Top Five Italian Renaissance Frock Flicks


I debated on titling this post “Top Five Frock Flicks Set Between 1490-1520” because the inclusion of Ever After (1998) made that problematic since it is technically set in France, and I know how much our readers LOVE calling us out on technicalities. But then, I realized that the costume designs for Ever After are mostly based on the classic “Italian Renaissance” silhouette (with the odd German design thrown in here and there), since French costume from the 1490s bore little resemblance to the designs in the film.

Margaret of Austria, by Jean Hey, 1490

Here’s what a fashionable young French princess would look like in 1490.


Michele da Verona, c. 1495

This is 1490s in Italy.

I think it’s pretty clear that Jenny Beavan was drawing inspiration for the film from Italy rather than France. I rest my case.

Now that we’ve got the technicalities out of the way, let’s enjoy the pretty costumes!



Ever After (1998)

Anyway, I love this film! It was the first time I had seen high-waisted dresses on a young woman that resembled my own figure at the time (as in Drew Barrymore has boobs and isn’t just a fence post of a girl-child that would look good in anything), and I realized this style could actually look flattering! There are so many gorgeous gowns in this film, I have a hard time picking my favorite, but these three are certainly my top choices.

1998 Ever After Ever After (1988) 1998 Ever After



Rosaline (2022)

I just reviewed this film, and it’s what got me thinking about writing this post! The costume designer Mitchell Travers really nailed the look of late 15th-century Italy, even though the dialog is very modern.

Rosaline (2022) Rosaline (2022)



Romeo and Juliet (1968)

I am almost contractually obligated to include Zefferrelli’s iconic take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in this list, but really … the costumes are amazing. Designed by Danilo Donati, who won an Oscar for Best Costume for his work on this film, they look like they were pulled from an Italian fresco.

Romeo and Juliet (1968) Danilo Donati, Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Romeo and Juliet (1968)

We will overlook the metal grommets, because at least they didn’t shy away from proper codpieces!



The Borgias (2011-13)


Holliday Grainger, The Borgias (2011-2013) 2011-13-Borgias Holliday Grainger, The Borgias (2011-2013)



Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Ok, so this one is set a bit later than the others, but I needed to include it because it is SUCH a great example of an era of Italian Renaissance costuming that is rarely done on film. The 1520s and 1530s got a bit weird with big sleeves, big hats, big skirts … just big everything, and it’s not something most actresses could pull off without getting drowned in yards of velvet. Elizabeth Taylor, however, is not “most actresses,” and despite being a busty petite woman, she wears the hell out of every single opulent costume, with gowns specifically designed for her by Irene Sharaff, while Danilo Donati was the overall costumer for the film.

Taming of the Shrew (1967)

This is perhaps the most iconic dress in the film, clearly based on the portrait by Lorenzo Lotto below.


Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1533

Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of a Woman Inspired by Lucretia (c. 1533)

Taming of the Shrew (1967) Taming of the Shrew (1967) Taming of the Shrew (1967)



So, that’s my list! What’s it missing? Tell me in the comments!

14 Responses

  1. Gray

    You concentrated on Liz’s costumes in “Shrew” which were designed by Irene Sharaff, I think. They are not as good as everybody else’s, which are Danilo Donati designs and amazing. Liz’s are OK.

  2. Al Don

    I think Il mestiere delle armi (The Profession of Arms) (2001) merits a mention. It’s one of the most faithful recreations of real events of the time. It is just outside of your cutoff – 1526. It’s a beautifully shot mood piece that’s a coda to the age of chivalry.

    I’m not terribly well versed on Renaissance clothing so I couldn’t comment on the particulars. So maybe that wouldn’t hold up? I wouldn’t know. I can say the armour is bloody fantastic. And the director chose actors whose faces are straight out of a Renaissance painting:

    An overlooked film but gets a lot of love among some online historical communities, and rightfully so.

    • Sarah

      It is available on Kanopy, an excellent free streaming service available through public libraries

  3. Brandy Loutherback

    Gimme everything in Ever After! Especially the blue dress she wears to the Monastery!

  4. Lily Lotus Rose

    All of the costumes in these specific pics and from what I remember of these movies are BEAUTIFUL!! When I saw Liz Taylor in the red dress from Shrew, my first thought was, “Queen of Hearts.” I don’t know about accuracy or the exact year, but I thought the costumes in Dangerous Beauty were beautiful.

    • Sarah

      Me too! I LOVE Dangerous Beauty, the stars, the music, and the courtesan costumes. I think that The Frock Flix Goddesses do not approve of Dangerous Beauty…too inauthentic? But I don’t care even. I still love it.

      Watching Romeo and Juliet is like taking a stroll through the Uffizi museum in Florence…pure timeless beauty all around you.

  5. ellid2

    Taylor’s corseting is so wrong it’s painful – they were clearly emphasizing her bustline, because that ain’t a 1520’s corset.

    • hsc

      That’s probably why Irene Sharaff was brought on board to do Liz’s costumes– Sharaff was old-school Hollywood, knew how to work with her figure, and would put her on best display.

      (Since Taylor was an uncredited producer on the film, she could make that demand.)

      Plus, Sharaff had done the costumes for three of Taylor’s four latest films– CLEOPATRA, THE SANDPIPER, and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (Pierre Cardin did the costumes for THE V.I.P.S)– and had won Oscars for the first and last of them.

  6. hsc

    I have to go with the two Danilo Donati films as my favorites in this, with an edge to ROMEO AND JULIET.

  7. Annick

    The main problem with The Borgia’s costumes is that most of Lucrezia’s wardrobe draws very heavily on the 1530-40 trends more than it does on the 1490s trends. Beautiful costumes they are, but not accurate whatsoever and more fitting for a show set 50 years later than “the Borgias”


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