SNARK WEEK RECAP: Maria Theresia Episode 1

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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.

Let’s get to it!

Maria Theresia: Episode 1

We begin in 1723 with the future Emperor Francis I, then Duke of Lorraine, flirting it up with a bunch of back-laced, ugly-capped chix. Clearly this guy was not made for monogamy:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Back lacing abounds, and not in a “we’re wearing court dress” sort of way.

Meanwhile, a very young Maria Theresa is being given dance lessons along with her younger sister, Maria Anna. Maria Theresa can’t (won’t?) dance, which involves her collapsing on the floor.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Get ready for ALL the clunky sewn-in stomachers you could ever want!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Governess/lady-in-waiting’s stomacher and petticoat are some kind of applied sheer black, instead of an underlayer.

She apparently gets one dress for the entire production?

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

MT has this contraption strapped to her back, which I think is supposed to improve her posture?

In a Portentous Moment, Francis comes over and tells her she CAN dance, lifting her up in either an anachronistic 16th c. volta or a Dirty Dancing trust fall, you tell me:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Nobody puts Baby in a corner!

We cut to 1732, and Maria Theresa’s father, Charles VI, is desperately trying to father a son with his wife, Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. This involves doctors, priests, attendants, and the hauling in of fancy artistic pornography in order to get Chuck in the mood. (Note: Charles and Elisabeth did have a male child, Leopold, but he died at age 7 months).

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Mom shouldn’t be wearing a wig cap, because she shouldn’t be wearing a wig.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

But this production is clearly Team Wigs on Women. Sigh.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Mom is at least wearing a shift under her stays, even if it’s missing the sleeves it should have.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Having looked at a lot of 18th century porn, they could do much better, although the swan doing the gynecological exam on Leda did make me laugh.

Various courtiers scheme about whether the queen, at her advanced age of 41 and having drunk a lot of booze “for medicinal purposes,” can still have children. Maria Theresa is the current heir, but whoever she marries, it is expected, will be the real ruler — unless the emperor/empress can have a son. However, the empress proclaims that MT shouldn’t be taught anything about politics, as all she needs to do is be a wife.

Maria Theresa is hanging with her nondescript younger sister, Maria Anna. Francis, that Duke of Lorraine, is coming to visit, and it’s been planned for years she’ll marry him. She’s all stressed that her dresses aren’t revealing enough, since Francis is FRENCH and they’re so much more fashionable, showing her sister French fashion plates that won’t be published for about 40+ years. She literally takes scissors to her gown’s neckline lace (called a “tucker” in the 19th century; Trystan’s famous quote: “nobody’s gonna fuck her if she’s wearing a tucker”). Her governess/lady-in-waiting shows up with a supposedly more fabulous dress, and governess and sister are charmed while Maria Theresa acts slutty into the mirror, pushing up her boobs and making kissy faces.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Hard to see these dresses clearly.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

MT’s is a decent robe à la française, although it’s about 10 years too early for those — she should be in a robe volante, the fuller version.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Maria Anna’s dress is BEYOND CLUNKY. The sewn-in stomacher! The way too long bodice length, that then WIDENS below the waist! The 50 layers of interfacing!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Gallerie des Modes c. 1778ish. Not 1732. Don’t get so stressed, MT, he’s from Lorraine, not Paris.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Apparently a slutty archduchess is HIGH-larious?

At a formal court lunch, Francis is going to be serving Maria Theresa. MT and her sister sing some opera, and she and Francis exchange Serious Glances. He starts whispering semi-scandalous nothings in her ear, and she gets flustered and jumps up from the table. Apparently no one has heard of court etiquette in Vienna.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Mom’s hair is VERY 1700s-20s.

