For a change of pace, today we’re going to take a look at period costume in a horror movie and in particular, Frances Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Released in 1991, Dracula was a fresh take on the Bram Stocker’s 1897 novel of the same name. The costumes were designed by Eiko Ishioka and the film won an Oscar Award for Costume design.
Our focus is going to be mostly on the Victorian side of the costumes and to being, while they are rooted in styles characteristic of the late 19th Century, they also incorporate some non-period elements. Finally, it must be noted that most of the action is supposed to occur in the year 1897.
We’ll begin with what is probably the most iconic dress of the movie, Mina Harker’s green dress. First, we have the costume sketch…
And then, the finished product…
Looking at this dress, the most significant thing that stands out is that the dress style is about a decade too early. The bustle and train give the dress a silhouette more more appropriate to the late 1880s. By the 1890s, and especially 1897, the bustle/train had disappeared and the overall dress silhouette had become vertical.
The color choice, however is good one and it provides a clear, light color that stands in contrast to the people around her who are dressed in a dark, drab/muddy palette. It also must be noted that it picks up tones of the earlier dress worn by Elizabeta in the early prologue scene (although that is sometimes hard to immediately see in varying lighting):
Below are a few more scenes with the green dress:
The other element that dates this dress style to the late 1880s are the sleeves. During this time, the sleeve caps either smoothly integrated with the bodice or there was a slight “kickout” or puff on the top of the sleeve cap, a precursor to the leg of mutton or “balloon” sleeves characteristic of the mid 1890s.
Below are some examples of dresses from the late 1880s:
As can be seen from the above plates, the faux open outer jacket with a faux shirtwaist or similar was one characteristic of the late 1880s. Also, one can still see small bustles and trains and while the silhouette has become somewhat vertical, it’s not completely there yet, in much the same way with Mina’s green day dress.
Now, lets take a look at the 1890s:
From the above, we can see that the sleeve caps have increased in size to the “leg of mutton” or “balloon sleeve” look. Moreover, the skirts are even and have an even, cone-like silhouette.
To be continued…