SNARK WEEK RECAP: Maria Theresia (2017) Episode 3

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Starting with our second Snark Week, I’ve picked a shitty frock flick to recap, because I love sharing the blow-by-blows with you. This year, I asked you to choose what film/series I should recap, and the clear winner was Maria Theresia (2017-). This is an Austrian-Czech miniseries about Empress Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress and empress/queen of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma, beginning in 1741 and reigning through 1780. The series had two (LONG) episodes in 2017, two more in 2019, and apparently a further two more are planned. I’ll recap the four existing episodes this week, and on Friday I’ll do some actual research and talk about what the production got right, and where they messed up, in the costumes.

Check out my recaps of episode one and two!

Episode three changes up a lot. It came out two years later, with a different actress playing Maria Theresa. Crucially, the costume and hair have gotten WAY better … but there’s still plenty to snark! From what I can tell it’s still the same costume designer, but clearly there was more time or money for these next two episodes.

Once again, I’m not able to watch this with English subtitles. There’s a German language version available on YouTube, so I’ve got auto-generated German titles being auto-translated into English … which means I missed many subtleties!

We begin in what turns out to be Versailles, with French King Louis XV being painted with two floozies… who turn out to be Goth Mom (i.e., Francis’s mother) and Madame de Pompadour, the king’s official mistress. There’s various talk of war against Austria/Maria Theresa. We’re now in the 1740s, FYI.

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The painter working. Don’t worry, we’ll get a better view in a few.

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Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV, and Goth Mom.

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In what WORLD is this anything like the real Madame de Pompadour??? Also, note bad attempt at 1770s hairstyles in the 1740s.

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The dress doesn’t suck, but the hair is 30 years too early and the makeup … *shudder*

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Goth Mom is lightening up her color palette!

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PUPPER.

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Louis has fleur-de-lis brooches on his hat and cravat, which just seems heavy handed, but IDK

Back in Austria, a random floozy has a sad because Francis’s carriage doesn’t stop for her and splatters her in mud. Court Bitch #1 stops by to say “nyah nyah” — turns out this is one of Francis’s floozies. Francis’s floozy turns up at Francis’s palace? textile business? getting back into his favor and getting him to set her up in an apartment.

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Things are fitting a whole lot better than in the first two episodes and there’s no inappropriate back-lacing, but the looped-up skirts in back (“polonaised”) is 20-30 years too early, and I just don’t get a mid-18th century aesthetic from the colors and trims.

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Court Bitch #1 in a velvet riding habit.

Francis’s textile business is doing some shady dealings with the Prussians, the Austrian’s enemy.

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Francis refuses to update his wig styles.

Maria Theresa has been recast with an ACTUAL PLUS-SIZE ACTRESS (Stefanie Reinsperger) who ACTUALLY HAS THE RIGHT BODY TYPE TO PLAY A MATURE MARIA THERESA:

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GUYS THIS IS AMAZING. She’s even got the small breasts fashionable in this era!

Matthias de Visch, Portrait of empress Maria-Theresia, 1749, Groeningemuseum.

What the real Maria Theresa looked like in the 1740s | Matthias de Visch, Portrait of empress Maria-Theresia, 1749, Groeningemuseum.

THIS NEVER HAPPENS. I will give this production MASSIVE PROPS for making this choice. The actress is good, she’s pretty (she actually reminds me of Adele in the out-of-costume photos I’ve seen of her), and she’s LITERALLY THE RIGHT FIGURE TYPE. This is me:

SO HAPPY

MT’s hair is slightly prom, but we’ve LOST THE SHITTY WOMEN’S WIGS, which, hallelujah, and the quality of MT’s dresses is waaaay higher than in episodes one and two.

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The hair is a little bridal, but it’s not BAD for mid-century and at least they’ve ditched the shitty white wigs on the women.

This black dress is made of a patterned damask; the stomacher appears to be black velvet with gold embroidery on it.

