Tulip Fever (2016) Trailer Commentary


The first trailer, and first decent look, at Tulip Fever came out very recently (the movie has a July 15, 2016, US release date). This is a film adaptation of a fiction novel by Deborah Moggach and directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl). It stars current historical film “it” girl Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair, Anna KareninaThe Danish Girl), along with Christoph Waltz (Water for Elephants)Dane DeHaan, and Holliday Grainger (The BorgiasLady Chatterley’s Lover). So far I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen of the costumes, so I thought it was time to take a deep dive!

The costumes are designed by Michael O’Connor (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Duchess, the 2011 Jane Eyre, and The Invisible Woman).

Here’s a summary of the plot according to Entertainment Weekly: “Tulip Fever takes place in 17th-century Amsterdam, revolving around the budding relationship between an artist (Dane DeHaan) and a married woman (Alicia Vikander) after the former is commissioned by the latter’s husband (Christoph Waltz) to paint her portrait. The lovers then gamble on the booming market for tulip bulbs as a way to raise money to run away together.”

To be more specific, the novel is set in the 1630s, which is an interesting era in fashion. It’s right in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque, and the Dutch were particularly slow when it came to this transition. We’re about 30 years earlier than Girl With a Pearl Earring, for example.

Interesting side note: You can read about the portrait that inspired the author in this article from auction house Christie’s.


The Tulip Fever Trailer


Let’s Talk Tulip Fever Costumes!

I haven’t read the book, so any plot points are total guesses. Also, this is clearly going to be an authentically lit film (i.e., dark) — I had to lighten most of the screencaps so we could see what’s going on!

2016 Tulip Fever

Alicia Vikander plays Sophia, and it appears that she spends her teenage years in a convent. Here she is staring out to sea…

2016 Tulip Fever

But we quickly switch to young girls in simple dress at a convent.

2016 Tulip Fever

Now we can finally see something! Sophia (Vikander, left) is wearing a jacket with a tabbed skirting and a very practical linen cap. Judi Dench plays a nun (center). The younger girl on the right is presumably a novice or student. She has a brown wool (?) jacket with spiral lacing in front, a high-necked chemise, and a similar cap to Sophia’s. Compare the young girl’s bodice neckline and high-necked chemise…

The Love Letter (detail) by Vermeer, 1667-8.

…with the servant in this painting (granted, about 30ish years later) by Vermeer. The Love Letter (detail) by Vermeer, 1667-8.

2016 Tulip Fever

Back to the beach, in what looks like similar clothes. There’s no decoration whatsoever on Sophia’s clothes — very “plain and simple.”

2016 Tulip Fever

Sophia appears to be leaving the convent here. She’s got a linen neckerchief pinned high and tight on her throat in a way that echoes Dench’s nun’s wimple above.

2016 Tulip Fever

Christoph Waltz plays Cornelis Sandvoort, Sophia’s husband. He’s clearly got some money, as the lace on his collar is nice and those tassels are obviously about fashion, not function.

2016 Tulip Fever

Sophia has come up in the world! Check out the blackwork embroidery on her chemise. She also has either a starched or wired coif with lace.

Cornelia Claesdr Vooght by Frans Hals, 1631

Here is a Dutch lady of the same era wearing a very similar cap. Cornelia Claesdr Vooght by Frans Hals, 1631.

2016 Tulip Fever

Holliday Grainger plays Maria — a servant, I assume. Her clothing is also very practical, but less covered-up than Sophia’s convent wear. Note the lacing down the front of the dress bodice, and how her chemise is opened up at the neck and the sleeves are rolled up — she’s clearly been working.

2016 Tulip Fever

Dane DeHann plays Jan Van Loos, the painter. He’s obviously not wealthy — his doublet is very practical. That being said, he has an extra, decorative collar on his doublet, which has some blackwork embroidery at the edges, so he’s not dirt poor. Where’s his hat?

Portrait of a silversmith by Thomas de Keyser, 1630

This Dutch guy is clearly of a much higher station, but nonetheless his outfit reminds me a bit of Jan’s. Portrait of a silversmith by Thomas de Keyser, 1630.

2016 Tulip Fever

Sophia’s skirt silhouette is much bigger than at the convent.

2016 Tulip Fever

A vague glimpse of the back of Sophia’s gown. There are wings that arch from her shoulders towards the small of her back.

