January Frock Flick 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!

With a new year, new frock flicks, we hope. What do you resolve to watch in 2019? Or hate-watch? Or give up watching?

Adore Delano - girl

You can tell us!


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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.

58 Responses

  1. Sam Marchiony

    So, I got to see the My Fair Lady revival in New York last night, and it was PHENOMENAL, but I also ended up looking for all the zippers that were hidden in the dresses (for the sake of quick changes).
    Additionally, I really want some more details on The French Dispatch, which sounds fascinating simply by virtue of being in a post WW2 France.

  2. thedementedfairy

    Filmwise everything on our list is currently sci fi [and GoT in April yay] so may need to scour TV channels for something frocktastic

  3. Random22

    I want to complain that not enough people know about the excellent BBC Scotland 1994/5 series “The Tales of Para Handy” based on the Neil Munro “Vital Spark” stories. Set in 1930s West Coast of Scotland, with a cast from all across the social spectrum from the poshest aristocrat, the snobby aspiring middle class, and the grottiest farmer and sailor, it has great stories and costumes. It also has a very-very young David Tennant as a guest star in one episode too, playing a lovelorn young man on a quest to return to his true love.

    I mean, seriously, more people should watch this show.

    Also, what do we think of Call the Midwife as it advances further into the 1960s? Trixie’s costumes are a fashion parade of every year, naturally, but is the show starting to feel a little same-y now?

      • Andrew.

        There is an earlier film based on the Para Handy stories entitled “The Maggie” (or in the US, “High and Dry”). Made in 1954 by Ealing Studios, it stars Alexander Mackendrick as the skipper of an eponymous Clyde puffer, (a small coastal freighter). It is set in the early 1950s so is not really FF fodder. It is quite funny in a wry way and is popular in this house as the story involves some of the intracacies of marine insurance. We’ve a dvd if you want to borrow.

      • Random22

        Legally? I think, in America, the legal option is a DVD R2 import that is available from Amazon.com. Of a less that legal route, the usual internet places of which we shall not mention or legal reasons but which we all know who they are anyway.

        Yeah, I wouldn’t suggest The Maggie. It wasn’t made as a period drama, but then in the 50s/60s the Puffer trade was still going (although coming to the end of its term, see https://puffersandvics.org/history_2.htm for a brief history on the trade) so they didn’t bother going for a period piece construction (nor did the BBC when they did the first two adaptations of The Vital Spark in the same decades). Also it is in B&W so you can’t really see the costumes anyway. I think most of the costumes in The Maggie would have been various shades of grey flannel even if it wasn’t.

        By the 1990s the Puffer trade was well dead and so it was seen as a good project for the BBC’s period piece department. I enjoyed it. Certainly I enjoyed it better than the Beeb’s other big period piece of that era, the sitcom “You Rang M’lord”, which was cringey old jokes even by the standard of the day; naturally it was the latter that got the big ratings.

        Anyway, yes, The Tales of Para Handy; strongly recommended even if hard to get (legally) in America on anything other than an R2 DVD import. Sorry.

  4. broughps

    Any chance you guys are going to have a go at Mary Poppins Returns? Loved the movie and this as someone who the first movie they ever saw in the theater was the original Mary Poppins. Would love to see your take on the “animated” costumes.

    • Frannie Germeshausen

      OMG, same here. I was 6 for the first one. I just sat there and beamed through the new one – I was 6 again and happy for it.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      It’s a matter of getting to the theater & we already did The Favourite & Mary Queen of Scots for podcasts (the later is coming next week). Tho the biggest problem w/movies still in theaters is we can’t get screencaps :(

    • Kendra

      I’m sure I’ll see it at some point and will review it, but it’s not a Must See ASAP movie for me.

  5. Kate D

    I’m currently watching The Aristocrats. Gorgeous dresses.

    The new Vanity Fair is on my list next.

    Not historical fashion related, but I’m loving Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix! It’s inspiring me to clean out the office/storage room so I can turn it into a sewing room (instead of hauling my sewing machine up from the basement and back down every time I use it). Highly recommend this show!

  6. Nzie

    I’m hoping The Favourite stays in this one theatre I know that tends to keep the indie flicks rather longish, but even so it’s down to daytime only showings and I’m out of town for the holidays through tomorrow… may try to convince a friend or two to come.

    I’ve decided not to spend money on MQoS, so it may get a skepti-watch from me if it goes on Prime or Netflix.