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Goth Mom is headed to Austria — possibly at Louis XV’s behest? She is wearing a HIDEOUS PAISLEY DRESS with SEWN-IN STOMACHER AND PETTICOAT. A new low has been reached.

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DEAR GOD (note skirt-hiking).

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Paisleys! Which are Victorian! Back-lacing on a stomacher-ed dress! Are those scrapbooking brads on the stomacher?

MT isn’t excited about Goth Mom coming to visit. She bitches to her mother about it.

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Sadly this actress doesn’t skirt-hike as much as the last, but I’m screencapping what I can get!

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Mom’s main dress for this episode is what Outlander tried (and failed) to do with the famous red dress.

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I don’t love this production’s habit of randomly embellishing patterned fabrics, however. It’s not an 18th-century aesthetic.

MT receives Goth Mom, along with her sister. Goth Mom has brought her younger son, Charles Alexander of Lorraine, with her.

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Everyone gets new dresses!

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MT’s in a bright (too bright?) electric blue damask with embroidered stomacher.

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I feel like this dress is too good not to have been recycled from another production, but maybe it’s just that it reminds me of other brown dresses. Nonetheless, it has an actual separate stomacher and lovely ruches down the front.

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I love all the layered trims!

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It has a fitted back with a separate skirt, which is more of a 1770s style than a 1740s … but I’m just happy it doesn’t have back-lacing. Note dumpy curtsy on rando on the right.

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Goth Mom is back to her goth roots!

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That purple is way too bright for the 18th century, and the aesthetic is all modern goth, but it’s cute. In back, it’s cut as a française and worn looped up to keep the train off the ground.

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Cute hat, although the back bow and brooch are random.

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Charles gets all of two suits. This one seems VERY Chinese brocade-y, but okay.

Goth Mom brings that portrait of her with Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour. Here it is in all its splendor:

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It looks like something that was Photoshopped and turned into a tapestry?

MT’s mom is overly excited about theater. After watching a troupe perform, the royals go to meet the actors, where MT and Francis have some terse words about the fact that he is gambling a lot; clearly all is not well in that marriage.

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It’s a theater costume, I’ll let it slide.

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Here’s the back of mom’s Outlander-style dress. Hey, it ACTUALLY CLOSES IN FRONT!

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Court Bitch #1 gets a new dress!

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I feel like the ruches are too curvy, but that’s a nitpick. Note many are wearing Actual Powder in their hair!

Goth Mom and MT spar; Goth Mom thinks Austria is lame.

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A 30ish-years-too-early “zone” dress, but it’s cute.

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Mom is back in her court dress from episode 2.

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The women’s hair is more 1760s than 1740s, but at least it’s pretty!

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This lady-in-waiting dress has been in every episode so far, so is apparently about 30 years old. Hey, it’s held up!

Some rando shows up at court and cries to MT about someone (sorry, didn’t catch who!) being murdered. MT is sympathetic and maybe lends her some money? Sorry, YouTube’s auto-translate of auto-generated subtitles wasn’t clear.

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The stomacher is pretty, although I’m pretty sure I’d have questions if I could see more.

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A nice view of MT’s brocade fabric.

There’s more sparring between Goth Mom and MT:

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Here’s a bit more detail on Goth Mom’s “zone” dress. I like the contrasting stripe for the stomacher!

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We complain a lot about overly enthusiastic hair wisps, but this is about the maximum I can handle. Sure, she could get those to stick with some pomade, but they’re not SO long as often seen. If it could be handled with a hairpin, it should be.

Franz von der Trenck is causing problems. He’s both a great soldier but also cruel.

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Things are Not Good in the Hapsburg bedroom. MT suspects Goth Mom is feeding information to the French, since the war is NOT going well for the Austrians and the French seem to be anticipating their every move. Francis is defensive.

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Pretty sure they’d have separate bedrooms for moments like these.

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Yay skirt-hiking!

Goth Mom and MT have a passive aggressive fight involving wigs.

