Thursday, January 22, 2015

Inspiring Films: My Favorite 18th Century Films

If you'll allow me a personal moment on the blog, this year hasn't been great thus far for me. I've been sick multiple times in the past three weeks, culminating yesterday with going in to have minor surgery to take care of an issue. As such, I've not been particularly frilly of dress lately. I've been wearing a lot of pajama pants and watching a lot of movies.

Those movies, however, have been very frilly, and I wanted to share them with you.

While I'm not really a fan of things Rococo and Georgian in my own style, I do love films inspired by the period and I know there are many Lolitas who find a good deal of inspiration in the clothing of the era. And, because I've been watching a lot of beautiful costume dramas recently, I want to share with you my favorite films set in the 18th century.

These are in no particular order. I enjoy them all and I think they're well worth the watch, but I'm not going to say one is better than another.


Belle is a more recent addition to my favorites, but I do so love it. A highly fictionalized account of the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle (a fascinating historical figure in her own right), this movie finds a beautiful balance between romance, social navigation, and politics without swinging too terribly far toward the romance side. Yes, I know romance is a draw for many, but for me it does often get in the way of the real story of a film.

It's so rare to find a period film for this era that has well-crafted characters of color, and Belle is a lovely example that really examines the issue of race, at multiple levels. It's human and beautiful.

And the costumes are gorgeous. Beautiful pearl necklaces are everywhere, well-coiffed hair abounds, and the gowns are absolutely gorgeous. The costumes serve the characters, establishing both status and personality, and they're beautifully detailed.

Dangerous Liaisons

I only recommend this movie if you're up for something that could best be described as "Horrible People Doing Horrible Things: The Movie," because that is largely what it amounts to. This is a movie about aristocrats manipulating and seducing those of lower social standing because they can.

But the costumes are so, so pretty.

This one is notable especially because of the opening scene of the two leads getting dressed. If you're a lover of beautiful costumes, that scene will be a favorite within minutes. It also serves to illustrate the artifice employed by the characters, which is an enormously important detail.

I love this movie. I really do. For all that it's melodramatic and very marked by the time of the novel it is based on (including "dying of a broken heart"), it's worth the watch if just for the costumes.

The Duchess

This movie is gorgeous, and it really has to be. Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was one of the biggest style icons in her day, so the clothing has to be darn near perfect in order to actually do a movie about her.

This movie gets there, and it's beautiful.

I'm not usually a fan of Kiera Knightley's performances, but this is one I make an exception for. Her performance is actually quite good: subtly feminist, well-imagined, and very human.

Marie Antoinette

This movie pretty much sums up my philosophy of costuming: everything for a reason. Marie Antoinette isn't trying to be historically accurate. It uses anachronism in an attempt to make connections between the 18th century and our time (vaguely; it's more glam rock influenced than anything). For me, this makes all the difference in the world. No, it's not at all historically accurate, but it's aware of its own inaccuracies and they have a purpose.

Is it a perfect movie? Heavens no. However, it's a very pretty movie and I never fail to giggle at the special feature with Jason Schwartzman, in character, doing Cribs in Versailles.


I'll get this out of the way first and foremost: this movie is not where historical accuracy lives, and it's on the wrong side of my costume philosophy. The way the wigs are styled, the princess seams, the Victorian-style corsets... it's not historically accurate. And none of those inaccuracies are done to make a point or express an idea.

But that's okay. The real value of this one is the music. Mozart's music is amazing, and I can put up with a lot of historical inaccuracies for a film scored with that.

And, honestly, the historical inaccuracies aren't as important when you put this in context of Lolita, a fashion which can, at best, be called "historically inspired."

Do you have any favorite movies that take place in this time period? I'd love to hear your recommendations.

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