SNARK WEEK: Top 5 Reasons I Am Watching Frontier


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Frontier is a new-ish (okay, it’s on season 2) Netflix series starring Jason Momoa (from Game of Thrones) and set in the wild and wooly fur-trading world of late 18th-century Canada. There are some good things about it, like the fact that they seem to be trying to show indigenous cultures and actually let the First Peoples speak in their own languages. But costume-wise: wooooo boy, it started off slow but by season 1, episode 5 the clunkers are coming fast and furious!


#1: Because it’s “18th century”

How do I know this? Because Netflix says so (“In 18th-century North America, ruthless trappers and entrepreneurs fight to wrest control of the fur trade from the mighty Hudson’s Bay Company“), as do media reports (“‘Frontier’ is a drama following the chaotic and violent struggle to control wealth and power in the North American fur trade in the late 18th century“).

Frontier (2016- )

I mean, in the first episode, baddie Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) is wearing an 18th-century-style wig!

Frontier (2016- )

And there are redcoats!

Frontier (2016- )

I suppose this is the equivalent of contractually-obligated-leather-pants turned vaguely-18th-century-jacket?

Frontier (2016- )

Hey, there’s a vaguely conical silhouette with boobs up!

Frontier (2016- )

Even your cross-dressing badass (Zoe Boyle, who was Matthew’s fiancé who died of the flu on Downton Abbey) is wearing a coat that could plausibly be called 18th century!


#2: Because counting the number of times someone says “OK” is strangely satisfying

Always good times to hear characters repeat a word that originated in the 1840s, per Oxford Dictionaries. Also enjoying references to “top hats,” you know, those hats that were worn in the Victorian era. Which is the 19th century.


#3: Because playing “spot the metal grommets” is always a good time

Frontier (2016- )


Frontier (2016- )


Frontier (2016- )


Frontier (2016- )

Ooo, she turned around! Three!

Frontier (2016- )

Guys I think this is a modern blazer that they added some grommets to. Can’t count anymore.


#4: Because they’ve been invaded by Salem via the 1880s

Frontier (2016- )

Oh yes, the 18th-century trend for flocked velvet and hip fur!

Frontier (2016- )

And that whole 18th-century off-the-shoulder neckline and bustle skirt silhouette!


#5: Because I make bad life choices

Frontier (2016- )

Okay so is this Little House on the Prairie steampunk?

Frontier (2016- )

I don’t even know what the fuck this is.

Frontier (2016- )

Okay, seeing more is NOT HELPING.

Frontier (2016- )

OHHHHH right the asymmetric French braid trend of the 18th century!

Frontier (2016- )

I’m sorry, what?

Frontier (2016- )



What offends you most about Frontier‘s take on the 18th century?



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About the author



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.

26 Responses

  1. laBelleNoire

    Hahahahahahgahahahahahahahaha! Based off this snark and these pics, I have GOT to see this! SO MUCH WTF! Plus, I’m curious what my fellow woman of color is up to.

  2. Elizabeth Harrison of Berkeley's Ghost

    I used to do my historical research about the 18th century as well as live near Williamsburg, Virginia – so no way in Hades am I watching this.

    I love to snark but….What even and HOW???!!!

  3. picasso Manu

    Little house on the Prairie goes Steampunk could be fun… I sort of love those last dresses, as long as they didn’t pretend to be 18th century. Having more trouble with the Elvis hairdo, TBH.

  4. Lynelle

    Ooo, I’m very tempted to watch this now. I could use a good laugh…

  5. Nzie

    Wow! After the pics in your first point it was just a disaster. Thanks for saving me the trouble of watching. I would maybe watch it if it were on tv but won’t go out of my way. To me it goes hand in hand with the whole idea that somehow “gritty” = authentic/historical/necessary for good storytelling. If they will wreck plots with that, then whether the costumes are accurate is almost a matter of chance.

  6. Queenie

    That’s not how I’d place red lace on a bustle under any circumstances, as she looks like she either had the worst period, or bloody diarrhoea. Possibly both. Has it been recycled from Ripper Street?

  7. Charity

    I struggled through the first season, got 5 minutes into the second and went — nope. May try it again sometime, you know, when Netflix runs out of BETTER SHOWS. :P

  8. Alison Campbell

    Trust me, the Scottish accents, and the officer’s English accent are way more offensive than the costumes. And that’s saying something!

  9. Donnalee

    I love how you all save me the fuss of watching things. The goth outfits in here are great, and to me, that is a successful series. OK? wink

  10. Tinny

    Based on that last photo; I don’t think she can hear you either through that dollar store fur hat…

    This seemed to start off quite nicely, average visual stupidity only, but then around #4 ran off screaming into some sort of delirium tremens of costuming. I am not nearly drunk enough to be looking at any of this.

  11. Susan Pola Staples

    Gee might watch. I need a ‘spot the metal grommets drinking game` flick. And also I’m in need of a period flick or series with POCs (I can’t keep binging on Belle – well, yes I can) and First Canadians done well.

  12. octopusgrrl

    Jeez louise… I can kinda understand older styles of fashion being worn in a frontier outpost, but future styles? Maybe they have a wormhole to the 1880s, or perhaps the dressmakers there are just incredibly fashion-forward :-P

  13. Adina

    Honestly, I think the pale blue dress with the red lace stuff is kinda cool. I would wear it.

  14. Kaite

    Tried to watch the first couple episodes, and couldn’t slog through it.

  15. Nancy

    I think they got confused and thought 18th century meant 18xx and not 17xx.

  16. Hawke

    Maybe they filmed them in opposite order and forgot to inform the designer that it was 18th century, not 1800s until half way through?

  17. themodernmantuamaker

    As a Canadian with a traditional Hudson’s Bay Blanket on their sofa I so wanted to be able to like this but after the first episode I had no real desire to continue. Not much about it grabbed me and I was put off by this current trend of making history “gritty” and the false ways they do it (I’m side-eyeing you, “Anne with an ‘E'”). Now that I see they also go right off the rails with costuming (and why is it the women’s costumes that are always so particularly egregiously bad?) I’m now torn between running far away and hate-watching it.

  18. Lisa

    I came here from your ‘heavy flow day’ comment on twitter. I laughed but I actually like that dress, but everything Katie wears is 19th century inspired. It does remind me of when I wore tan tights with lace patterns on them, and my boss thought I had a skin disease.

  19. Constance

    I wonder if costume designers sometimes say “yeah I meant for the whole film to be a clusterfuck of four or five centuries, plus some Forever 21 and Joanne’s…” once critical reviews of costumes come along…