17 thoughts on “SNARK WEEK: Pirates of the Caribbean Is Set WHEN?

    1. You’ll never guess why. ;)

      As a 17-year-old on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, Keira Knightley would get her boobs contoured every morning, in order to give her the kind of cleavage expected from the romantic lead of an adventure movie. “They literally painted them on,” Knightley told Refinery29 over the phone ahead of the release of her latest film, Misbehaviour.

  1. I can’t believe it’s been twenty years!!! I was 13 and I loved it so much, I saw it twice in theaters. I like reading about the lack of accuracy, but out of nostalgia and the fact that it’s a fun movie to watch, I’ll give it a pass :D

  2. Well writ, Madame!

    I have seen it stated in various FF write-ups that military dress is generally of little interest to you good ladies (it is of great interest to myself!), but a little knowledge of the British naval establishment during the long eighteenth century can only serve to further illustrate your original conceit; that attempting to force the POTC franchise into an understandable historical timeline is a recipe for headaches!

    Commodore James Norrington and his officers are dressed in post-1748 Royal warrant naval uniform (most likely because prior to 1748, Naval personnel generally dressed to suit their own tastes, and the production designers no doubt felt a strong visual palette was required), with gold trimmed, large cuffed, collarless blue coats. White smallclothes were made standard following the Seven Years’ War of 1754-63 (blue breeches were not uncommon prior), and so we could say that the naval staff are more-or-less styled for the 1750s.

    Norrington himself is seen (following his promotion) in either a Captain’s full dress uniform (most scenes) or an Admiral’s full dress uniform (fort scenes). While I am certain that the wardrobe dept. simply wished for him to appear grand, there is a feasibly canonical explanation if one is willing to do some mental gymnastics:
    To oversimplify, a Commodore still holds the official rank of Captain, but is now permitted to command more than one warship at a time. Following his appointment, Norrington (perhaps not wishing to waste the full dress uniform he only wore for formal occasions as Captain of HMS Interceptor) cast aside his worn Captain’s undress togs and invested in an Admiral’s uniform (which, as highest-ranking military officer in the colony, he could somewhat justify), opting to wear his Captain’s full dress togs for daily tasks.

    Now where was I? Oh yes…

    The British Marines (not yet Royal until 1802, not prior as “His Majesty’s Marines”) seen in the film are an even more peculiar sartorial mix; their cocked hats are sharp, with pointy, low brims: appropriate for the 1750s or prior. Yet their jackets are short-tailed coatees with standing collars, which would not see service until the 1790s (The first four Ioan Gruffud ‘Hornblower’ films use these in their proper context!). Their white smallclothes and dark gaiters all pint towards the fourth quarter of the century also.

    Governor Weatherby Swann is by far the character best dressed for the 1720s, wituniverse as being some manner of historical fantasia, in which the “Greatest Hits of the Age of Sail” are all on display.

    Keep up the fine work! h his long-skirted waistcoats, large cuffs, broad-brimmed hats and “full-bottomed” periwigs.

    *Whew! that’s more than enough. At any rate, I have learned to think of the POTC universe as some manner of historical fantasia, in which “The Greatest Hits of the Age of Sail” are all on display.

    Keep up the fine work!

    1. The fact that they seem to so consistently seemed to go with costuming with mid-to-late-ish 1700s attire makes me wonder if there was any specific reason why they even bothered saying it was set in the 1720s? Is there some kind of pirate or politics related reason why the movie couldn’t have just been set in the 1750s-60s?

      1. My understanding is that piracy stopped being a major concern in the Caribbean after the 1720s. BUT the robe volante style of dress that was in vogue at that time probably wasn’t deemed attractive for modern audiences.

  3. If I recall correctly, the first dress is supposed to be one her father just brought back from London for her; it’s what leads to her snit fit about how “women in London must have learned not to breathe” while she’s being laced into her corset (as if Elizabeth wouldn’t have been wearing some form of corset for years at that point).

  4. May I add that the Royal Navy had no uniform at all in 1720; officers and ratings wore whatever they liked or happened to own. Even dark blue – though common, because blue dye was cheap to produce – was far from universal.

    The first uniform regulations for officers were promulgated in 1748. Lieutenants got a plain navy blue single-breasted dress coat with a white lining, in the same style as the civilian coat of the period – full skirts, big flap pockets, BIG white bucket cuffs, no collar – and a long white waistcoat trimmed round the edges and on the pocket-flaps with fairly narrow gold lace.

    They also got an undress ‘frock’ of a more military design, plain all-over blue, with a low stand collar and lapels that could be buttoned back or over the chest; the top corner of the lapel is a pointed tab almost up to the shoulder, more or less as seen on Commodore Norrington in “1728” ( as in your first still).

    All the surviving official pattern uniforms of the 1948 regulation – the lieutenant’s coat and frock, and a midshipman’s coat – are in the National Maritime Museum, which has good pics of them. https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/search/1748%20pattern%20uniform?page=0
    Interestingly, the midshipman’s coat, unlike the lieutenant’s, has “mariner’s cuffs” – a genuinely traditional nautical feature, with a vertical slash that could be unbuttoned to allow the cuff to be turned back and the shirtsleeve rolled up. In 1748 it appears that commanders and captains of less than 3 years’ seniority also had these; in the next regulation, issued in 1767, lieutenants got these too; In 1768 lieutenants also got white lapels, which they kept till the end of the Napoleonic Wars and beyond. However, the triangular tab at the top corner of the lapel disappeared around 1770, and in 1774 the gold lace was removed from the waistcoat.

    So the uniform Commodore Norrington’s outfit most resembles is immediately post-1768. Here’s a marvellous portrait of Captain Richard Howe, painted by Gainsborough around then (on the same page there’s a lovely companion portrait of his missus in pink): https://www.thefashionarchaeologist.com/uploads/1/2/1/6/121630325/published/1763-viscounthowe-bygainsborough.jpg?1599762696

    If you look at Norrington’s uniform and mentally subtract three-quarters of the gold lace on it, you can see that apart from the white breeches he’s wearing the same kit as Captain Lord Howe. He even looks rather like him: I do wonder whether the costume designer originally took Howe as a model, and the director and/or the studio said ‘Yes, but stick a load more gold bling everywhere!’

    BTW: that market woman in the Angillis painting; is that really an apron wrapped around her, or her skirt-fronts folded back to keep them clean and out of the way while she’s at work?

  5. I never saw the movies, but I heard Kiera Knightly’s character has things to say about her stays. As in “this is true suffering, this hurts with the power of a thousand menstrual cramps. Stays are a wearable iron maiden, etc.” Please note I’m made up the phrases in quotes, I was going for sentiment over verbatim accuracy.

  6. Allow me to add another nit-pick: it was set in 1728 in Port Royal…

    …you know, about 36 years after Port Royal was destroyed by an earthquake and mostly underwater. Fort Charles is one of the only structures that survived at what you see in Pirates of the Caribbean is clearly not Fort Charles.

    So where is it set as well?

  7. Her whinging about Stays/Corsets bothered me! She would’ve worn them from ca. 10-12? She would’ve been well used to wearing one by now! I have many questions about Elizabeth’s upbringing by Governor Swann!

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