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 Period Film Depictions of Costume & Fashion History

Some Famous Costume Based

 Films & Movies 2

By Pauline Weston Thomas for


Film Depictions - Fashion and Costume History


As the years passed I started to look at these films not for the story, but for the costumes in them.  I began to realise that often the costume was well interpreted, but just as often badly interpreted.  Some things began to irritate me in films such as seeing visible zippers or elements from one era mixed with another.  But the fact I hated most of all was when more and more synthetic materials were used in costume productions and suddenly clothes began to drape badly or in a way different than earlier movies like masterpiece films such as the beautiful clothes in for example Citizen Kane. 

In those early black and white films natural materials like silk, wool, linen and cotton were used and they hold moisture more easily than synthetic materials.  Such natural materials have a density to them that makes the clothing appear heavy with weight and when the wearer moves the weight of the fabric makes the character seem important.  Some spectacular films such as My Fair Lady and Gigi become fashion pieces in themselves.

Here are some more costume based films that may interest you.  Many of the dramas are also available in book format.

Costume Based Films with the Feel of Ancient Costume

I Claudius


The Last Emperor




Shakespeare Style Costume Dramas


Shakespeare in Love


Much Ado About Nothing

 Romeo and Juliet

The Taming of the Shrew  

Late Victorian, Edwardian and 1920s Influenced Costume Films

Anna Karenina

Moulin Rouge




Films with High Fashion and Costume set in the 1930s and 1940s

The Aviator


Mata Hari 1931




Now Voyager 


Late C20th Dramas Admired for their Links to Costume and Fashion




My Fair Lady


Gigi (1958)


 Sex and the City

 Annie Hall

By the 1990s I noticed that there was a return to authenticity and production research teams made greater efforts to use natural materials and source vintage garments to assist in giving real atmospheric significance to a film.  One of the production companies that fell into this category was that of Merchant Ivory. 

Merchant Ivory Style Films 

James Ivory in Conversation


 Howard's End

 Death in Venice

The fact is that costume in a film drama or re-enactment can never be quite the same as the authentic costume we can study in museums.  However we should never regard films as second best especially now in the 21st century when million of pounds are spent in costuming and dressing movies aiming for some measure of accuracy by doing original research at museums.  I think we should simply embrace all clothing mediums as wonderful in their own right, from museum artefacts to theatrical costumes as just wonders of the human ability to create magnificent art forms to wear from a Roman leather skirt to an operatic gown or a head dress for Aida or an intriguing body hugging stretch suit for sci-fi movies.

Modern day films of 2005 with costume to inspire include The Aviator and the Phantom of the Opera and each is reviewed for their costume on the next pages.

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About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era.  Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear.  These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.Fashion History can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by author: Pauline Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.

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Recollections for Victorian and Edwardian costumes


 30 June 2005