Are the costume designs accurate on television period dramas

The pedant isn’t able to examine a historical costume without looking at every single detail. Their comments are a remark like, “would that type of embroidery really have been used in 1683?” or “I’ve never seen that kind of trimming on an 1812 pelisse!” It’s all there.

Swooners, On the other hand, are usually unaffected by the accuracy. They’re content to soak in the majesty and enjoyment that costumes provide in the event that they don’t get broken. The pedants are also able to bask, but only when they’re safe in the knowledge that they’re watching the historical precision.

No matter what your opinion, the costumes of period dramas are often authentic and comparable with the “real thing”, but sometimes they’re fake. To understand the authenticity, let’s look at two popular period dramas, Outlander The Crown and The Crown.

Outlandish design

Outlander is a time-traveling adventure that is told through Claire Randall, a married combat nurse in the 1940s, who is inexplicably taken back to 1740s Scotland. Highland combatant Jamie Fraser entices her.

In the plethora of fashion choices and costumes, one particular outfit of Claire’s – an orange, silk floral dress that, with the exception of its pannier skirt, has come straight from an old fashion magazine from the 1950s.

Caitriona Balfe plays Claire Randall in that brown silk dress. Starz Entertainment, IMDb

Its vibrant and bold floral print, as well as the elegantly fitted bodice, is a tribute to 20th-century designers Dior as well as Balenciaga. In this way, this dress is unlikely to be seen back in 18th century fashion or even at the French court in which a portion of Outlander’s tale takes place. The similarity to 1950s-style couture is significant as it reflects the luxury that Claire could not afford during her wartime life.

The hint at a post-war future that viewers know is right in the near future is an indication of the designer of Terry Dresbach’s design: Claire is a “modern” woman who is not afraid to be noticed and makes her opinion public.

Perhaps the most striking historical link is between the dress worn by Claire and the robe de cour, or “grand habit.” It was a gown that was only worn in court in the 17th century with its stiff-boned bodice with lace around the back (an unusual design at the time) as well as a skirt with a separate train and sleeves of lace. The dress also had a low collar, which was worn over the shoulders in the fashion of gowns from the late 17th century, and all of this describes the wedding dress quite closely.

Claire (Caitriona Balfe) in her wedding gown with Jamie (Sam Heughan) Dress for Court 1750. Starz Entertainment, IMDb; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The gown de cour was a symbol of elegance and prestige, so it’s clear the reason why Dresbach was attracted to the style. She combined this with contemporary designs for embroidery, as seen with the leaves of metallic that float across the front of her skirt, as well as a more rounded silhouette as compared to the original large and flat 18th-century Hoop skirt. At its largest, this is barely wider than the wearer’s waist when looking at it from a different angle; however, it could stretch out several feet to the core.

An additional mention is made of Claire’s daring color, a red French Court number. The open bodice, bold even by contemporary standards – is reminiscent of strong connections to Anna Therbusch’s painting of the Countess of Lichtenau.

Claire in gown in red; Anna Dorothea Therbusch, Wilhelmine Encke, Countess of Lichtenau 1776. Starz Entertainment, IMDb; Web Gallery of Art, Wikimedia CommonsCC BY

The sitter of the painting bears his breast in a way that is sexually provocative and rarely depicted in art. The Countess is definitely more covered in comparison to Claire, and you can’t notice the nipple until you look closely, while Claire’s breasts are difficult to ignore.

Her red dress could represent an instance of historical appropriation but actually is more secure in accuracy than originally thought.

Crowning glory

In detailing the reign of Elizabeth II, starting with her wedding in November 1947 up to today, The Crown is often highly praised due to its historical accuracy.

It was Queen Elizabeth II’s dress for her wedding created by Norman Hartnell. Dr Blofeld, Wikimedia Commons

The costumes had a multitude of sources from which to design photographs, original clothes from the time, and access to the coronation and wedding dresses of Elizabeth that were provided by her preferred fashion designer, Norman Hartnell.

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