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Goth Mom’s dress has some interesting pleats in back that are more 1780s than 1740s, but I’ll take interesting over clunky any day.

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This is SUCH a Victorian aesthetic, though. Also, the wigs. Are stupid.

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I thought MT’s hair was particularly pretty here, tho! And look at all that powder!

MT does some shooting while courtiers look on.

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Mom is keeping the Battenberg lace industry afloat, I see.

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MT’s dress is a proper robe à la française and perfect for the 1740s. The blue and silver brocade is pretty!

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Although the random pearls are again SO not an 18th-c. aesthetic.

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At first I was thinking those wrinkles were some weird elastic band, but looking again I think they’re just stress wrinkles.

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MT’s hair: more 1760s than 40s, but pretty!

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Floozy, floozy, and Court Bitch #1.

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Pretty sure this is the floozy from the beginning of the episode. Pretty sure that dress is a Victorian nightmare.

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WHAT is up with the flesh-colored stomacher that looks to be made of cardboard??

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This lady has A Moment with an older gentleman.

MT and Goth Mom CONTINUE to spar. Charles (Francis’s brother) volunteers to soldier up in the Austrian Empire … and proposes to Maria Anna.

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This dress is pretty from the front.

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And oddly trimmed from the back. You’d never see trim going down vertically past the neckline like that.

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Maria Anna’s new dress #2!

MT goes to Bratislava, where she visits with Hottie Hungarian (Esterhazy).

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A pet-en-l’air (short robe à la française) styled like a riding habit and with a hood — perfect for traveling!

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The fabric is questionable, however. Is this one of those wrinkly taffetas?

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Hellooooo Hottie Hungarian!

MT is peeved to discover the military is using her image in place of the Virgin Mary, as a way to inspire the troops. Hottie Hungarian argues that they need to identify MT as Austria.

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This trim wasn’t terribly inspired.

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Charles’s military uniform includes a lace bib instead of a cravat.

At a theater performance, Goth Mom invites Francis’s floozy to sit with her, then brings floozy along to gambling afterwards. I’m fuzzy on the specifics, but it’s clearly a dig at MT and her crew.

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Shot of random extras to show that some look good (far left) and some are still dumpy (far right).

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Floozy (left) and Goth Mom.

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Floozy.

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I’m pretty sure this is the dress Floozy is wearing.

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Closeup. I’m not loving the beads.

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Goth Mom in red with bonus skirt-hiking.

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A behind-the-scenes shot.

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Court Bitch #1 still in her green dress. Nice powder tho!

Maria Anna accepts Charles’s proposal.

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Goth Mom is back in her burgundy “zone” dress. Cute hat!

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Dumpy extras are excited!

The banns are read in church for Charles and Maria Anna’s wedding. As they leave the church, bad boy von der Trenck shows up with his troops and offers to fight for MT. Despite the fact that von der Trenck then beheads a soldier who has stolen something from the church right in front of everyone, MT accepts.

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Back in the blue and gold.

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Skirt-hiking!

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Somehow Francis and Charles figure out that Goth Mom WAS spying for the French.

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WHERE ARE THE CORSETS?

MT is depressed in her study while everyone else is at a ball. A messenger arrives and announces that finally, the Austrians have won an important victory against the French. MT is thrilled, arrives at the ball, announces the good news, and gets DOWN.

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A clearer shot of the back of Maria Anna’s brown dress. All those seams make it VERY 1770s at the earliest.

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MT wearing a dressing gown and scarf.

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Everyone does this INCREDIBLY LUDICROUS dance that involves bending forward and back quickly and repeatedly, as this behind-the-scenes shot sort-of shows. I tried to screencap it, but it was too blurry to accurately convey the ridiculousness.

Goth Mom is sent packing. Everyone knows she was the spy, and barbed words are exchanged, although I think they are of the veiled variety.

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Buh-bye Goth Mom!

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Goth Mom is OUT in a calash.