Follower of Louis de Silvestre, Presumed portrait of Empress Elisabeth Christine (1691-1750) and her daughter, c. 1718-25, Sotheby's

They are clearly referencing portraits like this one from earlier decades | Follower of Louis de Silvestre, Presumed portrait of Empress Elisabeth Christine (1691-1750) and her daughter, c. 1718-25, Sotheby’s

Johann Gottfried Auerbach, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine, Empress of Austria and Queen of Bohemia and Hungary (1691-1750), 1735, Christie's

Despite the fact that portraiture proves she remained relatively a la mode | Johann Gottfried Auerbach, Portrait of Elisabeth Christine, Empress of Austria and Queen of Bohemia and Hungary (1691-1750), 1735, Christie’s

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

She’s also wearing a half-length skirt, which makes this a jacket, which makes it NOT FORMAL ENOUGH for this kind of event.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Maria Anna (left) and Maria Theresa (right) are in sort-of-court gowns; because of that, I’ll give MT a pass on the back lacing, but MA appears to have a zipper.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Both are ALL ABOUT THE SKIRT HIKING.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Somebody invested in the pink/purple Wet N Wild makeup palette for MT. The women’s wigs in this are also SO clunky. Yes, most women would have white-appearing hair! But that’s from powder, not from a wig.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Here’s a clearer shot of MT’s dress.

Andreas Møller, Erzherzogin Maria Theresia (1717-1780) im Alter von elf Jahren, Kniestück, c. 1727, Kunsthistorisches Museum

They are clearly referencing this portrait of the real Maria Theresa, although I would argue that those sleeves and the pearls at the waistline are stylistic/iconographic choices meant to make the portrait allegorical, not something that would actually be worn | Andreas Møller, Erzherzogin Maria Theresia (1717-1780) im Alter von elf Jahren, Kniestück, c. 1727, Kunsthistorisches Museum

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Francis frequently gets this extra-twisted cravat with-bow. WHY?

A lady-in-waiting grabs Francis and takes him into a room where MT is suddenly IN HER UNDERWEAR and super excited to see him, telling him she loves him and she’s missed him. Francis is uncomfortable, governess catches them and sends him away.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

I’m confused about the short sleeves on the stays, but otherwise, this stays and short pannier check out.

Later:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

The skirt-hiking is strong with this one!

MT is doing some kind of horse-riding recital in what appears to be the famous Spanish Riding School (you know, the Lipizzaner horses). Francis is beckoned by the king, but some Evil Courtier (Eugen of Savoy) gets in the way.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Sister gets more back lacing…

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

…and a clunky sewn-in stomacher. Also, SHE NEEDS A CORSET.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Alright, I liked the lace on Francis’s suit!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Mom’s dress…

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Metal grommets. You’re welcome.

At some point (I think after others have left?), Francis and MT have A Moment and dance in the riding school.

2017 Maria Theresia

MT’s dress is too long-waisted, giving her all those side wrinkles as the bodice tries to scoot itself up.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

We’ve also got clunky lace and another sewn-in stomacher.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

It’s cut as a française in back … although they did have riding habits, ya know!

Meanwhile, Evil Courtier breaks it to Chuck that his wife can’t have any more children, which is apparently a complete shock to Chuck, who clearly knows nothing about reproduction, aging, or anything else.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Dad is wearing a very stylized suit, the Spanish Mantelkleid, which was worn for court dress. I like the silver trim!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

A slightly clearer shot of Dad.

Jan Kupecký, Charles VI du Saint-Empire, 1716, Vienna Museum at Karlsplatz

His outfit looks reasonably similar to portraits of this style | Jan Kupecký, Charles VI du Saint-Empire, 1716, Vienna Museum at Karlsplatz

Emperor Chuck decides that MT SHOULDN’T marry Francis now that he’s realized she’ll need to succeed him, because Francis isn’t strong enough. Francis hatches a plan to elope with MT, which she’s down for, but then she gets caught. Francis is booted back to Lorraine.

A new plot is hatched by Evil Courtier to marry MT to the crown prince of Prussia. MT refuses, and is rude to the Prussian ambassador at a formal court meal. Everyone is wearing exactly the same shit, so I don’t screencap it, except for this gem:

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Did things get loose while she was eating? Is there a lady’s maid who needs to be fired?

There’s discussion about MT having to enter a convent and let her sister succeed. Some Guy grabs MT and offers to tutor her in politics, so she can elbow her way back into things. She agrees, and there are multiple scenes of her studying the European political situation while pretending to be doing needlework with her sister.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

This is the first wig that hasn’t totally offended me.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

HOLY CRAP SHE HAS ANOTHER DRESS! Turns out to be a robe volante-type dressing gown worn over her standard issue blue sort-of-court-dress.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

I swear this trim is one of those iridescent plastic sequin appliques.