    I never got past episode 1 of the PBS Little Women and it’s on Prime now so I may give that a go. I was underwhelmed; why was it so episodic and disconnectedly so? I am also VERY ready for a re-watch of Judgment at Nuremberg, which is set in ’46-48 but made in only 1960s. It has a lot of 40s stars but very few female characters, so not much of a frock flicks experience.

    I also nixed anyone in my family on adding the When Calls the Heart Christmas special on Hallmark (we had fun watching all those cheesy romances) once I spotted the costumes and lack of hair pins in the ad.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yeah, don’t waste money on MQoS — wait for cable or streaming where you can hate-watch it! But try for The Favourite, it’s so good.

      Oh & Judgement at Nuremberg, such an impressive film!

      • Susan Pola Staples

        I agree. Judgement at Nuremberg had a top notch cast in roles that you wouldn’t have associated with them. I’ll give you Spence and Marlene as a judge and Junker widow, but Judy as survivor of when her character was a child and having a grandfatherly Jewish family friend, then there was Bert as the formidable legal scholar and jurist.

        • Nzie

          Yay for more JaN lovers. It’s an excellent film that I think does a good job of its topic by not taking the clearly evil/guilty. Also, I knew who Montgomery Clift was when I first watched it but I didn’t recognize him—incredibly powerful performance from him as the man sterilized. I think the film manages both to indict everyone and to not let those most closely involved off the hook.

          I’ll save MQoS for a hatewatch for sure. Crossing fingers on Favourite.

      • Nzie

        Back to say, saw The Favourite this weekend. Very well done, if really depressing… went with a friend who said if anyone asked him what hell is like he’d describe it as the world experienced in The Favourite. It certainly had its humor, but it has reminded me that, as tough as it can be to be a debt-ridden millennial, I’d still prefer it to being an 18th century person where every social connection could be twisted to intrigues. Glad I saw it but definitely not the sort of film I would recommend to everyone.

    • Emily

      Nzie, see my comment below! Lack of hair pins and ALL THE PASTELLLSSSSSS!!!! So practical! :)

  7. Marquelle-Destiny Manns

    I’ve been a lurker on this blog for a while. I don’t know anything about historical costume (though honestly I’ve learned a lot thanks to you guys)

    I saw the favourite over the weekend with a friend of mine, and aside from the ridiculous ticket prices, I actually really liked it. I’d love to see the more minute details in the gowns, but either the theater I saw it in had bad projection quality or the scheme was too dark for me. Though I remember in your podcast you said that was the point.

    Quick question tangentially . When is back lacing okay, and when is it not?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      The dark interiors in The Favourite are historically accurate, very much a late 17th-c/early 18th-c. thing. But when it comes to streaming/cable, it would be nice to see more of the details :)

      For more on back-lacing, search the site! We have several articles — basically, it’s not done when a gown opens in the front bec. you don’t need 2 openings. It’d be like having a zipper on the back of a shirt that buttons up the front.

  8. Susan Pola Staples

    I want an accurate both historically and costumes MoS miniseries or movie, but I’m not very hopeful as the current MoS film is really really (I’m mentally adding tons more really) atrocious.

    Second I would like to see miniseries on the strong willed Medici women like Lucretia Tornabuoni mother of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Caterina Sforza (2nd husband was a Medici) who held off Cesare Borgia, and a series on the Renaissance artists like Botticelli, Donatello, and Lippi. Also one on the late Renaissance painter Artemesia Gentlesci, whom you blogged the bad movie Artemesia.

    Thirdly miniseries on Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel.

      • Brandy Loutherback

        Also fuck that Denim Shit! Denim is not historically accurate until the mid 1980s! XD!

      • Susan Pola Staples

        That’s why I’m not going to see it in the theatres. I can’t play ‘for every historical inaccuracy take a drink of Macallan (Scottish subject deserves Scottish tipple) and toss popcorn at screen while Snarking’ I’ll wait for either the library to get in a DVD.

        Just find out The Favourite is playing I’m my area. I’m planning on going to it either tomorrow – Saturday – or wait till Monday when the hoards of kids go back to school. :-)

      • Nzie

        amen amen! also, just finished Kristin Lavransdatter right before Christmas—would make a great miniseries! But I fear it would be a victim of modern people putting their ideas and words in an impeccably researched historical character’s mouth.

        • Emily

          Oh I LOOOOVE Kristin! But yes. I think if it was a movie it would be super super bad…….sigh.

        • Kate D

          I love Kristin Lavransdatter! Yes, what a fantastic miniseries it would make!

