WCW: Joan Allen


I miss seeing Joan Allen in my frock flicks. She hasn’t been in one since 2009’s Georgia O’Keefe, and in fact doesn’t seem to have done any credited screen work between 2016 and 2021! (She did a TV miniseries called Lisey’s Story last year with Julianne Moore and Clive Owen). I still remember being absolutely blown away by Joan’s performance in The Crucible. So, let me offer this Woman Candy Wednesday as an offering to the frock flicks gods: send us more Joan Allen!


Evergreen (1985)

A TV miniseries about a Polish girl who arrives in America in 1909. I think Allen plays her daughter.


1940s? NBC/courtesy Everett Collection


Look at that baby face! NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection


Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

A modern woman is transported back to her senior year of high school in 1960. Allen plays one of her best friends, Maddy.

1986 Peggy Sue Got Married

Joan looks the most 1960 out of all of them!

1986 Peggy Sue Got Married

Oh god, that hair + glasses = dowdy


Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

A biopic about a man trying to market an incredibly safe car he has created in 1948. Allen plays his wife, Vera.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)


Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)


Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Okay, not quite as great when it’s wrinkled but still… (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Is this her “church singer” look? (c) Paramount


Ethan Frome (1993)

An adaptation of the 1911 novel by Edith Wharton, set in dreary New England, which I had many arguments about with my high school English teacher (I hated it and refused to analyze it). Allen plays the sickly wife of a man who falls in love with her cousin.

1993 Ethan Frome



Nixon (1995)

Allen plays former First Lady Pat Nixon, wife of President Richard Nixon, in this biopic.

1995 Nixon

Historically accurate levels of booze!

1995 Nixon

It’s the 1970s, so it could be much worse.


The Crucible (1996)

The set-in-late-seventeenth-century-New England witchcraft play by Arthur Miller (1953) and really more about communism than witchcraft. Allen plays Elizabeth Proctor, a woman trying to save her philandering husband from accusations of witchcraft.

1996 The Crucible

Check out that quilting and thread eyelets!

1996 The Crucible

So it’s not glamorous, but it does look real.


Pleasantville (1998)

Two siblings are trapped in a 1950s TV show, set in a perfect town, but they help the residents come alive and “colored.” Joan plays Betty, one of the first townspeople to do so.

1998 Pleasantville

Straight out of a 1950s catalogue, especially that contrast neck detail!

1998 Pleasantville

I LOVE this style, with the cropped jacket.

1998 Pleasantville

Allen can sure rock the red lipstick.


The Mists of Avalon (2001)

THIS BOOK WAS PIVOTAL TO MY YOUTH, but the TV miniseries sadly failed to live up to the source material. Okay, and maybe I was also a decade or two older. Someday I will slog through the whole thing just to rant about it! It’s a feminist/pagan retelling of the Arthurian myth. Allen plays Morgause, Arthur’s schemey half-sister.

Mists of Avalon (2001)

Total platonic ideal of medieval dress, including all the hair!

Mists of Avalon (2001)

I will give major props for the pretty.

Mists of Avalon (2001)

I was surprised to see Allen as a redhead, but it works!

Mists of Avalon (2001)

I was more surprised to see her be eeeeeevil, but she did pull it off.


Georgia O’Keeffe (2009)

A TV biopic about the modernist painter who worked in the American southwest.

2009 Georgia O'Keeffe

Hence skulls and desert.

2009 Georgia O'Keeffe

With one of O’Keefe’s famous flower paintings.


Which is your favorite of Joan Allen’s frock flick performances?


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.

13 Responses

  1. Heather Ripley

    Don’t make me chose Kendra!

    Okay, okay…for me Pleasantville for her outstanding transforative performance. She is so convincing as a woman who slowly decides to embrace life and listen to her emotions and desires. Then a tie for second place with Peggy Sue and Tucker, with great clothes for all three. Though The Crucible was an outstanding film with an equally outstanding cast.

    I need to find a few more of the films you shared to complete my Joan Allen fix. And yes, please Joan, make some more films!!

    • Saraquill

      Seconding Pleasantville. Bits of it have aged poorly, but it’s still a strong overall story.

  2. susan l eiffert

    She’s a brilliant actress. She inhabits her roles and you don’t see her “acting”. She’s right up there with the lauded Meryl Streep in talent (and anyone else) and I’m sad to see all those nominations and no wins. I sometimes confuse her with Cherry Jones who is another great but underrated actress. Does she qualify for Frock Flicks?

  3. gail

    Add me to those who loved reading “Mists of Avalon” but was unimpressed w the series…

    • Sarah Jones

      Unimpressed with the series, having watched it before reading the books. It was, however, one of my first costume crushes once I started sewing.

  4. Boxermom

    My mom loved Ethan Frome, but I just thought it was depressing. Major props to Joan Allen, though. :)

  5. MJ

    Joan Allen was THE frock flick actress of my teen years – we actually watched “The Crucible” and “Tucker: A Man and His Dreams” in my high school English and economics classes respectively, and I think I saw “Pleasantville” in the theater three times. I do love her in “The Crucible” in particular.

  6. LadySlippers

    What? No The Notebook? It’s a cheesy movie but she’s great in it. (And one of the few movies that’s a better movie than it is a book).

    She’s one of many actresses that gets overlooked. She’s a damn fine actress and should get a lot more attention than she has.

  7. M.E. Lawrence

    Oh, goddess, “Mists of Avalon”–such a compelling book, despite the erratic style. I enjoyed parts of the telly series, including most of the cast, although I kept envisaging Linda Hunt as Vivian. But the priestess’s doeskin (?) tunics were pretty bad, as I recall–fresh out of wardrobe. (Being royalty, of course, the female leads could get away with beachy hair.)

  8. Natalie Ramirez Weyermuller

    Wait isn’t she the mom in The Notebook?!?!?! That totally needs to make the list.

  9. SarahV

    Not a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think her Joan Allen’s faaaaaaaaaabulous, smartly tailored blue suit in Pleasantville.

  10. Sarah Coombs

    I think I’ve only seen her in Pleasantville and Mists of Avalon, but I thought she did a great job in both! I agree that “Mists” didn’t live up to the scale of the novel (it was just….a too watered-down version of the book across the board), but that flaw wasn’t on account of the acting talent involved, which I felt was all really solid for the main female roles (Morgaine, Vivian, Gwenwyfar, Igraine, and Allen’s role Morgause). I loved the costumes too! Occasionally the fabrics are so unlikely for the period that it catches my eye and bothers me a teeeny bit, but like…..King Arthur stories are myth and magic, the story isn’t true-to-period anyways so the costumes don’t need to be either. They helped tell the story wonderfully.

  11. Karen K.

    She is so great in everything and so underrated, it’s maddening. I think her favorite of the frock flicks is Pleasantville, she is SO PERFECT in the 1950s!

    Now I need to go back and see all her movies that I missed. I actually love the book Ethan Frome, but I read it when I was nearly 40 which I’m sure makes a difference. I can absolutely see why teenagers would hate it, it’s infuriating because it just makes kids hate classics.