17 thoughts on “SNARK WEEK: Maria Theresia’s Costumes: Actual Research!

  1. Under the picture of Sofia Magdelena it says Coronation Gown and under your Detail pics it says Wedding Gown. I believe both are in existence, so I’m going to believe it’s a typo due to extreme weariness. So far I’m enjoying the comparison.

  2. Thanks for doing this, Kendra! I feel like I learn so much both in snarky and more serious takes. :-) I really want to read about the construction of these things now. Thinking of going mid-18th C for a cosplay next fall so I’m all eyes! Kudos!

  3. Wow what a marathon! And so interesting to read your analysis of why one’s reaction to these things is almost visceral. I see something else that’s more of an overall approach issue including and beyond the specifics here. The colour palette is wrong. The pink wedding dress is a cool based modern pink, not the rich warm, soft pink of a naturally dyed colour, and the constant use of 80s electric blue hurts my brain. The difference between this and the deep greeny navy in portraits is just..ungh. So this gives the whole thing a 1980s school production vibe. And then as well as the hidjus sewn in stomachers, all the sewing and cutting has a pedestrian quality to it that just feels like costume hire dresses made from a simplicity costume pattern. The Grandma’s living room curtain brocades are everywhere. They don’t sit right, don’t read anything like silk. They lack silk’s vibrant personality in the way it moves. I understand budget constraints as it is a huge productiom and I imagine not much is for hire from this era, hence the zone front invasion, but so much could have been done to improve things – spraying the white nylon laces with cream or gold spraypaint gives them a rigidity and robustness that looks far more authentic. Doing this to all that white bridal trim on the blue gown would have helped. Obvs before it was put on.
    Well as always could hav been worse, could have been MQODenim.

    1. I saw some of the gowns from Series 2 live, and as I recall, Maria Theresia’s gowns (plus riding habit) were all silk (at least some were duchesse, I recall), while some of the lesser characters were not. And yes. The colour palette of some of them was pretty offending in real life as well. :P

      1. P.S. At least some of the brocades allegedly came from a factory in Italy that specialises in historical fabrics. So they may have made the mistake of trusting them implicitly and using fabrics that were not clothing fabrics. Because lack of easily available info (see my elaboration below).

  4. Will you look at the panniers on that coronation/wedding gown! Good thing the ceremony, whichever it was, took place in a cathedral with BIG doors!

  5. Fantastic rant! I learned sooooo much. Appreciate the video very much. Now get some rest.

  6. It doesn’t seem that the costumes were made to appeal to modern aesthetics,and it is easy to find referenced portraits which makes it crystal clear that the designers tried,though the results are not that good.The fabrics and lace were horrible,and budget for those things could have made it much better as in the latter episodes.

  7. Thank you so much! See, I had no idea what a stomacher even was, or how you were meant to put it on, until you linked that video. I may be a mad history enthusiast but like I said, mostly in the ancient world and not really a clothing expert, so you need to explain these things like I’m five. Greatly enjoying snark week!

  8. Re the shape of the boobs not being visible: I’ve had to read a fair amount of 17th- and 18th-century porn (you KNOW you’re a costume geek if you read an account of the Marquis de Sade’s trial for hiring a clutch of prostitutes and accidentally poisoning one with Spanish fly, and all you can remember is what he and his manservant were wearing), and it’s noticeable that it’s quite rare for the writer to refer to ‘breasts’ or any plural slang term; instead you get ‘her bosom’, singular. It really seems almost as though the randy male of the era thought of the bust as a single phenomenon, since that how he normally got to see it.

    1. Everything about this comment is glorious, and I would like to thank you for it. :D :D :D

  9. On the subject of stomachers, shouldn’t they also be wearing jewelry stomachers (devant de corsage) on grand occasions? Those brooches they used seem awfully small and every day for an empress.

