Fall TV Costume Hilarity: Dracula
One is DRACULA, a "late Victorian" steampunk show about Dracula trying to make electricity happen, literally. The other is REIGN, a show that is nominally about Mary, Queen of Scots, though we can determine this only because people keep assuring us it is. And since we don't know yet what exactly these shows have done to actual history, we can judge them only on my favorite thing: the costumes.
Let's get started today with Dracula!
Aaaaand settle in, this will be a while.
So, let's assume from this picture that we're looking at the extreme tail end of the Victorian era, when the bustle dropped entirely in favor of the hip-hugging, huge-sleeved Gibson Girl style (and "The Spread" was the sitting position for gentlemen of leisure). It was one of those liminal eras of fashion where things changed in a hurry (not to mention being firmly in the post-industrial landscape in which fashions generally changed faster all around):
(Left, 1887. Right, 1893.)
The Gibson Girl style was, like all such extreme styles, due to fall out of fashion in a hurry, and these sleeves only lasted a few years before the Edwardian designers took over and worked some of that arm-volume business out. (They kept the hip-hugging; corset manufacturers gotta make rent.) Technically, if this is post-bustle Victorian, they should be everywhere. Good luck with that.
ANYWAY, clearly the Dracula photo is conspicuously dodging both bustles AND sleeves (plus has extra set dressing on the skirts that we're ignoring), but given the premise of the show we're definitely not looking any later than that, so we're sort of chronologically Nowheresville to start with. However, Gibson Girl sleeves are probably a bit much of a statement for most TV to want to make (we don't all have the commitment of Anne of Green Gables, I get it), and bustles are a pain and were probably always out of the running. So, assuming this really is meant to be late Victorian despite that, the dresses on either side are making stabs at it.
Mina Murray, on the right, gets the wasp-waist-on-a-cone shape of the skirts correct, and the overlay sort of waves from a moving vehicle at their love of rich brocades. Lucy Westenra, on the left, was so panicked at the news that she was supposed to have big fuck-off sleeves that she stapled a scarf into her bodice like that one contestant on Chopped who always hurls the fourth ingredient onto the plate with 5 seconds to go and calls it a garnish. It doesn't help much, since the bodice she tucked that scarf sleeve into is like the sad trombone of applique, but at the very least (the very, very least) we have the striking color combinations and the net overlay that were both very popular in the late Victorian years.
The woman in the middle is literally, no joke, down to the seams, wearing a bridesmaid's dress from a wedding I was in one time, with some navy burnout velvet stapled to the back and an orchid jammed into her hipbone. Oh, show, you're hilarious. I hope this dress counts as a fantasy element.
But there appears to be a swift downward spiral in quality across the board!
From right: Lucy is time traveling from the 1950s in an evening ensemble that was right at home then, the woman in the middle is wearing an Alice Formals prom dress from 2006, and Mina looks rightfully annoyed that she had to borrow her bodice from the Golden Girls Evening Collection. (Lucy stapled some hankies to her shoulders for her because she remembered the sleeve requirement. Lucy's a real friend.)
A similar thing happens with daywear, where we start out Okay For TV and then take a hard right. Below, an 1896 bicycle ensemble, and Mina:
I have some issues: the detailing is super Anne of Avonlea, which was a good 10 years later, and because the lack of actual detailing drains it of interest as much as the color on that jacket drains her of energy, and her skirt looks so flimsy – not just because bicycle skirts were almost always stiff fabric to keep them from clinging to the legs and inflaming the passions of men in a ten-mile radius, but because that straight-up looks like someone made it from a bedsheet in a pinch. Still and all, fine, if you want to convince me this is a late Victorian bicycle riding ensemble on TV, I will let you try.
But I don't think that is her bike riding ensemble! I think that's meant to be one of her afternoon dresses, which is hilarious, because just to cover the spectrum of silhouettes, this is an afternoon dress in 1888, left, and 1895, right:
And this is what Mina wears to actually ride bikes:
Which is interesting! Have two unrelated photographs about this outfit.
Dunno why they're even here, they just occurred to me for no reason.
Of the two period pieces premiering this month, this one goes first because, believe it or not, it tried harder than the other one. Tomorrow, we'll tackle Reign. (Woof.) And on October 25, I'm going to watch Dracula and laugh really, really hard.