48 thoughts on “Iconic Historical Costumes of the 1970s

  1. I’m old, so I watched most of these movies/TV series/miniseries actually in the 1970’s. I loved the original Poldark series. Robin Ellis was much less of a fuckboi than Aiden Turner in my humble opinion. I agree that the Richard Chamberlin/Michael York/Oliver Reed 3 Muskateers in the best version ever, even though Racquel Welch is in it. Also, a 70’s movie that you should see is the great Glenda Jackson playing Sarah Bernhardt, in fact I think the movie is called the Great Sarah.

  2. My mother adored anything British on tv or at the movies, so I grew to love it all, too. We spent years playing what we came to call “Anglophile Bingo,” which was really just a British-oriented version of Six Degrees… Everyone can be traced back to “I, Claudius.”

    I’d give almost anything to share some tea and watch Masterpiece Theater with my mom again.

    1. Six Degrees of Bernard Hepton? When I visit my daughter in England, she pulls out her “I, Claudius” boxed set, which I think got her through long night feeding and rocking the babies.

  3. Saw ‘Slipper’ at Radio City … and watched all the BBC/PBS shows, from Elizabeth to Henry to Poldark to Upstairs.
    I, Claudius was the 70s equivalent of Monday morning water cooler conversation.

  4. Look how cute and adorkable young Edward Hermann is!!!! (Eleanor and Franklin).

    Would do.

    1. I’ve never seen this film but I need to look it up.
      I got to very briefly meet Mr. Herman. He was emcee at a charity event I attended and I won the door prize (a 10k diamond bracelet, don’t hate me). He was a delightful person and talented actor, and pretty cute too. My brush with fame…

      1. So jealous! I had such a HUGE crush on Edward Hermann since… forever! He did plenty of documentary work too, to enjoy that wonderful voice! Lucky, lucky you!

  5. Just watched Godfather II over the weekend. The “flashback” scenes were stunning. When the family drinking a toast among the olive oil vats is so beautiful. Gosh, I love mob movies.

      1. Don’t bother watching 3- it was awful. Sofia Coppola might be a good director, but she couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. I remember Andy Garcia being good, though. :)

      2. Oh, have a few pink drinks and give Godfather III a chance. Yes, Sofia Coppola’s performance is an issue, but that doesn’t override so many other good aspects of the film. It’s gorgeous, heartbreaking, plus Andy Garcia and Sicily and opera and and and… It’s the weakest of the trio of films, but it is by no means a bad film.

        1. I saw it when it came out in the theater. No pink drinks, alas! Perhaps I should give it another try.

  6. I’ll add “The Duchess of Duke Street” (1976-77)! The costumes span 1900 – 1925, and some of Gemma Jones’ Edwardian gowns in particular are stunning. I’ve watched this series and “I, Claudius” more times than I can count. — between them, they did in fact employ almost every British character actor of the 70s.

    1. Yes! I was going to say that. Duchess of Duke Street and Lillie are my favorites

  7. The 70s was probably the best decade for miniseries-churning out one classic after another.
    My favourite of these are the Godfather movies,but they have little to do with their historical setting.
    I,Claudius is as close to perfection as one gets,as far as a historical drama is concerned(where courts are more important to the plot than courtships).

  8. The best thing about the Duellists is that they showed the difference in uniforms over time. Unfortunately, the actors weren’t always as informed as the tech people. In an interview, Carradine said his sabre weighed 10 lbs. Not hardly. At most that particular weapon weighed about 3lbs.It’s too late for this list, but I would nominate “Restoration” as one of the best-ever costume films. Or — think about the Marvel Films version.

  9. Wow! I just had a flashback to my teen years!! I’ve seen 90% of the films/miniseries listed. Hmmm… guess I watched a lot of miniseries in the 70’s. These shows formed my opinion of historical costuming before I even knew it was a thing. Now if only I could sew well enough to make a historical costume…

    1. You can blame imdb for that one; they have an incorrect caption on the photo. :)

  10. I’ve seen nearly all of these and loved them all!

    However, let me correct your spelling — it’s “I, Clavdivs”!


  11. The Godfather I is my hands-down favorite on this list but, in my opinion it’s tied as the Best movie of all time, so there really were no other contenders for me in this category. Plus, let us acknowledge that Al Pacino looks absolutely beautiful in Godfather I!! I’ve only seen a handful of these productions, but since starting to visit this website, I’ve added a few of them to the queues on my streaming services.

    Re Pretty Baby: The place where that photo was taken is a great place for drinks. It’s still decorated like that, but unfortunately the music they play over the speakers (not the live musicians) does not match the atmosphere of the hotel. And they still have paraphernalia up proudly proclaiming that the movie was filmed there. In that picture from The 3 Musketeers: He’s giving off of some serious Javier Bardem vibes right there. The actor in The Six Wives of Henry VII (1970) is giving off some serious late-Sting vibes.

