Top Five 18th-Century Men’s Outfits in Frock Flicks


We tend not to analyze men’s historical costumes as much here on Frock Flicks because we’re less interested / knowledgable about the topic and because so many frock flicks do a weak job in the area. But the 18th century sometimes yields a nice-looking costume for the gents, and I want to shine a light on a few today.


Lestat’s Blue Suit in Interview With the Vampire (1994) – Costumes by Sandy Powell

Interview With the Vampire (1994)

Mostly seen from the waist up at a fancy party, this suit helps establish Lestat as an aristocratic character who still moves effortlessly through the mortal world, even though he’s a vampire.

Interview With the Vampire (1994)

The suit on display shows all the gorgeous details barely glimpsed onscreen.

Compare with extant coats like this, in a similar cut with heavy embroidery. Embellished trim took the place of embroidery in the film, probably due to budget or time constraints, and it achieves the same effect.

1790 - dress coat, at the V&A Museum.

1790 – dress coat, at the V&A Museum.


Valmont’s Pink Suit in Dangerous Liaisons (1988) – Costumes by James Acheson

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

This movie doesn’t explicitly state what year it’s set, but Valmont’s suit is earlier in the 18th century, judging by the cut.

Compare with this extant suit. Even though all three pieces match (unlike the contrasting waistcoat of Valmont’s), the cut is similar.

1750s - French suit at the V&A Museum

1750s – French suit at the V&A Museum.


John’s Flashback Suit in The Hunger (1983) – Costumes by Milena Canonero

David Bowie in "The Hunger" 1983

Am I including this almost entirely because it’s David Bowie in an 18th-c. suit? Yes, I am. And you’re welcome.

I wonder if this might be recycled from Barry Lyndon (1975), which Canonero designed and won a Best Costume Oscar for, along with co-designer with Ulla-Britt Söderlund. But she reportedly flew to Rome at her own expense, from the film set in London, just to buy fabric for a handkerchief for one of Bowie’s costumes in The Hunger. So maybe this was a new creation? Either way, it compares well with extant garments such as this delicately embroidered coat.

1792 - French coat, Met Museum

1792 – French coat, at the Met Museum.


Sir Percy’s Satin Suit in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) – Costumes by John Armstrong

1934 The Scarlet Pimpernel

Nope, it’s not historically accurate. But dayum, is it striking! The exaggerated-ness of everything — the collar, the ruffles, the tight fit — is evocative of the period & shows what a peacock men could be at the time.

Compare with this extant suit to see the clear inspiration, along with the deviations.

1787-92 - coat at the Met Museum

1787-92 – French coat at the Met Museum.



Wolfgang’s Brocade Suit in Amadeus (1984) – Costumes by Theodor Pistek

Amadeus (1984)

This movie’s costumes have taken a lot of flack from some other people at Frock Flicks HQ, but I’m here to say the menswear stands the test of time. Also, I still think the wigs are hella cute. Don’t @ me.

Amadeus (1984)

The costume on display at the Glamour: Famous Gowns of the Silver Screen exhibition. Photo by Maija Hallikas-Manninen.

The textiles in this costume are amazingly like the period (look here for more pix on display) and the cut is historically accurate as well. Compare with this extant brocade suit:

1760s-70s - men's suit at the Kyoto Costume Institute

1760s-70s – men’s suit at the Kyoto Costume Institute.



What are your favorite frock flicks for 18th-c. menswear?

11 Responses

  1. hsc

    They’re WAY over-the-top, but I really love the heavily-embellished costumes Danilo Donati made for Donald Sutherland as the title character in FELLINI’S CASANOVA. You showed them in great detail in the profile on Donati you did a while back, and the level of work that went into those blew me away!

  2. Gray

    The “Amadeus” suit is crap. The coat is pulled back too much, has no buttonholes and the fabric is butt-ugly. And these suits would have matching breeches. I suspect they were missing in the Kyoto museum’s example.
    If they manage to hit on a non-sophomoric costume in the wretched film, it was a happy accident.
    Same is true for “Valmont”.
    Pistek sux!
    (Next I shall tell you how I really feel.)

  3. Al Don

    The Hunger (1983) is such a good, weird film. The opening is one of favorite openings to a film – ever.

    And I remembered disparaging remarks about the costumes in Amadeus, but as far as I’m concerned, all is forgiven with filmmaking of that level.

  4. Roxana

    Up until the ever regretted introduction of shapeless trousers in the mid 19th century women were the leg watchers, eying muscular thighs and shapely calves with just appreciation and did men ever enjoy them looking!


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