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.
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.
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.
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.
The Borgias (2011-13)
THIS SHOW IS JUST PURE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE EYE CANDY AND I WANT EVERYTHING THAT HOLLIDAY GRAINGER WEARS IN IT. THE END.
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.
So, that’s my list! What’s it missing? Tell me in the comments!