See what I mean?

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

SISTER HAS ANOTHER DRESS! It has the same damn plastic/iridescent appliques.

Some Hungarians come to court, and the Political Tutor Guy seems to think this is a good time to do some kind of check-in with the Hungarians about the Pragmatic Sanction, by which Chuck negotiated the support of various European powers for one of his daughters to inherit the throne. MT shows up to greet the Hungarians, drops a bunch of secret papers, and is discovered to be Learning Politics. Dad and Mom are PISSED.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

THIS CLUNKER! Yet another too-long bodice, and while there were occasional cross-over bodices and asymmetry in this period, they didn’t look anything like this.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Okay I find the left-hand Hungarian hot. Lemme twirls those mustachios for ya!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

SKIRTS ARE HIKED.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Mom’s one and only jacket dress is a high-low number.

MT has to make a formal apology to her dad in front of the court, but she uses it as an opportunity to show off her political knowledge. She proposes that she get to marry Francis, but that he give up his duchy of Lorraine to the French in return for their support, and then be given the duchy of Tuscany instead. Dad is impressed and says he’ll consider it.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

WAIT A REAL NEW DRESS. Note lady’s maid’s clunky sewn-in stomacher.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Going full Melania-Trump-meeting-the-pope.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

I feel like mom could use a few more plastic gemstones hot-glued to her bodice *sigh*

Francis is invited back to court and shows up with his mother, Mademoiselle de Chartres. The marriage arrangement is proposed, but Mademoiselle de Chartres is having none of it because she knows the Austrians just want Francis to be a figurehead. Francis is down until he learns he has to give up Lorraine.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Mademoiselle de Chartres is completely Team Trystan with her gothy-outfit and tits out! Note the teeny bit of purple along the neckline, which appears to be her stays?

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Ok, it’s totally goth AF, but I admit to finding this jacket cute.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Background rando has an inappropriately split in BACK (as well as front) skirt. SO Little Bo Peep.

MT, however, is still down to marry Francis, and agrees that if her parents have a male son, she’ll give up her place in the succession. No one in this family has ANY table manners.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Maria Anna has a bodice with center front made of different fabric from the sides and sleeves. Huh?

Francis chats with Maria Anna, and implies that maybe he should have married her. She starts catching The Feels, carrying around a portrait of him.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Wait! An actual riding habit! The front fit is dumpy, and I think we’ve got yet MORE plastic iridescent trim, but hey, whatever.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

She wears it with the same ruched-trim pink skirt she’s been wearing with everything. Note clunky dress on the form in back. Clunky is clearly the theme here.

Chuck ambushes Francis and Mlle de Chartres, sticking Francis into a painting with MT. Francis is reluctant, giving MT a sad.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

A full shot of Goth Mom de Lorraine!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Why does she have a random ribbon bow sewn to the back neckline of her jacket? It’s not a necklace, I checked.

MT learns that Evil Courtier (Eugen of Savoy) was going to “sell her” in marriage to Prussia. She has a pissed, and yells at him on his deathbed.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

MT HAS A NEW DRESS!!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

These wigs… yikes. This one’s “side curls” look like the Wendy’s hamburger girl’s pigtails.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

MT ALSO needs a corset.

MT cries to her sister. Maybe Francis just doesn’t want to marry her?

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

There’s that two-fabric dress on Maria Anna.

Maria Anna brings Francis to the library, where she and MT’s political tutor explain The European Political Situation to Francis.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

The trim is LITERALLY that plastic iridescent sequin shit. Also, is this dress/robe made of terrycloth?

There’s a formal meal for the Empress’s birthday. The portrait of MT and Francis is presented to the Empress, and there’s a pregnant pause as Francis is supposed to propose to MT, but we’re not sure if he’ll actually do it. Francis proposes!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Governess gets a new dress!!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

MT has an actual formal court-style dress, from the little we can see of it.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Goth Mom de Lorraine keeps it goth, Francis has gone full hair metal.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

How did I miss these WTF sleeves before?? WTF??

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

See my post about shitty historical paintings.