  10. I missed this by not being a regular reader! I actually saw the physical gowns from episodes 3 & 4 at an exhibition here in Czechia and have photos! (Some of them, including that riding habit which I was admiring in real life for having gotten it mostly right.)
    … I’d have to upload them somewhere. But I have photos if you’re interested. :-)

  11. As a former costumer I see 3 huge problems 1) overall badly fit gowns 2) non historicaly built gowns, and 3)cheaply rendered gowns and hair. And they all come down to dollars ..
    The fit can be a situation that actresses cause in spite of a designers best intentions. If an actress refuses to wear stays, who do you go to? The producers don’t care about historic accuracy they care about keeping to budget and to schedule ($). Making your star comfortable may accomplish both of these. Over and over in your view the most successful looks are those worn by larger actress, ladies that are perhaps more sensitive to looking their best. Perhaps these ladies literally spent more time in fittings and were willing to have themselves tighter laced to achieve the cone shape, and KEEP it tightly laced all day of shooting. recall the revealed back lacing that you noticed. What I noticed is that it had been loosened at bust line level) Remember actresses are expected to work in costume between 13 to 18+ hours a day, even the most dedicated reenactor rarely maintain that many hours for a day let alone a shooting schedule of 2-3 months 5-6 days a week. Keeping the production moving becomes the mantra. If that means loosening things, that’s what it means. And sloppy looking gowns are the result.
    There is no excuse for badly researched production. Historic pattern books have information that puts you on the right road to making a gown so the only reason could be $$$. In their defense, can producers afford to spend the money to create a court gown that takes 100s of hours to recreate accurately? reenactors lovingly do this for themselves, we do it to make it perfectly, but we do it for free. if you have a budget too small to make 500 1730-40s court gowns that is the producers fault. Details go out the window, so you look for ways to cut corners. Can we reuse the same pattern a few times? or you just fail the period to save fabric and hours.
    “Cut the tabs/ robing, no one will know” I can hear the sentences in my head. A dream project that you look forward to, can turn into a nightmare because of budget.
    As to badly dated styled wigs. Well that is very frustrating for costumers, we can suggest a look to hair stylists but they make their own mistakes. If they are turned on by the big hair of 1780s; well a cooing whisper in the actress ear in the chair and 1780s hair is what you get, failing the entire look.
    I’ve been a professional and a reenactor I hate bad work but can sympathize with their challenges.

    1. I also feel like part of the problem here is that here in Czechia we’re a bit behind on “historical accuracy” in costume, especially for this particular era, so actually as more or less the first local undertaking that made an effort at 18th century this isn’t too bad and a huge improvement over previous local attempts at the era (I don’t even know what the last previous attempt at the era was – but almost certainly it would have been a fairy-tale, which is never subject to the same rigorous historical scrutiny)… It’s still a bit of a disaster for those who know, but at the same time, I can see where they made an effort and where their challenges lay, and it isn’t just budget (although in a way, budget probably plays a role even in this). It is like so:
      The costume designer is Czech. There’s a lot more info available in English – even in terms of museum garments to view online; definitely in terms of correct construction techniques and pattern shapes. Far, far less in Czech. I can imagine it may have been quite a project for the costume designer just to research and find out what sources to use, considering this was probably his first foray into the era; I’ve been looking into historical costuming for years and years now, and I’ve seen how little there is easily available in Czech, especially if one wants to know the practical aspect of “how do I make this thing so that it looks like that” rather than just “look at these paintings and read this general account of the era”. And how only in the past couple of years the situation is slowly improving e.g. in terms of online colletions (and there’s still next to no 18th century, compared to how many extant dresses there are in foreign collections). And that may well be one of the reasons the costuming improved in the second series – more time to research, get his hands on resources, and learn from mistakes.
      They also proudly used brocades from a factory in Italy that makes historical fabrics – which also felt maybe more like furnishing fabrics to me. So overall it felt rather like “they definitely made an effort but there’s room for improvement that could be solved with more easily available Czech research into the era in the future”.
      18th century is super-popular with costumers elsewhere but around here… costumers / reenactors focus on earlier eras, SCA-style basically. Or later (Regency / Napoleonic). 18th century is a bit of a blank in Czech costuming circles and only now starts being done seriously here and there, probably under influence from abroad… So this must have been, on the whole, quite a shot in the dark.

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