In the past, there were a lot of movies that were not just about time in general but about specific times in history. The people who make these movies have to work hard because people expect them to be true to history, especially when it comes to outfits. If there are small mistakes in the characters’ clothes, viewers will not be able to get into the mood of the time, and they will leave bad feedback after seeing the movie.
We at Bright Side looked at movies where the outfits were amazing and true to the time. Also, we were curious about what the designers used as inspiration when they first sketched out the outfits.
Alexandra Byrne, who won an Oscar for her costumes, carefully looked through old patterns, records, and fabrics from the Renaissance to learn what colors, fabrics, and clothing items were popular in the 1800s.
Many people wrongly think that people in those times wore dark and dull clothes. But the wealthy people of that time did everything they could to show off their good taste and social standing through their clothes. They liked bright colors and fabrics with a lot of texture. So, Byrne set out to break this common misconception by making outfits in a candy-colored color palette, from soft pink to bright ocher.
Byrne also got ideas from museum displays. For example, the pale pink Spencer that Emma was wearing was a popular style during the Regency era. Also, guys were the only ones who wore this short blazer in the 1790s, but women soon started to wear it, too. Spencers helped girls tired of wearing white dresses, which were very popular in the first quarter of the 1800s, find new ways to wear them.
Emma and other female characters wear chemisettes, which were popular then. These were thin shirts with a lot of frills at the neck. Girls wore them over their skirts during the day to cover their necks and necklines.
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This light dress is another example of how well thought out the outfits were. At a party in the movie, Emma shines in a bright silk dress from the 1810s that is an exact copy of the original. The group of designers did their best to make a copy of the intricate pattern on the top and bottom of the garment.
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The movie won the Oscar for “Best Costume” in 2020. Even though Jacqueline Durran got some facts wrong about the past, there were some scenes where the clothes were painfully true to the time.
Little Women (2019)
For example, Meg’s bright green scarf might seem out of place at first because a girl her age could not buy such expensive clothes in such bright colors. But in the 1850s, they began making synthetic colors on a large scale in factories. And colors like royal blue, bright purple, and green, which Meg wears, became available to ordinary people as well.
Deborah Lynn Scott did a great job as the movie’s wardrobe designer, and she won an Oscar for it. Because the story was based on a well-known historical event, the director asked her to show the period correctly and in every detail. The costume artist did research on the time and read a lot of books about etiquette to find out what clothes people in high society would wear in public.
So, when we first see Rose on screen, she is wearing a striped outfit for after lunch that looks almost exactly like the clothes in French fashion mags from 1912. A woman who was going in the second half of her day should have worn this kind of outfit.
Scott also put a lot of thought into what the characters were wearing under their clothes. In 1912, women did not wear bras but were expected to have a clear shape when they went out in public. So, our character, Kate Winslet, had to wear corsets all the time.
The Duchess (2008)
In 2009, a British costume artist, Michael O’Connor, was awarded an Oscar for his work. He made 30 clothes for Keira Knightley, who played the Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Cavendish. At one point in history, this historical person was the most popular among the English upper class.
The movie takes place from 1714 to the middle of the 1800s, a pretty long period. And the outfits in the movie show how fashion changed during this period. For example, the Duchess’s wedding dress was clearly based on the fancy French clothes from the end of the 1770s. Even the flowers on the skirt match in this picture. Note that the dresses have the same panier, a framework made of whalebone worn under skirts to give them the right shape and support the weight of the heavy clothes.
Georgiana was the first woman to use an ostrich feather to make a fashionable ornament. The Duchess wore a feathered hat with a wide brim and stood for the artist. After that, more and more people in England wanted to wear this hat. The outfit designer had to consider this when making Keira Knightley’s clothes.
The outfits are the real stars of this movie version of the book. Bina Daigeler, a fashion designer, spent three weeks traveling through China. While there, she learned about the country’s past and was inspired by the clothes from the Tang Dynasty (the seventh to the tenth centuries). Women wore dresses with long sleeves and a high waist during those times. Also, the clothes of this time were known for their bright colors. Officials wore purple, blue, and red outfits, while other dresses had up to five colors at once.
The most remembered part of the movie might be Mulan’s outfit when she goes to see the matchmaker. With a hanfu, a traditional Chinese dress, Daigeler made the famous look come to life in real life. It is covered with hand-stitched embroidery of dragons, butterflies, and magnolias. Almost 4 weeks were needed to make it.
Do you like to watch movies and TV shows about the past? Which do you think has the most true costumes from the past?