were about smuggling gold in gowns, and if the character descriptions weren’t so detailed. But really? A fashionable woman in both giant mutton sleeves AND a large bustle? In 1866? (This is the worst so far.) Am I being to picky? It’s actually making it hard to finish this book. Should I even try?