I’m no fashion historian, but I am what one may call a dedicated escapist. And my preferred approach to soothe that itch of mine is to get lost in the allure period dramas. Sets larger than life, costumes that have my jaw on the floor and foreign dialects make for an excellent recipe to divert me from the mundane musings of everyday life. Be it the pouter pigeon silhouettes of the Edwardian era or the garishly ornate farthingales from the 1700s, not only are these shows a delight to watch, but also a great learning experience for a fashion geek like me.
Here’s a roundup of shows that hit the nail right on the head in terms of costume execution:
1. The Gilded Age
Costume Designer: Kasia Walicka-Maimone
HBO’s new show The Gilded Age explores the rivalry between two families- one drowning in old money and the other relatively new to the rich social scene in late 1800s New York. We see the corset taking on a more boyish flamboyance yet retaining a few elements from the past. An interesting observation is the new money folks’ incessant need to fit into the established circles by opting for bolder designs in terms of experimental drapery, massive bustles and colours screaming for attention. The chapeau chic in the show is a real delight given how detailed the hats are, in coordination with the gowns.
2. Peaky Blinders
Costume Designer: Stephanie Collie & Alison McCosh
Ain’t nobody more dapper than the gangsta lads of Birmingham. Penny collar shirts, baker boy hats and Albert chains on the three-piece suits are a combination designed by the gods themselves. And the undercut (which is now famously known as the Peaky Blinders Cut) doesn’t disappoint. Especially when Thomas Shelby puts his stamp of approval on it. The wavy short hair and non-constrictive boxy silhouettes rocked by the ladies were a nod to the flapper look of the 20s with a focus on the changing roles and perception of women in society at that point in time.
Costume Designer: Terry Dresbach & Trisha Biggar
Researching about this show convinced me to book tickets straight to Edinburgh and get lost in the realm of Scottish fantasy. Outlander explores the journey of a woman who accidentally travels back 200 hundred years, i.e. from the 1940s to the 1740s Scotland. The real highlight of this show is the impeccable grace in which they’ve adopted the tartan, a plaid fabric native to the Scots which is utilized for the kilts worn by the male lead Jamie. The image at the extreme right showcases the female protagonist Claire in the future 1960s, dressed in a tweed overcoat, reminiscent of the fashions during that decade.
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
As season 2 is just around the corner, Lady Whistledowns’s subjects deserve due mentions. From Daphne’s signature lilac and powder blue gowns to the queen’s larger than life coiffures, the costumes were anything but ordinary. The empire silhouettes and the scooped necklines adorned by the ladies drew inspiration from the regency era’s finest elite and their tussle for declaring the daughters of the house ‘the best catch of the season.’ Okay, maybe my yearning for time travel is not that good an idea.
5. The Spanish Princess
Costume Designer: Phoebe De Gaye & Pam Downe
Tracing the history of the Rennaisance with Catherine of Aragon in the early 1500s, The Spanish Princess is one of the period dramas that pays homage to the pomp and splendour of power-hungry monarchs and their quest for the throne. Quite a few gowns in the show were stitched out of Indian sarees given their need for wide-length bespoke and intricately embroidered fabrics. Velvets and silks dominated the trousseau and cancan foundations were utilised aplenty. The pointed cones and French hoods covered the mane of most ladies with special veils and jewels encrusted onto them.