Frock Flicks Freaky Free-for-All


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!

It’s Halloween season, and your resident goth Editor-in-Chief is SUPER HAPPY about it. Expect a series of historical Halloween posts coming this month.

What We Do in the Shadows - Hello Ladies


Trick or treat, yo!



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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.

48 Responses

  1. mmcquown

    Guys who put mail coifs on over their heads without a padded cap underneath; the spins in swordfights — you don’t turn your back on an opponent; seeing sword blades that are clearly nicked; not wearing hats outdoors, and sometimes indoors when that was the fashion; leather pants and out-of-period boots; not using wigs when they were fashionable

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Wearing mail w/out anything under is like wearing a corset w/out anything under — uncomfortable & not good for you or the mail!

      • MoHub

        One of the contestants on Forged in Fire wore a mail shirt over his bare chest, and I could fell the pain and discomfort just looking at him.

    • Cara

      Men routinely wearing boots indoors.

      MQOS’s exposed bra strap on the poster for the movie in the place where her chemise should have been and definitely shouldn’t have been visible (HOW did not one person spot that and do a quick Photoshop on it?!?!)

      Modern makeup/hairstyles/fabrics appearing centuries before they existed as if to convey the idea that real life people were, in fact, time travellers.

  2. EA Gorman

    Thinking back to the “what really upsets you” poll during the last Snark Week: One reason why women wore something under corsets is because more often than not, that was their only corset. It was almost impossible to wash and it was worn every day. So the chemise or underblouse or whatever kept it clean. Also, the corset probably chafed. And another thing: I doubt most women tightened their corsets to ridiculous proportions and crushed their ribcages. A few did, sure, because they ended up in the history books.

  3. Rebecca

    No bitching, just appreciating your What We Do in Shadows gif!! I love that movie.

  4. Saraquill

    My favorite Halloween costume isn’t quite period, but I still adore it. Light colored stockings and ballet slippers with a white leotard and petticoat, with artificial stitched here and there. In other words, the flower dancer from that Degas painting.

    Anyone else want to share their beloved costumes?

    • Kersten

      That sounds lovely! I still love my Kiki’s Delivery Service witch costume. It’s so cute! And Rosie the Riveter is always a stand-by (I’m plus-sized so I usually for for more of a Norman Rockwell version). But I’m looking to make more historically-inspired fantasy costumes (I’ve had a steampunk one in mind for a while), or like, accurately-dated (the book is thought to be set around 1810) Jane Eyre is on my list too.

    • Kendra

      I’m no good — for me, Halloween is an excuse to wear something non-historical! Although I still miss that vintage 1950s black taffeta dress, covered in sparkles, that I wore about 5 years straight as a kid for a witch costume. I had no idea what I had!!

    • Susan

      Missy from Doctor Who. Two complete Edwardian suits (one black, one purple), plus appropriate kit (corset, Edwardian sonic parasol, etc). The corset is crucial because not only does it make the suits fit correctly but it also gets me into the Missy mindset. Also two hats — one, the classic Mary Poppins look with the daisies and cherries, and the other with a decent-sized (and a little intimidating) real pheasant wing. That’s the most millinery I’ve ever done in my life!
      There’s also my red dress version of Kate Bush as Cathy for her Wuthering Heights video… I don’t think that matches any period but 1978, however!

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I am sooooooo lazy when it comes to Halloween & just pull something random out of my costume or gothy closet & call it ‘witch’ or ‘vampire’ ;) Because all I usually do on Halloween day/night is go to work (& thus I’m commuting & sitting in an office chair) & then give out candy.

      • Susan

        I’ve had years like that. I just end up saying that today, I’m not wearing a costume. Which is actually true.

    • Nzie

      Halloween is after NYCC at the beginning of the month, which I’ve gone to for a couple years, so either I just re-wear my cosplay or pull something from the closet. I often have a historical bent so it works out to be a nice nerdy-historical combo usually. :-)

  5. Katie O.

    Has anyone else seen the trailer for the new The Secret Garden film? I’m very nervous about it – it looks like they’re leaning really hard on the “magic” stuff, which I feel like kind of defeats the point of the book!

    • Kate D

      Yes, agreed! The trailer reminded me of the 2007 Bridge to Terabithia movie- lots of unneeded CGI when all you needed was children playing pretend in the woods!

      I’ll probably see this Secret Garden, but I’m nervous.

      Also, I have a hard time imagining Colin Firth as scary/stern, and an even harder time getting a scary/stern vibe from Mrs. Weasley! They’re both excellent actors, so it may just be reservations in my head.

      • Katie O.

