This is an occasional series highlighting historical movie and TV costumes that best represent the decade they were produced in. They may or may not be the most historically accurate, but we think these costumes stand out as icons of when they were made. Comment with your faves, and watch the blog for the next decade we review!
One of the things I’ve discovered in the process of doing this post is that there were A LOT of historical films and TV shows produced in the 1990s. The list kept growing and growing, until I was forced to split them up into not one, not two, not three… But FOUR posts. And this is cutting out almost all foreign films, Westerns (meh), and the occasional 1940-1960 reproduction that I usually find incredibly dull when it comes to clothing. Of course, I kept films that were major blockbusters, because if I didn’t, I’d never hear the end of it from you all (“I can’t believe you forgot Evita! HOW COULD YOU???”), but the anglosphere was putting out such a huge volume of content during the ’90s, I had to draw the line somewhere.
That said, I’m interested to see how the subsequent two decades fare in comparison with the sheer volume of historical costume flicks. Guess we’ll find out in a month or two when I’m finished with this decade and ready to move on to the 2000s and 2010s!
Back to the Future III (1990)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
In retrospect, there’s a lot of problems with the wildly successful Dances with Wolves, but generally, the film tried in earnest to represent historical accuracy in the Sioux clothing and culture. Most sources from the era are in agreement that while there were issues, overall the attention paid to making sure the costumes and sets looked right is commendable.
House of Eliott (1991-1994)
You want amazing 1920s costumes? Look no further than the BBC’s House of Eliott.
I’m ashamed to admit that I had no idea that Zeffirelli directed this film until I rewatched it for the blog a few years back. Mel Gibson was just such a mega star at the time that I always assumed it was he was the driving force behind the film, not the legendary Italian director. The costumes were designed by Maurizio Millenotti, who was the creative force behind many other amazing costume flicks during this era.
Confession: I can quote this entire movie frontwards and backwards (hi, child of the period checking in). And even though it’s supremely silly and over the top in its portrayal of figures of historical significance, it delivers the cinematic equivalent of Cliff’s Notes for any high school world history course.
Dead Again (1991)
I’ll admit, I debated a bit on whether to include this as a “historical” film, since it is patently fantasy. That said, I also have to concede that Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook is fabulous beyond measure. The film seems to place him and the rest of the pirates and wenches in the late 17th century.
I really wish the entire film could have been about Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. It would have saved a lot of time spent butchering English accents…
1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
I have to cop to the fact that I have never actually seen this movie. However, Kendra has and covered it for a blog post a while back. I will say, the costumes generally look pretty good. Weird 15th-century Spanish clothing, notwithstanding.
A League of Their Own (1992)
The smash-hit about an all-women’s baseball team during World War Two, this film stars basically everybody who was anybody in the ’90s. Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks, freaking Madonna … It also gave us the gem of a quote, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Who is hotter than Gary Oldman as a thousand-year-old vampire?
Howards End (1992)
This film pretty much encapsulates everything I think of when I think “historical flick from the 1990s.” Emma Thompson? Check. Anthony Hopkins? Check. Helena Bonham Carter? Check. Tortured love story? Check. Based on an E.M. Forster novel? Check. Fabulous costumes? Check.
Yep. Pretty much.
Last of the Mohicans (1992)
A film largely known for Daniel Day-Lewis looking like he stepped off the cover of a supermarket paperback romance novel, turns out there actually is some costume content.
The Piano (1993)
Holly Hunter as a mute woman is basically shipped halfway around the world, along with her daughter and her beloved piano, to marry a complete stranger in BFE New Zealand. The film was a huge critical success, earning three Oscars for Hunter, Anna Paquin (who played Ada’s daughter), and Best Original Screenplay. It was beat out by Age of Innocence for Best Costume, which, honestly, I’m not all that sad about.
No other film packs quite as many eras into one movie, let alone pull them off. I did a very thorough overview of the costumes in this film, so if you want to read more, see Part 1: 1600-1650, Part 2: 1650-1700, Part 3: 18th-century, and Part 4: Victorian for all the nitty gritty.
What’s your favorite iconic historical movie costume of the 1990s? What do you expect to see in parts two, three, and four of this series?