2016 Tulip Fever

Here we can see a bit more of Sophia’s ensemble. Her kirtle (underdress) looks like a printed cotton, which makes sense — the Dutch were one of the first to import these and they were wildly popular. Over that, she has what I think is a loose gown, with tabs at the shoulders and bands of trim on the sleeves. Notice also her wide, white cuffs with lace.

Cornelia Claesdr Vooght by Frans Hals, 1631

Let’s look at this image again, but now focus on the outfit… which is SO Renaissance-y! She has a high-necked doublet, and a sleeveless fur overgown. Cornelia Claesdr Vooght by Frans Hals, 1631.

2016 Tulip Fever

Cornelis all dressed up for the portrait. He’s got a HA-UGE ruff, plus some kind of cape or over-robe in a woven pattern, and a hat. Jan’s doublet is long, past the hips — like that portrait I posted above.

2016 Tulip Fever

Sophia coming downstairs in her posing gown.

2016 Tulip Fever

This dress is waaaaay more luxe, and also waaaay more fashion-forward, than the rest of her wardrobe. That super high waistline is totally correct for this era (and one of the reasons why I don’t get excited about mid-17th century women’s wear).

2016 Tulip Fever

Here’s one of the two stills that have been released for this film, in which we can see the posing outfits more clearly. Sophia’s dress has slashed sleeves (this is the original style that was copied in the kind of fancy dress worn by Mary Hawkins in Outlander!). Her neckline is low, the skirt is very full (probably cartridge pleated), and it’s a much less Renaissance and more Baroque silhouette than the rest of her wardrobe. Notice also the wide collar and cuffs with lace, and the purple sash and bows at the elbows and bust.

Cornelis’s outfit almost looks Renaissance, which is right for this period in the Netherlands. Notice the woven patterned fabric — very chic — and all the points (hanging ribbons with aiglets, metal crimpy tubes at the ends) that tie his doublet to his pants. His ruff is super full, plus he’s got wide lace cuffs.

Portrait of Elisabeth of Bohemia, 1636

One of two examples of where fashion is headed, with lower necklines, higher waistlines, and fuller sleeves. Portrait of Elisabeth of Bohemia, 1636.

Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia by Gerard van Honthorst, 1642

Another image showing where fashion is headed. Note how we’re now looking at a gown rather than Renaissance-style doublet, and overgowns are mostly gone. Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia by Gerard van Honthorst, 1642.

Portrait of a father and his son by Thomas de Keyser, 1631

This is awfully colorful for the Dutch in this era (I think the whole Protestant and merchant-y thing is why they tended to prefer black), but it shows more clearly just how Renaissance-y men’s clothing still was. Of course, the doublet skirts and trousers are longer than in the 16th century, and there are other subtle differences. Portrait of a father and his son by Thomas de Keyser, 1631.

2016 Tulip Fever

Getting into bed. Both have embroidered shifts — Cornelis’ in black. Notice how the embroidery is focused on the parts of the garment that might show, but still covers more than would actually show — conspicuous consumption!

2016 Tulip Fever

Sophia’s shift has redwork embroidery AND lace.

2016 Tulip Fever

Back to the posing outfit. Here you can see those slashed sleeves a bit more.

2016 Tulip Fever

Sophia dressed very formally, but back in that more traditional, Renaissance-esque style. Notice how her doublet bodice comes up high, the overgown with hanging sleeves, and how full is her ruff.

Portrait of a lady by Thomas de Keyser, 1632

This Dutch lady is far more luxe, but you can see similarities in the long, stiff, pointed bodice and the surcoat/overgown. Portrait of a lady by Thomas de Keyser, 1632.

2016 Tulip Fever

Cornelis in another, less full and more widely pleated, ruff. I question his hairstyle — looks very modern to me.

2016 Tulip Fever

Sophia talking to Maria, I think. Her gown is in a dark mulberry and black woven patterned fabric, and check out the drawn threadwork on her chemise!

2016 Tulip Fever

Praying — I assume these are family members? I like how the lady on the left is wearing a partlet, a neckline fill-in and collar that extends down over the bodice in front and back. It could be worn under the dress, or on top like it is here.

2016 Tulip Fever

Looks like Sophia’s cap is actually TWO caps, the under one with blackwork and lace. More conspicuous consumption!

