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. 🙂



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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Lucy, now deceased…or is she?

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The vampire Lucy stopped short by the crucifix.

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

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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…





Some More Wardrobe From The Movie Dracula- Part 2

Today we further examine the wardrobe of the main heroine, Mina Harker. What’s interesting about her wardrobe is the use of green and blue, both cool colors and these serve to define the character’s primary personality- cool, practical, level-headed (especially when compared to her friend Lucy). Below is another green dress done in the same style as the iconic day dress that we discussed in yesterday’s post:

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The costume sketch is a bit on the plain side when compared with the final product. The one feature that stands out is the bustle and once again, this is a dress that’s more appropriate for the late 1880s rather than 1897.

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Three-Quarter view. The draping of the fabric on the skirt and the train are characteristic of the late 1880s.

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Lucy and Mina.

It’s interesting how the tone of the green color changes, depending on the light and the quality of the picture. Also, note the creasing on the bodice underneath the bustline- either the actress wasn’t wearing a proper corset, or the bodice was too long and it got pushed up when she sat down (which is partly why you see women of the era perching on a chair or bench rather than actually sitting).

Now, while green does seem to dominate Mina’s wardrobe, it’s not the only color. For Mina’s more “passionate” or intimate scenes, and particular, the “Absinthe” scene, there’s this red dress that mixes Victorian and Medieval style elements and serves to emphasizes the sexually charged erotic relationship that Mina/Elzabeta has with Dracula. And of course, the red also serves to emphasize Dracula’s vampire nature. 🙂

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Red Dress – Rear View.

What is interesting about the red dress is that with the train, it gives an early 1870s effect, at least when viewing from the rear.

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drac_4From the above pictures, one can see that the absinthe dress is relatively unfitted in the front, almost suggesting a tea dress. This stands in stark contract to Mina’s other dresses.

In contrast to the above “absinthe” dress, below is another dress worn by Mina. This dress is a bit more restrained but unfortunately, it only appears briefly in the film, first in the shipboard scene when Mina is throwing Dracula’s love letters overboard and later when she’s marrying Jonathan Harker:

Shipboard Dress Sketch2

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Read View; unfortunately there is no good frontal view of the dress in the film.

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It would have been nice to have seen more of this dress, its lines are probably the closest to those characteristic of the 1890s silhouette although the sleeve caps are not really appropriate for 1897.

Now, for a complete change of pace, below is the “Elizabeta” dress from the movie. This is the dress that Dracula’s wife is wearing when she commits suicide after being informed falsely that her husband Dracula having been killed battling the Turks, thus setting the tragic chain of events in motion. Once more, shades of green:

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The costume sketch.

And the final product:

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Close-Up of the Elizabeta Dress; Here we get a good look at the embroidered dragon which is reminiscent of a double-headed eagle motif of the Romanovs.

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From the Hollywood Costume Exhibition. It’s unfortunate that the lighting does not do justice to the dress and makes it appear more neon-like than it really is in reality.

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The only good full-length view from the film itself.

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And after Elizabeta’s tragic suicide.

This dress contains a combination of Western Medieval and Byzantine elements; the rich embroidered dragon motif especially stands out. Had enough of Mina Harker? Well, stay tuned for Part 3! 🙂

To be continued…





Taking A Look At The 1992 Dracula

Yesterday’s post on the Lucy wedding dress seems to have struck a chord with our readers so we thought we’d re-post and update a series of posts that we did awhile ago about the costuming in the 1992 production of the movie Dracula.  We first saw the movie when it came out and we were entranced by the costuming, knowing full well of its theatricality- it was simply a visual treat. To this day we periodically watch this movie and not always at Halloween… 🙂 So with that said, enjoy our deep-dive into the world of costuming for the movie Dracula…


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. With the story being set in 1897, we’ll be focusing mostly on the Victorian side of the costuming although we note that many non-Victorian elements have been worked in. 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…

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And then, the finished product…

Mina3577ed0a930af1cada3946d787e8e226eLooking 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):

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From the Hollywood Costume Exhibit. Unfortunately, the lighting was not the best here.

From the Hollywood Costume Exhibit. Unfortunately, the lighting was not the best here.

 Below are a few more scenes with the green dress:

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minawalking_smallHere we see more details of the front of the dress. The shirtwaist/coat combination was very common during the late 1880s mostly as a faux shirtwaist/jacket that was actually one unified bodice.

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:

Petersons August 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1886.

Petersons September 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1886.

Fashion Plate, c. 1886

Fashion Plate, c. 1886

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:

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The Delineator, June 1897

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The Delineator, January 1897

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The Delineator, December 1898

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...