Tulip Fever, Finally


Frock Flicks note: This is a guest post by our friend Allison Skewes, known as Aleit Pietersdochter in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she studies material culture of Low Countries and Germany in the 16th century. She was first out the door to see Tulip Fever and kindly provided this quick review!

The story behind Tulip Fever‘s release is nicely covered in The Atlantic. I had no idea that footage from the film was shown at Cannes back in 2015, but I did know a version starring Keira Knightley was planned in 2004 with Jude Law as love interest. But discount Leonardo Dicaprio, Dane deHaan, does a decent job as a penniless sexxxxxxxxxxy artist who seduces a rich lady — now played by Alicia Vikander — in 2017.

Tulip Fever (2017)

Catch that Leo vibe?

Since Tulip Fever had been teased for so long, I was super pumped to finally see it in theaters. I had seen the initial stills and trailer in July 2016, and Kendra wrote a great post breaking down the clothing in the trailer. In the time it took to come to theaters, I read the book, saw more trailers, resigned myself to the fact that this movie would never be seen on the big screen, and awaited the direct-to-DVD release it was probably going to get. (And maybe that DVD release will have a longer “director’s cut” since some reviews say the theatrical version got chopped too much — who knows?)

Tulip Fever (2017)

The film opens with a voiceover by the housekeeper Maria (Holliday Grainger), talking about tulip mania and how it came to be. She gives the date as 1634. As much as I love flowers and tulips especially, I didn’t care! Show me the costumes, which are designed by Michael O’Connor (2011’s Jane EyreThe Duchess, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day). According to Page Six, the film’s opening weekend grossed “less than 1.4 million, which barely covers the cost of the costumes.” I believe it.

The costuming is amazingly detailed. For example … I noted pins holding the sets in the ruffs together.

Tulip Fever (2017)

Those dots at the center of Cornelius’ ruff are actually pins holding together the ‘sets’ so they form a neat figure eight.

I saw more than one huik, which is like something like a cape typically worn in the Netherlands.

Tulip Fever (2017)

OK, so we couldn’t find a full screencap of a Tulip Fever huik — this is why we don’t review a lot of movies that are still in theaters!

1634, portrait of Emerantia Beresteyn by Pieter Claes, from Wikimedia Commons.

A huik is the black thing shown in this 1634 portrait of Emerantia Beresteyn by Pieter Claes, from Wikimedia Commons.

Spiral lacing was present, and I did not see any metal grommets. Only a few of the prostitutes still suffered from the great and terrible hairpin shortage.

Tulip Fever (2017)

Because, whores. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sophia (Alicia Vikander) and Maria had their hair up, like the grown-ass ladies they were. I can’t recall how accurate the hairstyles were to the 1630s, but the caps were pretty good! Technically, we should probably be seeing more drawn threadwork and whitework than what looks like blackwork and other embroidery techniques on the caps instead of on most of the shirts, but I’ll let it slide.

Tulip Fever (2017)

Close to perfect!

I don’t remember seeing an oorijzer (the ear iron that is important in helping keep the structure of the cap), but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Tulip Fever (2017)

The film has a nice mix of falling collars and ruffs, and certainly both were being worn at the time in the Low Countries. Sophia’s husband Cornelis (Christoph Waltz) is an older man and does wear both a ruff and a falling collar, but I believe he appeared more often in a ruff.

Tulip Fever (2017)

Overall the clothing is pretty spot on when it comes to showing the aesthetic, even when it comes to minor characters. In the scene below, Sophia’s dressmaker (right) and neighbor are commenting on the finished portrait. The scene gives a great nod to costumers as the dressmaker talks about the detail of the clothing. It might not have been intentional, but it feels like it.

Tulip Fever (2017)

Sophia and her dressmaker.

I’m a little bothered that the ladies above both appear to be wearing the exact same thing, but it’s based on an extant garment so whatever. I do love that these two women show how an outfit can be mixed up with different sleeves, a fur-lined loose gown (vlieger) or plain loose gown, and different skirts. Work that capsule wardrobe, honey.

1633, portrait of a lady, by Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy, from the Detroit Institute of Art.

Example of the different layers used in period — 1633, portrait of a lady, by Nicolaes Eliasz Pickenoy, from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Even though some of the extras and the minor characters (but not many) fell short in terms of clothing, when I looked at the scene overall I could have been looking at a Dutch genre painting.

1676, Peasants Merrymaking Outside an Inn, by Jan Steen, from The Leiden Collection.

This is later than the film’s period, but it gives a good idea of the overall look — 1676, Peasants Merrymaking Outside an Inn, by Jan Steen, from The Leiden Collection.

I think I even saw chicken baskets at one point! Bonus, the diversity in the cast was great — that is to say, it wasn’t 100% white people, which is something that tends to be an issue in period pieces.

Tulip Fever (2017)

David Harewood plays Mr. Prater, Amsterdam’s foremost tulip grower. His outfit is reminiscent of the portrait of Don Miguel De Castro, Ambassador from Kongo to Dutch Brazil, 1637, on the Medieval People of Color Tumblr.

Tulip Fever (2017)

This is a behind-the-scenes pic (yeah, that’s a cellphone), but just showing diversity among the nuns too.

