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The very first Pirates of the Caribbean film (subtitled The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003) was a Big Costume Movie, but it’s old news now. (Oh my god, that was 20 years ago. Hang on while I find my walker and oxygen tank). It’s not really something that’s worth snarking anymore, being as old as it is, but somehow I came across its Wikipedia entry and I spewed whatever I was drinking as I read the following:
“In 1720, while sailing to Port Royal, Jamaica, aboard the HMS Dauntless, Governor Weatherby Swann’s crew encounters a shipwreck and recovers a boy, Will Turner. Swann’s daughter, Elizabeth, discovers a golden pirate medallion around Will’s neck, and takes it. Eight years later…” — the main action begins.
I’m sorry WHAT? This movie is supposed to be set in one thousand seven hundred and TWENTY EIGHT??!!
Let’s look at the two main dresses worn by lead actress Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann, in her non-pirate life:
Dress #1: A sort-of mantua?
So what kind of dress is this? I mean, clearly it’s an attempt at an early- to mid-18th-century mantua, which is the fitted gown (derived from the draped dressing-gown like one of the same name from the late 17th century), which would later go on to become the nightgown and then robe à l’anglaise. But it’s got some problems:
Jamaica is a British colony, and sadly I can’t find any imagery of what colonists wore before the 1780s. But based on the practice in what would be the United States, colonists probably wore British-style dress, perhaps in lighter fabrics to adapt to the heat.
Brits WOULD in fact be wearing mantuas in this era, but they’d look a bit different:
Dress #2: A definite robe à l’anglaise:
So yeah, that’s an anglaise, which dates from the late 1760s at the earliest but really takes off in the 1770s. The anglaise was a fitted version of the mantua seen above with some tweaks, including the closed front and separate bodice and skirt all around.
And what about the hairstyles and hats? Her first hat is very flat and rounded and tied on with some veiling:
She should instead be wearing:
And what about her later hairstyle?
If you’ve read all of this and are thinking “so what? the 1770s isn’t that different from the 1720s,” remember that’s FIFTY YEARS. It’s like dressing a Jane Austen movie in 1860s.
Verdict: Bad 1720s and bad 1770s! And that, my friends, is your annual Snark Week nitpick.