        It is sort of ironic that considering those are both movies about the power of children’s imagination, but they don’t let the audience imagine anything, and just spell everything out with CGI!

        It was really disconcerting seeing Colin Firth there. And Julie Walters!

  6. Amanda

    I gotta ask – what are your feelings on older characters in Period Dramas being dressed in the fashions from a/ afew decade/s prior to when the story takes place. I was watching Cranford and really took notice of how they dressed Lady Ludlow in Regency fashion when the action is set in the early 40’s. I understand why they did it for her because being stodgy and old fashioned is kind of her bag, but she’s not the only one I’ve noticed. The only other one tgat sticks out in my memory off the top of my head is Mrs Ferrars in the 08 sense and sensibility and I’m really not sure how to feel about it.

    • Katie O.

      Personally I feel like it works sometimes, but it’s become way overdone and it’s starting to feel almost lazy. I’m sure, just like today, there were older people in the past who liked dressing in the current fashions and it seems like we never see it.

      • MoHub

        It worked beautifully in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, contrasting both lead characters’ ages and their Neoclassical vs. Romantic philosophies.

      • Trystan L. Bass

        Agreed — it feels lazy. It’s such a trope, & I do want to write about it at some point, but researching the accuracy of it is a giant project!

        • Ginger

          That would be a great topic. Done subtly, old-fashioned dressing on older characters is a good touch, but now it’s overdone. At least by the mid-19th century, clothing was relatively easy to update; not doing it was seen as eccentric, and not in a good way, and lazy. Conformity signaled good character, self-respect, and trustworthiness.

          Huh, apparently this is a pet peeve for me. I’ve seen too many new reenactors/costumers want to show up to events in clothing 20-30+ years out of date because “It’s what I do now, and I would have done it then, too!” So this costuming trope is just feeding that.

    • Saraquill

      I remember a period costuming forum where people complained about older costumers wearing stylish clothes, like an 1860 dress based on an 1860 fashion plate. Something about “mutton dressed as lamb.”

      The mindset is out there, though I don’t know the details.

    • Nzie

      It’s interesting because it does seem to have been a thing for at least some people to actually do, but probably not to the extent that costumers want it to. For example, I finished a book earlier this month which was written in the 1840s, and described as being set contemporaneously, but at one point it described an older gentleman as wearing a powdered wig—he’d have to have been incredibly old and extremely out of fashion for that to make sense in 1845. So I decided it must’ve been the 1820s instead, which was when the author himself was a student (the book is inspired by his experiences), and this was later confirmed by the mention of a specific bill from the late 1820s. But that’s the only person in the whole book described like that, despite several older characters popping up here and there.

  7. Charity

    Each day that passes brings us closer to season two of The Spanish Princess, which I am sure will unload fresh hell in massive quantities upon its hapless audience.

  8. Sam Marchiony

    I’ve been trolling through Halloween costumes on various sites and have had to consume SEVERAL pink drinks to combat how little costume stores care about getting era even remotely right. RENAISSANCE =/= MEDIEVAL, DINGUSES.

  9. Karin

    Anybody else want to throw things at the TV when watching Sanditon?

    • Katy

      There’s a lot of incoherent muttering about hairpins in our house.

        • Kate D

          Ooh, didn’t realize it was already out in the UK! I shall prepare a box of bobby pins to throw at the television when I watch it in January. :)

        • Karin

          It’s on on ITV right now. I just keep watching because I want to know how it ends. But there’s so much wrong argh.

  10. Nzie

    Back way after the fact (and dropping a couple comments above) because I saw The Current War at a screening this week and quite liked it. (Director’s Cut, because apparently Harvey Weinstein is also known as “Harvey Scissorhands” and in addition to not keeping his hands off women, also can’t keep his hands off movies he produces). Overall I thought the costumes looked great! And I thought the movie was an interesting kind of dual portrait of two men and what drove them.

    There are not a lot of female characters, really just 3 that get any significant screen time, and I think the 1880 looks were more bustle than natural form (although it was a smaller bustle look so maybe that’s something that was worn?), but you do get a clear difference between the bustles and the 1890s when it ends, with some gorgeous dresses, particularly on Marguerite Westinghouse (played by Katherine Waterston). There was ONE extra whose hair was down towards the end (she didn’t look like a child to me but I suppose I could be wrong), but otherwise grown up women have grown up hairstyles. Of course most of the costumes are on men, who look largely correct based on portraits I’ve seen from the era.

    Quite an interesting subject matter with a grown up, show-don’t-spoonfeed portrayal of what it’s examining, and good acting all around.