WCW: Michelle Pfeiffer


I don’t think of Michelle Pfeiffer as being a frock flicks actress, but surprisingly to me, she’s done a number of period films! Let’s count ’em down:


“The Bombshell” in Delta House (1979)

1979 Delta House

A follow up to Animal House and ostensibly set in 1962.


Ginny in Splendor in the Grass (1981)

1981 Splendor in the Grass

A remake of the 1961 film, and set in the late 1920s.


Stephanie in Grease 2 (1982)

1982 Grease 2

It’s the 1950’s, y’all. Courtesy of Barbie?


Isabeau in Ladyhawke (1985)

Ladyhawke (1985)

13th-century razor cut!

Ladyhawke (1985)

She is beautiful in a sack, though.

Ladyhawke (1985)

More sack!

Ladyhawke (1985)

Ooo she added a belt and knife to her sack!


Faith in Sweet Liberty (1986)

1986 Sweet Liberty

She’s an actress in a film-within-a-film about the American Revolution. Hence the hair, I guess.


Madame de Tourvel Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

She’s the pure, religious bourgeois woman who falls for the rake.

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

There’s some hints of blue eyeshadow and modern makeup, but otherwise she’s spot on!

1988 Dangerous Liaisons

Hat! Jacket!

1988 Dangerous Liaisons

This dress has always read as flimsy to me, but it’s still pretty.

Dangerous Liaisons 1988

THIS is perfect, especially because of all the accessories.

1988 Dangerous Liaisons 1988 Dangerous Liaisons 1988 Dangerous Liaisons 1988 Dangerous Liaisons


Lurene in Love Field (1992)

1992 Love Field

She’s a Dallas housewife obsessed with Jackie Kennedy in 1963.


Countess Olenska in The Age of Innocence (1993)

1993 The Age of Innocence

I’m always shocked at how good she is in this, which is because I think of her as a “modern” actress.

1993 The Age of Innocence

But she pulls it off!

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Perfectly curly bangs.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Ok this hair might be a bit much.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Elegance personified!


Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)

1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream

The film is set in the 1890s, but her character is the literal queen of the fairies.

1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream


Velma in Hairspray (2007)

2007 Hairspray

As the bitchy mother of an aspiring dancer in this 1960s musical.

2007 Hairspray


2007 Hairspray



Lamia in Stardust (2007)

2007 Stardust

Okay so she’s an evil witch, but this film mashes up medieval and bustle costumes.

2007 Stardust

Her “real” appearance.


Lea in Chéri (2009)

Chéri (2009)

She’s an older courtesan in 1900s Paris.

Chéri (2009)

And she gets an AMAZING wardrobe.

2009 Cheri



Elizabeth in Dark Shadows (2012)

2012 Dark Shadows

Okay so it’s 1972, post-our-cut-off-date, but I’m a completionist.

2012 Dark Shadows


Caroline in Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

She’s the “loud” rich American.

2017 Murder on the Orient Express


Queen Ingrith in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

2019 Maleficent- Mistress of Evil

100% fantasy, but I LOVED the Renaissance-inspired costumes.

2019 Maleficent- Mistress of Evil

She’s the baddie, and I love that they put her in whites and greys instead of black or red! And those pearls!


Betty Ford in The First Lady (2022)

2022 The First Lady

She’s great as the early-1970s first lady.

2022 The First Lady

Photo credit: Murray Close/SHOWTIME.

2022 The First Lady



What’s your favorite of Michelle Pfeiffer’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.

13 Responses

  1. Roxana

    I loved her as Isabeau in Ladyhawk! So beautiful and ethereal, yet tough as nails and as competent as her knight.

  2. MJ

    I just love her generally and I am so glad she’s experiencing a bit of a comeback (or it seems like it, since she clearly never went away), but I’ll be honest – her turn as Betty Ford is the absolute best I’ve ever seen her.

  3. Kat

    I feel like I should like a Midsummer Night’s Dream for the amazingly stacked cast but it also features one of my biggest pet peeves – taking Shakespeare, using just enough of his original wording to make it sound classical on the surface and then shoving in a bunch of discordant sounding “modern” lines. Stardust is a forever fave though; especially for De Niro’s sword fight while wearing a dress.

  4. Susan

    Favourites are Ladyhawke, Dangerous Liasons, Cheri, Midsummer Night’s Dream and First Ladies with Hairspray a close 2nd.

      • Mary

        You’re not wrong. I was just coming to comment on the same thing. Not that that changes the wardrobe being very 80s inspired, but it is more 60s than 50s.

  5. M.E. Lawrence

    While I thought she was very miscast in “Cheri” (despite the heavenly costuming and locations), I’ve really admired M.P. in certain roles, especially “Dangerous Liaisons.”

  6. Rochelle

    Dangerous Liaisons by a mile, then Ladyhawke. Plus I will admit to an affection for Grease 2 (“I’ll be yours in win-ter, when the snow is on the grou-hound…”). She was the first person who made me notice that people just keep getting more beautiful as they age.

  7. Mary

    Love Michelle in everything I’ve seen her in. Of her costume flicks I love Dark Shadows, Grease and Ladyhawke. I haven’t seen Dangerous Liasons (scurries of to hide in corner), but it is on my list. She was also the best part of that godawful Murder on the Orent Express, and she was amazing as Betty Ford.

  8. Nzie

    You forgot her role as Tzipporah, Moses’ wife in Prince of Egypt. … Just kidding. :-) I really like Michelle Pfeiffer as well but I haven’t seen many of these. She has a real elegance to her that I think works well in historical looks, even though outside of those works she does seem quite contemporary. One day I have to see Age of Innocence.

    I do see some line blurring with fantasy stuff… don’t get my hopes up that at some point you all might review LotR costumes the way you have some Disney flicks! :-)

    • M.E. Lawrence

      The whole world should see “Age of Innocence.” Michelle is good–not great–and Daniel Day Lewis is superb. A fine novel-into-film (and, yes, superb costumes as well).

  9. Sabine

    Oh no, the modern long-stemmed rose in Dangerous Liaisons hurts my eyes! How can they take such care with the clothes but ignore the rose?


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