However, apart from the costumes, the story felt a little boring. I can only take Christoph Waltz referring to his penis as a little soldier so many times. See it in the theaters if you can just for the 17th-century Dutch costumes — unless you have a sweet TV that shows the blackest of the costume drama blacks and are willing to rent this in HD when it comes out!

Tulip Fever (2017)

Most of these photos were lightened to show detail — because they were SO dark.


Frock Flicks note: Another SCA friend who studies 16th-century Dutch clothing, Margaret George, reviewed Tulip Fever this weekend on her blog, Clothing the Low Countries. Enjoy all the Netherland-y goodness in theaters while you can!


29 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    I still need to see film. But the knowledgeable post increases my desire to see it. Hopefully, it’s still playing next week when I get paid.

  2. Sarah Lorraine

    First, thank you to Allie for doing our dirty work!


  3. Kendra


    • Allison Skewes

      If it had happened once, I’d be like “ok, whatever. Some men have ideas about their penises” but it happened more than once and I found it super disgusting. I think it did happen in the book, but something about hearing it come from a person’s mouth versus reading it in print makes it more cringeworthy.

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    True. I would love to have her opinion on ‘The Girl With the Pearl Earring’.

  5. Author Jennifer Quail

    I am never going to unsee…whoever he is…as “Discount Leo DiCaprio.” Because when you’re right, you’re right.

    Also after photographing some Breton caps at the Gauguin exhibit I am now fascinated by ruffs, collars, and associated crimping/pleating/etc. I am going to have to see this for the costumes. (Not the tulips or the love story.)

  6. Sarah Walsh

    How was the script? The trailer made some of the dialogue sound very modern, but maybe some of that didn’t make it into the final cut??

  7. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    The costume porn alone will be worth the watch. Now if only Michael O’Conner can costume our next Baronial Event…….

    • Susan Pola Staples

      Think bigger, your ladyship. Say a crown tourney or the Pensic Wars.

      • Lady Hermina De Pagan

        I would never wear anything that fine at Pennsic War. The red dirt alone on the hems would ruin the gowns. Also my next event is a Royal Progress Baronial Investiture. Though A Market Placer at Birka would also be good.

        • Susan Pola Staples

          I agree about the dirt at Pennsic, but I was thinking about how he would dress the fighters showing their status and armour.

          I would love to see a Market Placer at Birka interpretation of his. What about an Elizabethan progress?

          And have fun at the Baronial Investiture. (‘Have fun storming the castle’ popped into my mind as I typed the line)

        • Kathleen Norvell

          I have a friend who wore blinding white Elizabethan to Pennsic just to show he could do it. I swear he did not have a spot on him at the end of the weekend. No idea how he did that. Magic, maybe.

  8. Susan Pola Staples

    Think bigger, Your Ladyship. Say a Crown Tourney and Coronation. Or the Pensic Wars.

  9. Susan Pola Staples

    Sorry for double post. My phone screen went blank. Then nothing.

  10. Kathleen Norvell

    The first night it was out, 4 of us ran to see it. Two of my friends do 17th century Dutch impressions in the mid-Atlantic area (great Dutch presence in Delaware, NY, NJ, etc.) and one of them is of Dutch ancestry. I occasionally join them but my clothing is more middle class. We loved it and drooled through the whole thing. The attention to detail — not just in the clothing, but in the whole look of the household — was amazing. The glassware and China! The furniture!

    I hope someone can get a screencap of the redwork nightgown Alicia Vikander wore. Just gorgeous. There were few quibbles, but mostly minor (like the gown that had ribbon ties on the back of the bodice???). I am so glad this film finally saw the light of day. It really is great costume porn.

    Dane deHaan did look like a very young version of Leonardo di Caprio, which was disconcerting, but otherwise he did a good job. I like Christoph Waltz and will forgive his “little soldier” remark because the whole purpose of the marriage was to procreate (part of the plot). And he really tried.

    I want a copy for my own library.

    • Elisa

      <>There were few quibbles, but mostly minor (like the gown that had ribbon ties on the back of the bodice???). <>

      Most likely the copied a gown changed to become a shroud without realising it was common to cut away the original lacing, or cut open the back, and put in ribbons to make the dressing of the corpse easier. :)

  11. skye

    I love that this movie (mostly) resisted the urge to telegraph sexiness in modern terms. We don’t need flowing hair and Renn Faire corsets to show us who the “hot one” is!

    (Also, the very first thing I did when my showing got out was google “frock flicks tulip fever”, even before telling my fiance when I’d be home. Had to have my costume fix.)

  12. Elisa

    I quite enjoyed it, and I loved the costumes! And you could tell they had used extant costumes… I’m sure most people don’t read accounts on 17th Century burial clothes, but I do, and the gown which was tied with a number of ribbon bows in the back, was a typical change to excisting clothes into shrouds to make the dressing of the corpse easier. I assume it would be rather impractical in reality- all those bows would snag into things as you moved along.

    But on the whole, that’s a very minor quibble. And if the prostitutes didn’t wear hairpins, at least they wore shifts! (Versailles, I’m looking at you.)