A Little Fashion In Detail

Spending an afternoon with some fuchsia silk faille, antique sequins, jet, and “Fashion in Detail.” I’ve seen this piece at the V&A in London up close…time to take that inspiration and put it to use.  🙂

And a view of the inspiration:

Guiquin, L, Bodice, 1895; V&A Museum (T.271&A-1972)


And For A Little More Finnish Style

We found another interesting fashion from the Museovirasto in Finland, this time a circa 1880s evening dress that once belonged to a Ellen Mathilda Wilhelmina Tudeer (nee Wijkander) who was born in 1858):

Evening Dress, c. 1880s; Finnish Board of National Antiquities (KM 32035)

Based on the silhouette, this dress perhaps dates from about 1880-1882. The train is low and the bodice is long, extending over the hips. The dress appears to be constructed from a pink blush silk taffeta with two rows of knife pleating running along the skirt hem as well as more knife pleating running below the neck line and upper shoulders. The one interesting feature about this dress is the bertha running along the neckline that’s reminiscent of earlier 1860s styles; it’s not something you usually see on 1880s dresses.1During the 19th Century, a bertha was defined as being a collar made of lace or another thin fabric. It is generally flat and round, covering the low neckline of a dress, and accentuating a woman’s shoulders. Unfortunately, there’s not much more information on the dress itself but nevertheless, it’s a n interesting garment because of its blend of 1880s and 1860s fashion elements. Hopefully one day we’ll find out more about this dress.

And Now For A Little Finnish Wedding Style

Today we wander back to a more historical wedding dress theme, travelling (virtually) to Finland to take a look at this interesting wedding dress that was made in 1882 for a one Constance Sofia von Scharnhorst (nee Von Ammondt ):

Wedding Dress c. 1882; Finnish Board of National Antiquities (KM 41072)

This dress follows a fairly conventional early to mid 1880s silhouette; the “natural form” style was passé and was once again shifting towards a trained/bustle style. Although there’s not a lot of detail about specific materials, it can be safely assumed that we’re looking at a silver gray/gray silk taffeta and/or silk satin. The skirt and bodice front have detailed ruching along with silk satin cross-hatching running in a strip, spiraling up the skirt front. Below the satin strips is a duller-toned fabric, probably silk taffeta. The same cross-hatching is also present in the  three-quarter sleeves and is reminiscent of Renaissance styles. Completing the skirt decoration is a strip of lace mounted below the cross-hatching.  The overall effect is interesting in that while the basic gray color appears the same, the dull and shiny lusters of the various fabrics creates the illusion of there being different colors. Of course, we may be wrong since we only have two photos to go on but it’s still interesting. Finally, it must be noted that the hem consists of three rows of knife pleating. And here’s a more detailed view of the skirt:

As can be seen from the above detail picture, there’s a lot of decorative style effects going on here, perhaps too much, but it’s a wedding dress… 🙂 What’s also interesting is that the train is relatively plain compared to the main skirt. The overall effect is amazing and it just staggers the imagination thinking about all the hours that went into creating the various effects for the skirt alone. This is definitely a magnificent dress and we look forward to one day replicating this style, or a close approximation, for one of our clients. 🙂

Wrapping It Up- Dracula, Part 4

We never realized that there was so much loaded in a horror movie from a costume perspective…so now here’s our fourth and last installment. 🙂 Dracula, like Bram Stoker’s book of that name and the legends surrounding vampirism in general, has a heavy erotic element to it that both excites and repels at the same time. While we tend to identify with the plight of the hero/heroes, we are also excited by the villains. In Dracula, we not only have the sometime suave/sometime repellant Count Dracula (depending on what guise he’s assuming), but we also have his minions. Dracula’s “Brides” definitely fill the bill as we see below:

Lucy Bridal3


Monica Bellucci

Michaela Bercu

Michaela Bercu

The above three “Brides” are dressed in outfits reminiscent of the Classical Greek Peplos, and Chiton, garments consisting of loose draped fabric. Naturally, the fabrics used in the movie are sheer that serves to heighten the Brides’ eroticisim. Below are examples of the Chiton:

a1330337094854 hopes-greek-ladies2

Peplos-in-Ancient-GreeceThe Brides’ headpieces have more of a Byzantine feel to them which is consistent with the film’s backstory. Here are some examples:

82c906e8090deb31af985b60c4413656We conclude with the following picture that sums up a lot of the themes running throughout Dracula in which we see both innocence and purity mixed up in evil:


Jonathan Harker and the Brides of Dracula

And after the story has unfolded, we are left with ultimate redemption and triumph of good over evil. From a costume perspective, we see the how the costuming helps to tell the story. This is not your old school Dracula wearing a tuxedo and top hat; no this is a more “real” vampire who has a story and a strong set of motivations for what he does. While we may have issues over historic authenticity of some of the wardrobe, it’s not a serious detraction from the movie and it still works.

