15 thoughts on “Frock Flicks POV: Just the Facts, Ma’am

  1. Thanks for doing what you do, ladies! I know that I have, in past comments, been vocal about the difference between historical costuming/reenactment needs versus theatrical costuming when I felt the wrong thing was being dwelt on, but I really do appreciate–and enjoy–the goal of Frock Flicks. If a film/show/whatever claims to be historically accurate or a true portrayal, then it should make its best efforts to include accurate costuming in that portrayal. And it’s really valuable to have knowledgeable people out there, such as yourselves and your learned commenters, pointing out inaccuracies so as not to perpetuate misinformation. I recently had to listen to a museum program director discussing his facility’s costume collection (*cough*SanDiego*cough*) and perpetrating the same old historical dress myths (corsets deformed women and made them faint a lot–luckily there were lots of conveniently placed ‘fainting couches’ everywhere, etc…). So the more people that get educated–via Frock Flicks–the better.

    1. I appreciate your vocalness! We need people to bring in other perspectives… but we are going to be primarily interested in the history side of things, just because that’s our background!

  2. Well said!

    There are whole books written by historians about history in the media. Historical societies publish (serious research and also fun, lightweight) articles about history in the media.

    I think this is very important to the issue, because the message that sometimes comes across is that Real History in media is okay to critique, but fashion history is unimportant and if you’re looking at that, you’re a wrong person with wrong opinions. Obviously there are always remarks and calls of “nerd” when people are pedantic about dates, troop movements, he-should-have-said-that-not-the-other-guy, etc. but I never, ever see people say that non-fashion historical pedantry is mean or devaluing filmmakers’ work. Dare I say there are some gender issues here?

    1. That’s a very interesting point, Cassidy. Also, the tendency to see critiques by females/of females as “bitchy” versus critiques of/by males as “healthy criticism/debate.”

    2. There is this notion in the world that sports for example are important, but not fashion, because (generally/stereotypically) men like sports and women like fashion. I suppose the same holds true for history. Fashion is a female thing (false) so it is unimportant (also false).

  3. I’m only sorry that you feel the need to explain/defend yourselves on this point. Identifying inaccuracies is simply, as a previous commenter posted, helping to limit the perpetuation of misinformation. The primary visuals the public have for historical dress are film and television productions, if they present something inaccurately it actually behooves someone to point that out so others can know – and knowing is half the battle, right? ;o) And I think this is equally important whether a production purports to be historically faithful or not, it’s simply a matter of fact vs fiction. Nor does a historical critique detract from the visual/aestheic quality of the work or a person’s enjoyment of it – that’s all up to the designer. This excuse that’s it’s “just a movie, it’s not meant to be serious history so shut up” is just that, an excuse. Most people will not understand where and in what way it’s inaccurate and then go around with an inaccurate impression of lived history and spread it around to other people.

    1. I actually think your point that “nor does a historical critique detract from the visual/aesthetic quality of the work or a person’s enjoyment of it” is why I wanted to write this explanation! I was getting the feeling from a few people that they felt like we were raining on everyone’s parade, when what we’re doing is just talking! About stuff! Like history! And other stuff! I mean, if the filmmakers hypothetically didn’t care about historical accuracy when they made the film, why would they care if we point out what is inaccurate?

      1. Exactly! If they know it’s inaccurate (which they must if they’ve done any research, which they probably did – at least a little bit) why do they care? And, that being said, if they get huffy about inaccuracies being pointed out, are they then deliberately desirous of misleading people and wish to prevent the dissemination of actual historical knowledge? Ok, I’m probably going a little overboard now, but still.

  4. Perception and misinformation often go hand in hand. When my wife and I were at the Napoleonic at the Met, we were looking at the manikins in their Empire dresses, several of which were quite tall. But right in front of us one woman told her friend, with absolute certainty, “they were all shorter back then.” Actually, one member of our 17th century coalition had done some in-depth research on this question and discovered that average height had in fact fluctuated over the centuries.

    1. Yep. And even when “they were shorter back then” IS true, we’re talking one, or just a few, inches. They weren’t trolls!

    2. There is a Bonaparte collector who has one of the Emperor’s actual uniforms, and based on the proportions, it seems that Napoléon was taller than most people believe. Per the measurements of the uniform. Bonaparte was closer to 5-foot-6 than the 5-foot-2 most folks put him at.

  5. Brocade: but still…yes! After all it’s probably no harder to get it right than to do it wrong. Anthony de Longis, a professional stuntman and expert historical swordsman, made the same point about swordfights, and worded it even more strongly, maintaining that it is a disservice to the audience to misrepresent something when the information to do it correctly is available,

  6. My background is in military history but I’ve recently been working with fashion history and I am amazed at the level of misinformation that flourishes out there compared to what I am used to. You do a great service and point out a lot of things that would have otherwise gone past me- it’s been an education.

    And if you think the level pushback is bad with movies set in the 16th Century, try Westerns. :-)

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