The wedding happens! MT and Francis seem surprised that there are bells ringing and crowds cheering — um, isn’t that par for the course?

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Hike that skirt, baby! It’s your wedding day!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

MT in court dress for her wedding. Note the clips on her skirt, which aren’t seen on screen.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

The bodice trim is FULL QUINCEANERA.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Maria Anna is STILL in her two-fabric dress, this time with proper lace sleeves at least.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Goth Mom keeps it goth AF.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Chuck and the empress look decent.

The wedding night occurs! MT shows her actual hair for the first time! MT and Francis can’t WAIT to tear off their clothes, and they shag so hard they literally destroy the bed, and it is ludicrous. The emperor is fetched and lectures them about being more statesmanlike.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Wait, MT has HAIR?

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

There’s a lovely close-up of MT’s wedding gown’s metal grommets.

Aaaand we cut to immediate childbirth! MT has been in labor for two days, and Francis is having none of these “barbaric” Austrian customs like a birthing chair. He brings in a French daughter and carries MT to bed, where she immediately pops out a baby girl.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

The populace isn’t happy about the birth of a girl; I’m not happy about rando on the left wearing a 1660s-style dress in the 1730s.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

I like the concept, I question the execution.

MT has a SECOND girl, and bitchy courtiers are bitchy about it.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Battenberg lace fans are wielded.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Whoever had to fit this poor lady had no idea how to deal with curvy figures.

To avoid the bitchy courtiers, MT and Francis go to Tuscany — it’s now 1740 — where Francis plans to revolutionize the textile industry and MT abuses her children with wigs.

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

WORDS FAIL ME

Just as MT says she wishes she could stop time, an Austrian courtier arrives and announces the emperor is dead. DUN DUN DUN!!

2017 Maria Theresia ep1

Are you getting more of a Butterick or McCall’s vibe here?

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

 

 

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29 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Thank you for cheering up my day with the screencaps. I agree that both the history and costumes were really bad. But the horse was pretty. And dumb Hungarians just seems like comic relief.

    Reply
  2. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    Is that a baby (or a fake baby) or a whorecelain doll in the middle of the child abuse pic?

    Reply
      • Daniel Milford-Cottam

        Official doll collector’s term. Well, it should be, anyway – I’ve been pushing it for nearly 20 years now, and it’s caught on with quite a few doll collectors. It just sums up that particular genus of shitty mass-produced cheap-ass porcelain doll dressed in enough polyester and pot-scrubber lace to reconstitute a pterodactyl with a “Certificate of Authenticity” to persuade you that Grandma didn’t spend 200 bucks in vain on this undoubted future priceless collectable.

        Reply
  3. Valerie Lane

    I’ve been staring at the back shot of goth mom’s dress for like ten minutes. I don’t think it’s a center back (mismatched) seam – it looks like a long ass dart! Maybe that’s the reason for the I inexplicable bow – covering a shitty alteration?

    Also, thanks for taking one for the team and reviewing this travesty. Your recap is glorious and there’s no way I would have made it ten minutes into this on my own!

    Reply
  4. Gosia

    In one Austrian newspaper it was written that the budget of the series was 5 million euros and this in such a tone, as if 5 million euros were a big amount of money for a period film :-).

    Reply
  5. Roxana

    All I know about Maria Theresa is she fought like a tiger for her rights as her father’s successor, bore a ridiculous number of children while very successfully governing her empire, and was very fond of her husband who wasn’t entirely worthy of her.

    And those costumes are ugly.

    Reply
  6. Kat

    I tried to watch this but I couldn’t, the cheap looking white wigs were too distracting. I also read a German language review calling the costumes well made and accurate for the period and I’m still not over that.

    Reply
  7. Tamara

    All these dresses with clunky sewn-in stomachers, dumpy fit, no corset and trashy sequin applications remind me of costumes for little girls, who want to dress as pretty pretty pink princesses for Halloween/Purim.