In looking at the Victorian Era clothing of the film, we’re left with the feeling that while the selection of fabrics, colors, and styles were well thought out, it suffers from the tendency of people to mash the decades together and this is especially true when it applies to the late 19th Century. A bustle is not just a “bustle” as the decades pass and neither is a train and by the 1897, bustles and trains have for the most part disappeared. This is a key lapse that could have been corrected for in a number of ways. We hope that you’ve enjoyed this and we look forward to bringing you more commentary on other film costuming in future posts.

And For Some More Dracula- Part 3

In the past two installments, we took a really good look at Mina Harker’s wardrobe and pointed out the historical elements. Today, we turn our attention to Mina’s ill-fated companion, Lucy Westenra who is distinct contrast to the more virtuous Mina, oozing sexuality and breaking every rule of Victorian Era propriety. Naturally, Lucy’s wardrobe reflects this to varying degrees and we first start with two dresses that are somewhat tame, giving just a hint of what’s to come with the off-the-shoulder sleeves:



Lucy’s dress was designated as the “Snake Dress” by the Costume Designer because of the decorative trim pattern. Also, as an aside, Mina’s dress on the right only shows up briefly and there’s no other documentation or pictures of it. Here’s a better view of the Snake Dress:

cap009This appears to be an attempt at an evening dress and while it sort of reads “1890s,” it just doesn’t work. Combining a off-the-shoulder neckline with full Gigot sleeves appears awkward and simply looks like a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen.


Day Dress, English, c. 1816 – 1821; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.55-1934)

d6590603c00bc9569ea24835bea4d348Lucy’s dress in the above picture is more reminiscent of the Romantic Era of the 1820s – 1830s with the sleeves which are a combination of the Demi-Gigot and Marie sleeves. The off-the-shoulder neckline would most likely be seen with evening dresses and ball gowns although it sometimes showed up in day dresses. Here are a couple of examples:

Demi-Gigot SleevesThe contrast between the demure Mina and the more forward Lucy and it shows in the dress. In both shots, Mina is covered up (especially in the one above).

Now, things escalate a bit with this completely fantastical dress:




Lucy Orange1

This dress is the perfect symbol of Lucy’s transformation in a vampire in thrall to Dracula and her dress screams this out to the audience. Color-wise, this is not really a good match for a red head but, as more than one commentator has noted, it was probably selected because it shows up nicely for the night scenes. In terms of Victorian morality, Lucy has definitely gone off the rails here. Can we say “Vamp”? 🙂

And now for what is probably what is the most disturbing dress (at least for us) in the whole film: Lucy’s wedding dress (we touched on a lot of this in a previous post so this may be a bit repetitious). Here are the concept sketches:

eiko_ishioka_dracula_1The dress is an ocean of layered white fabric, tulle, and lace topped off by an extremely wide stiff lace collar reminiscent of an Elizabethan ruff. This dress oozes the concept of the virginal white wedding dress and it’s impossible for the viewer to miss. In this picture, we see it in its most innocent guise when Dr. Seward visits Lucy while she is being fitted for the dress:

Lucy Bridal2

Lucy Bridal1

Unfortunately, because these are screen captures, the dress is not that clear but one can still see the elements and especially the close, upright collar that was typical of many 1890s dresses. Here’s a closer view of the collar:


The seeming very picture of innocence…

Here we see the pearl choker necklace, or “dog collar”, characteristic of 1890s style.

Now we shift to a darker guise after Lucy seemingly dies from being drained of her blood by Dracula. Lucy is then interred in a crypt wearing the wedding dress. However, as we find out, she’s now a vampire herself:

Lucy Vampire2

Lucy, now deceased…or is she?

Lucy Vampire1

The vampire Lucy stopped short by the crucifix.


Vampire Lucy attempts to use her charms on her helpless bridegroom Arthur.


These images pretty much demonstrate the horror that has befallen poor Lucy and the dress underscores this dramatically. From what is supposed to represent the epitome of innocence and beauty has been transformed into a grotesque garment of horror. Here, the costume designer has succeeded brilliantly and it definitely supports the impact of the story. In our next post we’ll be winding everything up so stay tuned and we hope we didn’t shock you too badly.  🙂

To be continued…