I’ve already written about how much I like the costumes in Harlots (2017), but there’s this one costume that sticks out and has me scratching my head.
From the back, it’s actually a pretty cute frock. I really like the use of the frayed shot silk and the scalloped pinked edges on what looks like a caraco jacket. But look at the front:
It’s got a fan-pleated front which, aside from not being an 18th-century thing, doesn’t work with a straight-front pair of 18th-century stays. This was a style that was first seen in the mid-19th-century, as a way of shaping the bodice over an hour-glass silhouette so the fullness at the top would contour with the curve of the bust, and the fullness at the waist is controlled by smocking or pleating. It’s a nice work-around for darts or seams, but it simply was not designed for the conical shape popular in the 18th-century.
Here’s a few extant examples, all dating from 1840-1850:
You can even see what I mean about how it’s meant to fit over a curvy silhouette in the photo, where there’s this weird poochiness right where Jessica Brown Findlay’s breasts would naturally sit. However, in the flat-fronted pair of stays she’s wearing, her breasts are flattened and pushed up, making this design completely inappropriate.
I’ve searched around on Recycled Movie Costumes and haven’t turned up another film that this outfit was worn in, nor can I confirm that this wasn’t a remake of an existing 1840s gown, even though it looks like it could possibly be remade from this dress (the photos aren’t high enough quality to say for sure, but it looks like the bodice buttons up the center front and the color is pretty similar). And if it was remade from a 19th-century costume… why?
It’s a pretty dress, but the whole pleated front thing just has me baffled. Why do it? Beyond the fact that it looks weird and fits weird, it was a style that was 80-90 years in the future. It would be like if Mary, Queen of Scots was depicted wearing modern coutu– er, never mind. Y’all get what I’m saying, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Does this dress make you go “What the Frock?” too? Are there others in Harlots you wonder about?