49 thoughts on “The Gilded Age (2022) – Recap Episode 2

  1. I saw Bertha’s burgundy and gold dress compared to Sargent’s painting of Mrs. Hugh Hammersley and I love it.

  2. Peggy is a sharp dressed woman but she doesn’t belong in this series. Give her her own!
    What is overprotected Gladys doing wandering around alone?
    Well played, Mr. Russell! Nobody casts shade on his Bertha!
    Totally agree on that blue ball fringe.

  3. What do you think of Bertha’s hairstyle? Are they appropriate for the period or should she look like Ada and Agnes’? Thanks for these great reviews :-)

    1. It’s kind of bland, actually. Like she’s spent all this effort on her wild dresses & then gave up on her hair. Not historically inaccurate, necessarily. Also, really hard to see bec. the camera doesn’t focus on it & having dark hair, details don’t show up as easily as on the lighter-haired Ada & Agnes.

      1. I meant that the show’s creators might have seen this painting and drew inspiration from it for Bertha’s portrait. :)

  4. Fellows doesn’t seem to understand how powerful American women were. The Home and Society were recognized as their spheres and American men tamely obeyed their dictates in these departments. In Real Life Mrs. Morris would have told her husband to go alone if he wanted to dine with the Russell’s, and he would have done so.

  5. I recognized the red evening dress Mrs. Russell was wearing right away. It was the 1892 painting of Mrs. Hammersley by John Singer Sargent. I have that in my Make Me file. ~~Val

  6. Something I did notice and wonder if it was relevant – Mrs Chamberlain’s dress, the lace is a stylised peacock feather motif. And then Mrs Russell shows up wearing a gown with peacock feathers. I know there is complicated imagery tied up with peacock feathers and mourning in England but it seems odd that a costume department would link two woman with this motif, which is loaded with symbolism, without there being some connection? Foreshadowing?

    I agree entirely about the dating on the costumes. Things before a date are fine, things too far forward of a date are jarring.

    1. I could see the peacock feathers being used on both new money women intentionally as they’re ‘peacocks’ who ‘stand out.’ But prob. not anything more complicated since the mainstream audience wouldn’t get it — & this is definitely a mainstream show!

  7. Staying with a style 15 years out of date is absolutely a late 20th century concept. When status was as big a deal as in the 19th century, ESPECIALLY for these upper class women, you kept as up date as you could afford. AND, you or your dressmaker had the skills to modify, as needed. You might choose the more conservative styling, but the silhouette would be as darn close as possible-unless you’re going for locked in an attic “eccentric “.

  8. Wouldn’t it have been fun if the new money people had better taste than the old money ones? Or if they went with something completely different, like Rational Dress? The cliche of new money having no taste is a bit meh.

    1. Last week I mused “they could put Bertha in, like, Aesthetic Dress, but that’s not her character.” I love the idea of her being more fashionable and better looking than the old guard. They could add jealousy to their distain. But, alas, they decided she’s from tacky-ville… on Mars.

    2. In fact New Money usually was better dressed than Old. They were absolute devotees of Charles Worth and got all their clothes in Paris. It was Old Money who dated to be dowdy.

  9. Apparently Bertha’s portrait IS supposed to be a Boldini, as per Carrie Coon’s twitter – I thought so initially from how the skirt was done, but this again places her well ahead of her contemporaries, as I’m sure Boldini’s popularity as a society portraitist came later than this.

  10. Hello! long-time lurker here, but a big fan! Now, I don’t have much to add costume-wise, but I do have my own historical niche appreciation about this series so far, and its the characters’ table manners! I realize its not something most viewers care much about, but it irks me that show creators often do not seem to care either so its nice to see that Mr. Fellows, or his staff, made the effort to show historically accurate dining etiquette of the American tradition.

    But on to my point, while sadly there is a lack of crazy ornate, highly specific utensils a la grape scissors and lemon forks– in fact, I’ve hardly seen any serving utensils at all– they do at least show the characters using correct zig-zag/switch method for handling silverware at dinner. Also, there are some very subtle faux pas on the part of Mrs. Russel and I have an inkling its intentional (keep an eye out for errant flatware, and outward-facing blades in episode 3). Surprisingly, the only character i’ve seen who incorrectly keeps their fork in their left hand (with the tell-tell sign of tines facing down) is Mrs. Morris who is supposedly old money; however, im betting that was the actor’s mistake because she was trying to seem fancier.

    See, for some reason europeans and brits have brainwashed themselves, and americans who try to emulate them, into believing the so-called “european style” of keeping forks in the left hand only is older and more formal than the American style, when in fact the opposite is true! The History Channel’s show Turn: Washingtons Spies gets it so wrong its sad! A british officer (the delicious JJ Field) makes a big deal of gently instructing his new slave on the “proper” “european” method– though he’s actually describing what we now call the American style- and thats AFTER she demonstrated “how her former mistress cuts and eats her meat” using the 2-step method like a modern brit (screams in No One Cares, Amber).

