WCW: Frances O’Connor


English/Australian actress Frances O’Connor has starred in some pivotal frock flicks, from 1999’s Mansfield Park through the recent series Mr. Selfridge. Well, she’s now directing a film about Emily Dickinson BRONTË!, so I thought it was time to look back at her career in historical movies and TV series!


Mansfield Park (1999)

As Fanny Price in this tweaked but not-as-bad-as-the-Billie-Piper-version adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel.

Mansfield Park (1999)

With her working-class birth family.

1999 Mansfield Park

In luuuuv.

1999 Mansfield Park

Dressed up fancy for a ball.


Madame Bovary (2000)

O’Connor plays title character Emma Bovary in this adaptation of the Flaubert novel about a French woman chafing against her middle-class life.

Hugh Bonneville, Madame Bovary (2000)

Just married, I presume?

2000 Madame Bovary

Men are not the answer, Emma.

2000 Madame Bovary

But opera glasses are a great accessory!

2000 Madame Bovary

This dress was later reused in He Knew He Was Right, Fingersmith, and Desperate Romantics. It’s a great example of an 1850s sheer dress.


The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

As Gwendolen Fairfax, one of two heroines in this sparkling Oscar Wilde adaptation.

2002 The Importance of Being Earnest

There’s a lot going on in this dress, and it WORKS.

2002 The Importance of Being Earnest

You really can’t go wrong with any kind of sportswear.

2002 The Importance of Being Earnest

Buttons! Stripey collar! Piping!


Windtalkers (2002)

A film about Navajo code talkers in World War II, so of course it makes sense that two white people take the lead roles?

2002 Windtalkers

If he were more of a frock flick actor, I’d have to write a post about why I can’t stand Nicolas Cage.


Timeline (2003)

Modern archaeologists go through a wormhole to 14th-century France. O’Connor plays one of them, the spunky one.

Timeline (2003)

No attempts are made at appropriate hair.

Timeline (2003)

But they are outfitted with nubby linen outfits!


Iron Jawed Angels (2004)

As real-life American women’s rights activist Lucy Burns (1879-1966) in this story about the fight for women’s suffrage.

Iron Jawed Angels (2004)

A nice array of 1910s costumes.

2004 Iron Jawed Angels

Although I feel like they prettied them up too much.

2004 Iron Jawed Angels

I’m not sure she’s pulling off that hat!


Piccadilly Jim (2004)

A romantic comedy whose costumes and settings meld the 1930s, 1950s, and 1970s.

2004 Piccadilly Jim

I initially read that this film is set in the 1930s, and I had allllll kinds of questions when I saw this pic.


Nova: Darwin’s Darkest Hour (2009)

The PBS science docu-series — this episode focuses on Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution. The concept is that Darwin explains his theories to his wife (played by O’Connor) as he awaits publication of his book.

2009 Nova - Darwin's Darkest Hour

This isn’t really a bangs era.

2009 Nova - Darwin's Darkest Hour

NOT PENNY’S BOAT! (Sorry, that was for the Lost fans)


Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012)

A culture clash between two families in 1969 Alabama.

2012 Jayne Mansfield's Car

O’Connor’s family is from London, and I’m guessing by this dress that they’re swinging.


Mr. Selfridge (2013-14)

A TV drama series about Harry Gordon Selfridge and his London department store, Selfridge & Co., from 1908-20. O’Connor plays Selfridge’s long-suffering wife Rose.

Mr Selfridge costumes

I do love a good 1910s suit!

Mr Selfridge costumes

Very pretty with all the appliques.

Mr Selfridge costumes


Mr Selfridge costumes


Mr Selfridge costumes

LOVE that hat!


Troy: Fall of a City (2018)

The story of the siege of ancient Troy. O’Connor plays Hecuba, queen and wife of King Priam of Troy.

Troy - Fall of a City

Apparently we wear washed silk slip dresses in ancient Troy?

2018 Troy- Fall of a City

Okay this is a little better….


Coming Soon: Emily

Nope, she’s not acting. This biopic of poet author Emily Dickinson BRONTË! (now in post-production) will be O’Connor’s directorial debut.


Great fan-front bodice! That’s Emma Mackey (Death on the Nile) as Emily.


The hair is appropriately styled!!



Which is your favorite of Frances O’Connor’s frock flick roles?


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.

12 Responses

  1. Natasha Rubin

    Frances O’Connor being cast as Hecuba perfectly exemplifies the problem with Troy: Fall of a City’s casting. You’re gonna cast Black actors as Achilles and Patroclus because you say you want diversity, and yet you’ve cast a white woman to play the queen of a place in modern-day Turkey? (And, looking over their casting list, nearly all the main Trojans seem to be played by white people. And not even from somewhere near Turkey, like Greece.)

    You can’t make me believe you actually care about diversity when you’re outright whitewashing characters and removing diversity from the original story. And yet I’ve seen almost no one point out this obvious hypocrisy, whether they were rushing to defend the racebending or criticize it.

    I think hopefully I shouldn’t have to say that my criticism here isn’t “Ew why are there Black actors in this”. It’s that before you think about racebending, you need to look at the diversity that already exists in a story and make sure you’re doing it justice. And if you fail to clear that bar, diversity and accurate representation were clearly not the actual priority.

    • Kendra

      I’ve also noticed that in productions like this, they end up casting white actors as the “home” team so to speak, and POC actors as the non-locals. So in this case, white people for Troy, non-white for non-Trojans.

      • Natasha Rubin

        Oh, fascinating point! I wasn’t even thinking about that because in the Iliad, the Greeks were the “home” team (at least nominally). But you’re absolutely right, the fact that Troy: Fall of a City switched to the Trojans’ perspective but then made them the white people is deeply suspect.

      • Natasha Rubin

        (I should clarify- obviously in the Iliad the setting was still Troy, but the Greeks are the “home team” in the sense that Homer was a Greek writing it from a Greek perspective.)

  2. micaela

    It’s Emily Brontë, not Dickinson. The moor’s a hint – hence the windsweot hair… or sth like that.

  3. Nzie

    I think the only one of these I’ve seen any of is Wind Talkers… it’s definitely from that era when they assumed no one would ever watch a movie about Navajo (or any indigenous person) unless a big (white) star was the actual main character. Don’t recall that much and probably wouldn’t watch again.

    However I am totally drooling over the sportswear in The Importance of Being Earnest and the suits in Mr. Selfridge. If I had more time and actually used fabric at the rate that I acquire it I would LOVE to develop my skills and just.. make that (or a regular-undergarment-compatible version) my professional wardrobe (at least October through March).

    • ktkittentoes

      The Importance of Being Earnest is just absolutely splendid.

  4. Colleen

    I feel like her hat in the last image for Mr. Selfridge is falling off her head.

  5. Lily Lotus Rose

    She’s a good actress with an interesting face. I’ve only seen two of the films listed here–Timeline and Mansfield Park. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Timeline (which I first saw in the theaters), so I’ll go with that as my fave. Even though it’s kooky, it’s really fun! Even so, her version of Mansfield Park has grown on me over the years–as has the novel. There are sooo many beautiful costumes here, I don’t even know where to begin. And…as I Lost fan, I appreciate the shout out, as well as any pick of Henry Ian Cusick. I’m glad to hear news of a female director! I’ll keep an eye out for the Bronte project!