  12. The Great Gatsby and Barry Lyndon both used actual period clothing (not for everybody–paging Mia Farrow for her fitting of the perma-pleated polyester chiffon frock!)–look at some of the extras dancing in the Gatsby parties, and I saw an exhibition of 18th-century fashion at the Met when BLyndon came out. They used some genuine pieces–can’t remember exactly what. Film: boring. Costumes: lovely.
    And even if that photo shows the Octavia actress, I think the Cleo was also blonde–with a name like Hildegard Neil, you’re probably blonde!
    There’s also L’Innocente and Death in Venice, both costumed by the incomparable Piero Tosi.

    1. Barry Lyndon had some of the most accurate bust silhouettes for the era,the way ‘they’ appear separated instead of pushed together.But the men’s hair,after the towering glory of women hair,was laughable.Mullets,layers and boy bangs.As you pointed out,the film was a bit slow paced,but good as an atmospheric film and if that was the director’s aim,it is great(but I find it weird in the filmography of the director,different from his other works).

    2. Did you know Mia was preggers during the filming? Hence most shots are shoulders and higher.

    3. Barry Lyndon is one of my favorite costume flicks. I’ve seen it 4 times and will catch it every time it’s in town. Besides the novel camera techniques, the actors were posed per 18th century portraits in some instances.

      The Three and Four Musketeers — still the best versions.

      I saw so many of these (Henry VIII, Elizabeth R, Lillie, Edward the King, on “Masterpiece Theatre.” A great reason to donate to public television.

      I recommend “Lady Caroline Lamb” if for no other reason than Richard Chamberlain as Lord Byron.

      Robin Ellis will always be Ross Poldark to me.

      Has anyone noticed how many of these films have Richard Chamberlain in them? I would include his “Count of Monte Cristo” and “Man in the Iron Mask.”

      Thank you for the memories.

  13. Thank you for this post!

    So many great films that I have loved and a few new ones I need to check out.

    I would add…The Boyfriend, Chinatown, and Paper Moon.

    1. Oh, I’d forgotten Paper Moon — what a great film and even better book. Tatum O’Neal’s iconic crochet-trimmed cloche! And the incomparable Madeline Kahn, queen of recreated 30s-40s era glamour.

  14. Thanks for the memories! What a rich decade it was now I am reminded. Loved Elizabeth R, The 3 Musketeers and I remember how girls magazines were full of 1920s makeup tips when The Great Gatsby came out!

  15. An OT observation, but the Three Musketeers, the Four Musketeers, Barry Lyndon AND the Duellists all had the same fight choreographer, Williams Hobbs, who passed a few years ago. He was a genius — his mantra was that fights had to display character and motivation. Not surprising, he worked with Olivier for nine years at the National Theater. Other Frock Flicks favorites in which he was involved — Joseph Andrews, Clarissa, The Count of Monte Cristo (the one with Guy Pearce), Rob Roy, Casanova (with Heath Ledger), Dangerous Liaisons, Carrington, Shakespeare in Love, Sunshine (Ralph Fiennes tried to hire him whenever possible). He had about a month to train Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine for the Duellists!

  16. There’s a miniseries version of Luchino Visconti’s Ludwig (it’s like Scenes From a Marriage and Fanny and Alexander, there’s a ‘compressed’ movie version and the miniseries full version). I don’t remember it much, but I think it was sumptuous and sad.

    1. I found “Ludwig” unbearable–unbelievable that a master like Visconti would release anything so dull and disjointed. Sumptuous costumes, but you have to sit through a bunch of boredom for their sake.

  17. the movie MAS*H was SO much better than the tv show. and you have the tv show shown. I loved the House of Eliot (though I think that was the 1980’s.) I love the Railway children, which was remade with Jenny Agutter as the mother. and of course the DUchess of Duke Street was incredible. I also loved the series By the Sword Divided by the BBC. it was about the English Civil war. and I Claudius was wonderful, scary and terrifying back then. but who could stop watching it? as for the Muskateer movies, I don’t bother with any of the others. I even had Michael York sign my DVD with Engarde! I swooned.

    1. House of Eliott was made in the early 90s. Even so, it was totally gorgeous and deserves to be on several lists! As someone else on this thread said, this is one of those shows that provides yet another great reason to donate to PBS!

  18. It’s not impossible that Cleopatra was a blond. She was after all descended from multiply inbred Macedonian Greeks who were sometimes blonds.

    MASH was very seventies in theme, not sure about the costumes.

    1. One of the only physical descriptions we have of her (which was still posthumous) says she had red/auburn hair.
      Considering she was also a fan of Egyptian culture (unlike most of her dynasty) it’s also possible she wore (dark) ceremonial wigs during at least some public appearances.

  19. A lot of money was spent on “Pretty Baby” and it shows. But it was pure disgusting. Nothing but Madam and a child’s mother selling a child to pedophiles. Literally.

    Believe me, it isn’t worth it not even for the costumes or set design.

  20. I must have watched Nicholas and Alexandra, because I then read the biography it was based on, and picked Alexandra for my confirmation name. BBC series were staples in my house…I watched all of the ones listed, and they were all great.

  21. I, Claudius was fabulous…and both the 3 and 4 Musketeers are favorites..despite Ms. Welch. I remember many of these from PBS since I was a poor college student and couldn’t go to the movies often.

  22. I haven’t seen I, Claudius (shame on me!), but is Roots any less decade-defining?

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