    Candace Smith does a great job of summarizing the known history here: https://www.candacesmithetiquette.com/americans-eat.html#:~:text=In%20the%201800's%2C%20use%20of,style%20became%20fashionable%20after%201850.

    In short, from around the latter half of the 18th century, anyone in the colonies/america or europe who were rich enough to own flatware sets would’ve used the 4-step/zig-zag dining method, except those who were against the trend of using forks (boomer voice: all these whippersnappers with their fancy devil sticks). The 1850s is about the time when the modern european/continental style emerged in western european countries (though france was slower to change) as a pruned-down, simplified dining style. So while there is a slim possibility that Anne Morris wanted to imitate what was fashionable among brits, americans of the time–particularly rich old-money types–were staunchly against sacrificing their formalities.

    Other than some extremely nit-picky issues, like teacup handles facing the wrong way and no one tearing/buttering/eating bread correctly, everyone else does an impeccable job with following the endless rules of etiquette! They take small bites, never speak with food in their mouths, and never clink their spoons in their teacups.

    In comparison to a show like Bridgerton its marvelously done; I could rant about that one for days, as they didnt seem to make the smallest effort toward historically accurate Georgian dining other than having service à la française; besides not using the zig-zag method, the men ate like farmhands coming in from baling hay (puke), the ladies gestured wildly with their silverware (cringe), and all the while they were hosting a DUKE whom most of the family had just met (eye-roll). Even at the most casual family dinner, their behavior would never be acceptable, especially considering that the children of a viscount would have been rigourously drilled in etiquette starting from toddler-hood.

    1. Given that this is from the Downton Abbey creator & at least one Downton producer is on-board, it’s not surprising the show is trying to get the table manners correct for the period. That was such a huge part of the other show.

      1. Fellows seems to focus on getting small details right. Which would be admirable if he didn’t gleefully ignore the big picture authenticity.

  11. I haven’t seen any of it bc I’m only subscribing to Amazon at present. I want to but it’s not financially feasible for me at present. I’m hoping Peggy becomes a millionaire and Gladys becomes a Suffragette and thumbs her nose at a mother who infantiles her daughter. And if we have a closeted guy character, where’s the female equivalent?

    1. According to Queen Victoria Lesbians did not exist. because no lady would EVER do such a thing. which is why is was illegal to be a homosexual but legal to be a lesbian. ah the Victorians.
      I can’t wait to see if they include Mrs. Astor’s social gate keeper Ward McAllister. “fighting off social climbing interlopers one at a time!”

      also, I’ve read in multiple sources that the NYC 400 went to Europe for their dresses, came home and put them in a trunk for 4-5 years so’s not to be “showy” and Ostentatious.

      1. Actually, the crime wasn’t homosexuality, a word that didn’t exist until the 20th century, but sodomy. And the crime didn’t include artificial aids (to put it mildly). So it couldn’t be done by woman on woman, and that was what Victoria was said to be alluding to. She knew perfectly well that women could get it on, just that they couldn’t do that.
        it wasn’t illegal to be a lesbian because they didn’t have penises.

  12. I’ve never seen a bustle day dress that opened down the CB. Evening gowns that laced CB yes. But even gowns where the open front with blouse or something underneath look is faked, there will be a boned underbodice that closes CF with hooks and eyes and a panel made to look like something underneath that lays over the opening and hooks and eyes on the side.
    And Mrs Astor’s yellow damask thing was their attempt at a dolman… just cut wrong in the sleeve area… and ridiculously the same fabric as the gown underneath. Match-y match-y.

    Bertha still looks like she’s from another show.

    As far as Mr Fellows and a plot or idea goes… can you guess which character is the smart aleck snobby Maggie Smith clone?

      1. In the grand tradition of Having It Good (a knowledgable person creating content that I care about with a unique point of view) I rudely ask for more. Please forgive me for giving in to this impulse.

        When it comes to the silhouette of the bustle and other structural forms and flourishes…are you looking at American fashion as reference? New York fashion ideally, but anything helps. Photos help, those with a date and place, even when the subject and their background isn’t known. We’re lucky to have some of that in this time! Well, I’ve found it exciting at least. ( The Met and The Museum of the City of New York have great images of the well-to-do. Others I can’t vet, but have years labeled on the photos. I’m sure I’m already offending you. You either know all of this, or shouldn’t be expected to know everything.)

        American fashion was not quite the same as in England, and skewed away more as the newly rich in America smashed together Parisian and other cosmopolitan fashions into the status quo. To me (someone completely unschooled in fashion and only an armchair fan) it makes sense that someone like Bertha would ask for a dress to be made that is something you’d never see on a fashion plate, might be accidentally avante garde, but equally likely to be tacky to both people of the time and now.