    Reply
  8. Faye

    Much as I enjoy this site and have been a visitor for a good couple of years now… I must admit I’m frequently at a loss to understand what is going on. Like, you say that something is wrong but don’t explain why it is wrong. I’m often left to wonder why sewn in stomachers are wrong, why two fabric dresses are wrong, why the bodice is too long when it looks to me pretty short, why pearls at the waistline are allegorical, and how the costumer should have dressed a curvier figure? My expertise is mostly in the ancient world. Can you explain what you mean a bit more, or please link to pages like that metal grommet page? Otherwise, it’s all pretty impenetrable for an outsider.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Absolutely! On Friday I’ll do a review with Actual Research(TM) explaining all those things! Sorry, I know that means things are out of order for you… but it’s coming!

      Reply
  9. susan l eiffert

    This was a great post! Thank you. So much to snark about, but you and your fans have addressed most of it. I was also taken aback by that doll in the kids’ scene which CLEARLY has that shiny nylon or whatever has been used for hair only in the 20th and 21st centuries. And bisque limbs? I don’t think so.

    Reply
  10. Nzie

    Wow. Just wow. I mean, look, if you have a lot of high class characters to dress, I expect some shortcuts. But there are so many obviously wrong things that could’ve been done in a way that was less obviously wrong.

    The subtitle on the corset back shot in the royal bedchamber says it all—”You should not do this.”

    Reply
  11. Damnitz

    I wonder, that you did’nt mentioned this stupid Prussian-Austrian plot in more depth. How the son of the ultra Calvinist Frederick William I. of Prussia should marry the daughter of the most prominent catholic ruler in Europe was not explained in this masterpeace. The whole storyline of prince Eugen as the most evil man in Austria is so stupid.
    It’s remarkable that not only MT is a complete idiot, who didn’t know anything about the contemporary politics, but Francis is portrayed as the same sort of an idiot. Did anybody told them, that Lorraine was actually a part of the Holy Roman Empire and that exactly at that time, the French invaded Germany (capturing Philippsburg and Kehl)?
    Besides the Prussian prince Frederick had to marry the daughter of George II (although this marriage was canceled later).
    Did you notice that the Hungarians had very plain clothes and missed many elements of the traditional Hungarian clothing? Indeed I very long searched for a portrait of this count Esterhàzy with a beard, but I could not found any reference, that he ever had a moustache at all.

    I would like to read more about the male characters. There is so much going on there! :-D
    Even some Major characters got terrible clothes or suits which were embroidered at the front but without embroidery at the back – maybe they did’nt assumed, that the actor can turn around? :-D

    Reply
  12. Jana

    I have dreamt of you reviewing this series since I first saw it when it was released. I had been reading your site for some time and I was horrified at the wigs and the costumes and was curious what you would make of them. Now I can finally read it at length. Looking forward to the next part. So dissapointing that when a frock flick is finally produced over here (I am from Slovakia, we used to be part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy) and it is such a crappy one.

    Reply
    • Terézia Marková

      A fellow Slovak lady, yay! Honestly, both the history and (to a lesser extent) costumes are horribly misshapen, which is that much worse, since MT is my favourite historical ruler, period. Not to mention writing and characterization, which just go from bad to worse. I HATE THIS SHOW SO MUCH.

      Reply
      • Damnitz

        I asked myself (coming from Freiburg, which was one of those minor Austrian capitals at MTs reign) how People from Slowakia and Hungary would think about the outrageous depiction of the Nobility in such a crap.

        Besides I was astonished that in an Austrian production prince Eugen, who was an Austrian hero during the 19th and 20th century, was shown as a stupid, plotting old villain.

        Although I’m surprised that MT is for somebody in Slowakia a favourite ruler. I thought about her as a competent Monarch. But besides she was very repressive especially to the Protestant people. During her reign the multicultural character of the army (and maybe of her government) changed dramatically.
        Nevertheless I’m somehow a fanboy of Bartenstein on my own – just because he was so self-satisfied. It’s laughable, that he was changed in this series to a incapable antagonist of his queen.

        Reply
  13. M.E. Lawrence

    Thank you so much, Kendra; you soar above and beyond, as always. Any theories as to why the production couldn’t or wouldn’t provide corsets? Did the actresses go on strike against them?

    Reply
  14. Mr Elton

    But surely the production team and actors must see how extremely unbecoming the costumes and wigs are?! Why even bother to produce something so awful, if it’s not for a parody or something?!

    Reply

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