Stay tuned for another episode each day until Friday, when I’ll do an Actual Research review!

 

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

12 Responses

  1. Nzie

    Whoa, this is such an improvement from the first two episodes I can almost feel myself giving everything else a pass… I mean, they even stopped putting wigs on all the ladies. Huge change. I wonder if maybe the designer just had a very short design time for the first part and was renting a lot?

    Also, love the re-casting. Not for anything but after the first two write-ups I googled Maria Theresa and she gave birth to like 16 children (most of whom survived to adulthood, yay, and including Marie Antoinette, which I hadn’t put together)… I mean, of course there just wouldn’t be a lot of time to lose weight between that many pregnancies.

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Why does Goth Mom not age? Is she secretly Goth Vampire Mom?
    History still is in failure mode, but casting an actress that looks like she has had 16 children (actual count) and is beautiful is a plus and the costumes go from an F to possibly a C- and still not period appropriate. But they look preety-ish.

    Could some costumes belong to the Vienna State Opera?

    Reply
  3. peacoclaur

    The bed sharing might in fact be correct – I remember reading in Antonia Fraser’s bio of Marie Antoinette that Maria Theresa and Francis did indeed share a bed and that was one of the many “helpful suggestions” that MT kept giving MA and Louis XVI to fix the no consummation problem.

    Reply
  4. Roxana

    So the dresses are getting better. Losing the awful cotton ball wigs helps a lot doesn’t it? But so much skirt hiking! As I understand it one of the advantages of hoops is that they hold the skirts away from your feet so you don’t have to lift them but sort of steer them by resting your hands easily on the swell.

    Reply
  5. EA Gorman

    As a larger woman myself, it’s always good to see more non-skinny women in media, especially when they were appropriate in history. The dresses do look better, and I wonder how Marie Antoinette’s marriage will be handled.

    Reply
  6. Damnitz

    I didn’t saw it yet. It’s typical that the designers or directors find the 1740s fashion too boring. Therefor they have to give the main characters at least high coiffures (as they done in “Tom Jones” 1997, “Thieves in the Wood” (in combination with beards!) 2019 …). The whole story seems to be in the same stupid style. I hate the fact, that in every German or Austrian production the French are depicted in a comic style.

    Reply
  7. Shashwat

    I don’t think that 1740s fashion is boring.Instead,I am less fond of the 1780s fashion when everything went too pastel and too calico,and too much hair(hedgehogs!).I just love the opulent smartness of 1740s fashions-neither too showy nor too subdued,and neither drowning in a sea of jewels nor getting washed out in a sea of pastels.I so wish somebody got the era right.Unfortunately very few productions are set in this era and the ones that are set are clunkers like MT.

    Reply
    • Hana - Marmota

      Oh dear, exactly. There are so many portraits from roughly that era scattered in Czech chateaus, often more streamlined because they are just your everyday nobility, smooth bodices, jewel tones and simpler hair, and I love those styles, and they’re totally non-existant in popular culture and popular perceptions of the 18th century. Bah!

      Reply
  8. Lillian

    For a minute, I was afraid that Goth Mom had lost her goth…
    But luckily she seems to have gotten in back. I agree that this is a huge improvement over the first two, though.

    Reply
  9. Hana - Marmota

    I think they may have had a bigger budget this time around, and I do remember from the exhibition I saw last year that they got their brocades from an Italian workshop that specialises in them. I also seem to remember that the costume designer is still pretty young so he may have just expanded his historical knowledge considerably since last time, in fact. :D
    The ridiculous storylines / soap-opera style of the previous installment were enough for me to not want to see the rest, though. But some of the new dresses really impressed me a lot, especially in the context of otherwise being used to n-times rented old Barrandov costumes… although others are still pretty bad in the “more to tell a story to a modern audience than any respect for what was actually done historically”. (I came upon the exhibition by chance while visiting a chateau.)
    Also there was a really cute photo of the two main actors getting selfies in costume. :D

    Reply

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