        In an case, when it comes to Bertha, she’ll lap up your negative attention along with the positive, as long as she has the power over you that attention provides.

        Well, I doubt anyone in the world will read through this all.

        If you do, and you are Trystan L. Bass, understand that I only write this because you’ve engaged me in a topic enjoy and I’m using this space talk about my thoughts as if in conversation with you. Thank you, from a voice in the void.

        1. You have an accurate read on Bertha as a character & what the costume designer seems to be doing with her costumes! I think a lot of our audience doesn’t get that or simply doesn’t like it (heck, I don’t like a lot of it ;-) — because her costumes aren’t strictly historically accurate. But the outfits she wears do take many elements from the historical time & place & then create something new that fits her brash personality.

    1. And please correct me if I’m wrong, but in terms of historical construction methods, I’ve never seen the boning on either side of a hook and eye closure stitched into a casing/channel incorporating the face fabric! That top-stitching is what makes it look so horribly obvious and zipper-like.

      1. Yeah, it’s a common modern / theatrical sewing method for durability & fast changes, but it looks so clunky compared to 19th-c. methods. Which were still durable but had no need to stand up to the wear of taking on / off quickly.

  13. I’m assuming that the derpy Bo Peep looks on Gladys are in service of some future episode where she comes out, puts her straggly hair up, shows a little cleavage and is Magically Transformed. Otherwise there is no excuse.

    1. And when she does, her arrivist mother will sell her off to an English duke (see consuelo vanderbilt), and I feel a potential cliffhanger there at the end of season 1!

    2. until they are “out” girls dressed as girls. Then BAM! out come the adult clothing, jewelry, hairstyles and outings.

  14. Mrs. Chamberlain’s silver and black dress is STUN-NING and goth as f***. I love the spray of unexpected orange feathers in her hat.

  15. Peggy’s costumes are by far my favorite and I have to say, I think that actress is a good bit better in her part than Meryl Streep’s daughter as the lead (though maybe she’s just not the best fit for a period ingenue role and would do better in something more modern?). I’d love a series that more thoroughly explored the lives of the Black educated middle class in New York or Pennsylvania of this period rather than the little glimpses we get here (probably directed by someone other than Fellowes, though)!

    1. There’s a historical novel entitled The Personal Librarian. It’s about Belle daCosta Greene, but it’s set in the 1900s. It’s spellbinding.

  16. I don’t find the bustle to be too small for the 1870s honestly. There were still a variety of bustle shapes being made in the 1870s, and a variety of fashionable shapes. I think they tended to be especially on the smaller size when they had that more sloped dropped style of bustle (which appears to be vaguely the case in that dress). I almost see it as like hinting at the trend towards the princess line silhouette if that makes sense?

  17. Possibly in New York or US in general women hung on to dresses for a couple of years before wearing them – I have no idea. My research for Europe does not show that – in fact, they were advised to order new outfits about 4 times a year, for each season, but only a few, to stay current and not spend too much. And if they had limited budget, they could remake older dresses to make the silhouette and the trim current.

    Btw, those rows of tons of buttons down the front that Ada has – very 1870s.

    Marian’s bodices and jackets seem to be moving to the 1890s a bit. With this speed, she might be in a full-on flapper outfit by episode 10. :)

    That gown on Mrs. Chamberlain, while definitely gorgeous, is also more 1890s, with some strong Art Nouveau vibes. As is Bertha’s peacock dress (or at least the dress it’s pretending to be).

  18. I’m watching this but I’m ambivalent about it.

    The clothing on everyone looks modern. The project sort of has whiffs of Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby about it.

    They are playing really fast and loose with the social behavior of the period. It can’t decide between going full soap opera and historically correct.

    People at the time would have rather been dragged over hot coals than say even a word of what the characters say in this series. Granted, if accurate it would have made a very staid and boring watch. But Scorsese managed to do both very well in “The Age of Innocence”.
    But this series varies so wildly it has me cringing most times.

    Real Life example of how close mouthed people were at the time. My victorian Great Grandmother told my mother that she didn’t have to tell me I was adopted. Which was funny because I’m Native American and look it, my mother did not look even remotely like me. But my Great Grandmother couldn’t see the disconnect at all between reality and being private. LOL.

  19. I am pretty sure I had that lace turtleneck Marian wears in about half the scenes. It would have been brilliant on Mad Men, but it just makes me laugh here.

    Anyone notice that the old-money sisters have just 5 members of staff: Butler, cook, footman, maid, and housekeeper. That is less than a skeleton crew for such a large home. A single maid to clean the massive home and dress all three women is absurd.

  20. Thank you so much for your commentary and analysis. I started watching this series mainly for the costumes and they have puzzled and confused me from the start. Your explanations and comparisons are very helpful.

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