  9. Brandy Loutherback

    I’m drink watching the Spanish Princess! Rubs hands evily!

    • Brandy Loutherback

      I have so many questions about The Spanish Princess! I’ll sum most of them up with: How are they gonna Fuck this up?! I’ll say it again for the people in the back: Real History is so much more intriguing than Bullshit stories Hollywood makes up!

  10. Brandy Loutherback

    Also Fuck that Denim in the 16th century Shit! I have a meme coming about that, believe you me!

  11. Sam Marchiony

    Oh, also— who else was disappointed by the TIMELESS Christmas special’s lack of fab? I’ve watched it multiple times, and I’m really, really bummed that the budget kept them from more fancy costumes. Thank god the story was engaging.

  12. Saraquill

    I rewatched “The Victorian Slum,” a British historical recreation series. The participants have one outfit each during filming. These are from multiple decades, which I don’t mind as they spend each week doing a different decade, and the focus is more on the struggle to get by than on ensembles. Some of the clothes look like they used to be fancy, like a capelet or bonnet. My headcannon is that they were castoff or purchased fourth hand by the residents.

    Also, one family comes from a line of tailors, including those who worked in the East End. Depending on the week, they’re remodeling scraps into accessories, or making bespoke suits.

  13. Brandy Loutherback

    How do we feel about On the Basis of Sex? Seems to be standard 60’s/70’s wear!

  14. mmcquown

    Versailles — too many times men outside without hats. Also, why did they go for the natural-looking wigs rather than the more correct artificial ones?It certainly would have underscored the unnatural lifestyle created in the palace. And — apparently the men’s hats were often pinned to the wigs to keep them in place. I also think there would have been many occasions when the men would ahve kept their hats on inside, except in the presence of the king.

  15. Emily

    I’d like to see Brianna PUT HER FREAKING HAIR UP…..but apparently there was just no way to do that in the American Colonies. Why God. Why.
    Am also loving Marie Kondo series on Netflix!
    Am also watching When Calls the Heart, and there are no hair pins in sight there, and I think that wearing that much pastel in a Canadian mining town is just not a good thing, right? RIGHT? I mean, who wore that much WHITE back then?!?!

  16. MrsC (Maryanne)

    Seriously considering asking our local art movie theatre to do a Snark viewing of MQoS so we can all go and shout at the screen. I had an outburst during the trailer before the Favourite, couldn’t hold it in, and got lots of laughs. They only hold 40 people so I reckon we could pack it out. SO cathartic.

  17. Talia

    Sarah Churchill has been a historical woman crush of mine of some years now so I was excited to see her in The Favourite even if I find her split with Anne painful to watch and bemoaned Rachel Weiz’s lack of blonde hair. But has anyone else seen the BBC’s 1960s series The First Churchills (on DVD and youtube)? Even from a layman’s view one can see the subtle fashion changes through the years/episodes with Sarah and her daughter even having an argument over the correct fashionable length of sleeves (no bare elbows!) in one scene. Plus full-bottom wigs.

  18. Jazz

    There’s a new series of Les Misérables airing on the BBC here in the UK at the moment, only one episode so far last Sunday – there’s 5 more to come. I know Fantine’s hair is an important part of the story, but there’s a severe lack of bobby pins…. even when she’s at work… it’s even more of a shame because the one time it was properly up, it was so pretty! Plus I’ve seen some production stills/behind the scenes photos which show some 1830s dresses to come, with some seriously deflated sleeves :'( I believe it’s the same designer as Poldark, for reference.

  19. karenbs333

    I couldn’t help but feel both scenes were gratuitous. I wasn’t offended by them, but they served no purpose to the plot (except to show that Mary was a woman? With sexual desires? We kind of knew that.) They felt artificially inserted into the film just to be the first to show them.

  20. Karen K.

    I’m catching up on Outlander season 4 and I swear to god I saw GROMMETS on Jenny’s dresses! In 18th century Scotland!!!! THE HORROR!!! But I do like how they’ve managed to resurrect some of Claire’s dresses from the first couple of seasons.

    I’m also watching season 4 of Poldark and can they PLEASE BUY DEMELZA A NEW DRESS???? She’s been rotating the same two dresses since season 1! Every other female except the servants have new outfits, surely Ross can afford to buy her a new everyday dress.

  21. Emily

    I’m currently watching The History of Tom Jones BBC miniseries. I remember watching this on A&E back in the day! I loved it then and am having just as much fun rewatching.