2016 Tulip Fever

The one other still image that’s been released from this film — Cressida Bonas who plays Mrs. Steen.

Tulip Fever (2016)

Here’s the same image, but lightened so we can see the detail. Check It Out!! She has a broad, long bodice in yellow satin, with a gazillion tabs and tons of lace trim. Her sleeves are slashed down the front (with puffs of taffeta showing through), and trimmed with rows of gold braid. She’s wearing a black overgown with wings at the shoulder and hanging sleeves. She has BOTH a wide lace collar, AND a huge ruff … and more lace on her cuffs.

What is the most fabulous about Mrs. Steen’s outfit? The yellow bodice is clearly copied from this extant bodice from the Abegg-Stiftung Museum in Switzerland:

2016 Tulip Fever

Mrs. Steen’s costume, compared with the real early 17th century bodice exhibited at the Abegg Stiftung Museum, Switzerland.

After that point in the trailer, it’s mostly people getting their clothes off and non-costumey shots, so I stopped screencapping!


Are you excited to see Tulip Fever? What’s your take on the costumes?


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.

20 Responses

  1. mmcquown

    Black was a very rich colour in the 17th century — which is why the Puritans never wore it. Over all, the still look very promising. As I understand it, the flow of fashion was from France to the Low Countries to England, with slight modifications. The best marker for the differences is the drums on the table legs: in France, they are slender and graceful; in the Low Countries, much more substantial, and in England in between the two. After the 1640s, the men’s fashions get really awful leading into the extremes of the Restoration, then the longer lines of the Baroque and Rococo.
    Over all, the pics look very promising

    • AshleyOlivia

      Puritans didn’t wear black? What color did they wear?

      • mmcquown

        Browns, grey, rust, dark green, particularly fond of a shade called ‘murrey,’ which is probably a variation of mulberry, usually in wool or linen. Some more wealthy might go for more opulent fabric, but little ornamentation. Best novel for descriptions is “Mist Over Pendle,” if you can find it. The heroine, raised in a strict Puritan family, finds many ways to circumvent the dress code. Set against the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612.
        At least this was the case with English Puritans; I can’t speak so much for the Continent. But — the Spanish Catholics seemed to like black a lot, reason enough for the Puritans to avoid it.

  2. Kelly

    I like how a lot of scenes look like dutch paintings from the era. Really excited about this film (although Christoph is starting to get type cast as the Bad Old Husband).

    • AshleyOlivia

      Honestly, I find Christoph far more appealing than the guy from One Direction* they have playing the love interest.

      *(A joke. I know he isn’t really from One Direction… though he could have a second career as an impersonator.)

      • Kelly

        I know.

        At least it’s less weird to lust after him in 17th century dutch attire than an SS uniform.

  3. Susan Pola

    I am excited about the movie. Vermeer is a genius and so is de Keyser in his portraits. I love the period. And it, the era, is more than Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnon in Fashion. The Dutch were a fascinating people and culture in the early 17th century. Their merchanteers sailed everywhere (NY was originally settled by them), brought back the best swag (tulips, coffee, jewels, spices etc.) It – the success and wealth were reflected in the clothes. Check out more portraits of de Keyser, van Dyke, and even Rubens.

    Black, true black was an expensive fabric for the dyes. Check out the Elizabethan portraits of QEI, Leicester, Bess of Hardwick and that vixen, Lettice Countess of Essex. If you were anyone from about 1550-1630, you wore black in your portrait.

  4. Rebecca Maiten

    I need that blue dress! I hadn’t heard of this movie till this post, but now I’m super excited for it. The costumes look gorgeous!

  5. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    I have a colleague/fellow fashion historian and curator who REALLY rates Michael O’Connor and thinks he is probably one of the BEST historical film costumers out there – to the extent that he has said that if Michael O’Connor does something he isn’t familiar with, he assumes that O’Connor must know or have seen something he hasn’t. And these do look like O’Connor has hit the ball out of the park again.

  6. Kathleen Norvell

    I can hardly wait for this one. I have a 17th century reenactor friend who is of Dutch ancestry and when he was younger, had long red hair. He looked like he walked right off a cigar box.

    One other note about black clothing: black was a “fugitive” color, which meant that it would fade with wear or washing. One of the reasons the 16th century Spanish nobility wore all-black clothing to show that they could afford to have the fabric re-dyed or could throw away the clothing and buy more. Black clothing was a symbol of wealth

  7. saulemiorta

    I’m very excited for this movie. Thanks for the write-up, and the analysis of the costumes! It looks great so far. My only comment would be that Sophia’s cap (white with the blackwork one underneath) doesn’t seem to have an ear-iron underneath, which is how these caps were kept in place. (at least if it’s the same type as in the painting). But that’s just nit-picking because I like the ear-irons.

  8. Caroline Macafee

    I visited the Abegg Stiftung last year. It’s reachable by public transport (train and postbus) from Bern, and the postbus picks up at closing time and also one hour before. It’s only open for a few hours a day, but it’s a major collection of rare and beautiful textiles, and well worth a visit for anybody who can make it. Interpretation is in German, but they can lend you an English-language catalogue to go round with. They also publish a range of books in German on their collections. There’s no cafe, just drinks on a trust basis, but there are picnic tables outside. No photography.

  9. Karen Lavoie

    Kendra, so glad you reviewed this. I was an exchange student in northern Belgium in 1972, and had the opportunity to drink in lots of portraiture with these styles, and although I don’t know much about it–or re-creating it–, just love the visuals. Thanks for pointing out the chemise embroidery details and the lace “everythings.” Would you believe I had the opportunity at age 18 to take lace making classes in Bruges? Unfortunately, couldn’t do it due to circumstances, but now I just gnash my teeth thinking about it. Will be sure to see this movie–but in Los Angeles, it could come and go very quickly. Great review! See you at CoCo, I hope.

  10. Cecilia aka Mme. du Jard

    Just to mention it: the bodice is not a property the Abbeg-Stiftung. It is in the collection of the “Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt” it had been exhibited this summer during the exhibition “Chic!” which goes until 16th october. I don’t know it these textiles will be on permanent display after.

  11. Cheryl from Maryland

    European Baroque Art Historian and amateur seamstress here. Just found your website this month; it is fabulous. However, while I am excited for this film (which I hope is somewhat based on the book TulipoMania), some of the choices of frocks and decor make no sense to me. Very few upper middle class married women in pre1660 Netherlands would have had their portrait painted with a bare neck and visible decollectage — all of the examples you cite are of Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen, so royalty. The worse error is in decor – the use of Titan’s Danae and Cupid for a painting on the wall. NO WAY an erotic 16th C Italian painting (Titan did 5 versions, and they were all in royal collections) would be in an upper middle class Netherlandish house. To compare, Rembrandt’s version, done in 1636, is so much modest. Wish they had selected that one. But, love, love, love Mrs. Steen’s black and gold outfit. So close to many Franz Hals portraits.

    • Rosanna from Rosies Art

      Adding a bit more background to the Dutch wearing a lot of black due to our (I’m Dutch) Calvinistic/Protestant beliefs at the time… That is a common misconception. This was the Golden Age for the Netherlands and the rich where a lot less pious than you might think (kinda like the British during Victorian times). Nowadays, fabrics are dyed black with chemicals. That is because true black fabric dye cannot be made with purely natural resources; fabrics just turn out grey. The only way a (kinda) black fabric could be achieved is by using many consecutive sessions of dying the fabric in indigo from the Orient. Since the Dutch had a monopoly in the trade with several Asian countries, wearing black (especially in portraits, where you would wear your Best Outfit) is like a ‘90s rapper wearing all of his bling in a videoclip. In a way, I can also imagine it was a bit of a f* you to the Catholic Spanish, who were pretty much our rivals in trade but that is just speculation on my side.

      • saffireblu

        I believe either the Italians, or the Spanish had a breed of sheep that grew naturally black wool, that was highly prized.
        The process of ‘mordanting’/ fixing natural dyes (what they had to do before the advent of chemical dyes) is mentioned in a book on herbs & their uses, that I have- it has like 4 pages dedicated to herbal dyes; iron was used to darken or ‘sadden’/ dull colours, whereas alum was used to brighten – one of the herbs mentioned to give black, I believe is bearberry- it gives a violet grey with alum, & black with iron- I read that the reason there aren’t many pre-18th century examples of embroidery with black thread & fabric, is because the iron necessary to fix the dye would eventually eat away the fibres- & as others have said, there was also over-dyeing indigo as an option.