Hollywood Costuming

The bodice, hairstyle, makeup, and tan lines are more accurate for 1955, not 1255.

A Sub-Trope of Hollywood History related to period dress. Due to factors ranging from budget to Artistic License to downright They Just Didn't Care, period costuming in shows and movies is just plain inaccurate half the time (although most of the time there are some minor mistakes). Sometimes it's justified by Reality Is Unrealistic, sometimes not.

Sometimes costumes are mostly accurate, but from the wrong time. Sometimes the costumes are based more on the styles of the time the work was made than when they take place. Sometimes the costume designers will just make completely original outfits having almost nothing to do with the historical fashions. If you want to do a Pimped-Out Dress, sometimes you just need to follow the general lines of the time, and then go wild.

This doesn't just include clothing and accessories, but also makeup and hair.

This is actually Older Than Print. Consider a lot of paintings depicting Biblical or mythological scenes in medieval or Renaissance dress, or the fact that many Victorian reprints of Jane Austen's work had new illustrations depicting the characters in modest Victorian clothing rather than the comparatively skimpy light muslin dresses of the regency era.

Note that to count, it has to take place in our history, not a neo-historical future or a Fantasy Counterpart Culture.

A Super Trope to Gorgeous Period Dress.

Often overlaps with Fashion Dissonance, Present Day Past (when the sets, props, and costuming are not historical at all), Costume Porn, and Fashions Never Change. Some instances may be caused by Newer Than They Think. Extreme cases can lead to WTH, Costuming Department?.

Not to be confused with Hollywood Dress Code or Hollywood Style.



  • In Astérix, the Gaulish women dress much more like women from the 1950s, with bias-cut and fishtail skirts as the standard (with some teenage girl background characters wearing circle skirts). In reality, Gaulish women dressed very similarly to Gaulish men, though usually with longer clothes. This is lampshaded in a strip drawn by Uderzo for Elle magazine in which the narration describes historically accurate Gaulish fashion while Geriatrix's wife is posing about looking like a 1950s movie star. She even has a beehive hairstyle, while all the other Gaulish women have historically accurate (but timeless) long or plaited hair. Cacofonix's slowly evolving design caused him to end up with something of a 1970s retro-50s hairstyle around the time that this was happening in Real Life, but this is definitely intentional and based on his personality. Almost definitely unintentional is that the shoes worn by the Gauls would be more at home in the 11th Century.
    • One story hinges on a Straw Feminist liberating the village women by persuading them to wear trousers rather than skirts. Historical Armorican women and men both wore trousers under layers of tunics - it's much warmer, and northwestern Europe is cold.
    • Used for deliberate stereotyping in other cases, though - Asterix's Britannic cousin Anticlimax wears baggy tweed trousers (as the historical Britons did) but his shoes have long ties that wrap tightly around his legs up to below the knee, giving his trousers the distinctive shape of plus-fours.
    • A Turkish woman in Asterix and the Magic Carpet is dressed in a burqa, which is strange as the story takes place in 50BC.

  • Picture comes from The Court Jester, which is a spoof of Medieval Swashbucklers, which included following the style of costuming in those films.
  • Vivien Leigh's obviously 20th century makeup job as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. However, it's a fairly good example of Shown Their Work in regard to costuming.
  • This picture of Rose Hobart as Anne Neville (with Basil Rathbone as Richard III) in 1939's Tower of London. Mostly it's that Nice Hat. Heart shaped headresses are known as Mary Stuart caps for a reason and Mary was born some sixty years after Anne's death.
  • The movie adaption of Anne of the Thousand Days has Genevieve Bujold wearing French hoods as 60's era headbands. (For the record a French hood is supposed to have a bag attached to the back to cover the hair, and they were kept on by ties that knotted under the chin. The knots are sometimes left out in paintings of the day.)
  • The Laurence Olivier version of Pride and Prejudice with all the women in antebellum hoop skirts, when Jane Austen wrote her books a couple decades earlier. According to legend, the dresses are recycled from Gone with the Wind.
  • 300 goes by ancient Greek artwork rather than period-accurate fashions, as does the original graphic novel.
  • In the 1947 film version of Good News (set in The Roaring Twenties), the men's costumes are roughly period-appropriate, but the women's hair and clothes are contemporary.
  • There was, at one point, an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Art Museum dedicated to Hollywood "historical" costuming, showing actual costumes from various productions. The three Cleopatra VII costumes (1917, Theda Bara; 1939, Claudette Colbert; and 1963, Elizabeth Taylor) were particularly fun to compare. Claudette Colbert's version is the least inaccurate.
  • In Auntie Mame (at least the first film adaptation), many outfits don't even try to look like the 20s or 30s.
  • The plot of the Doris Day film Tea for Two revolves around the stock market crash of 1929, but the fashions are vintage 1950. Made worse by the fact that the movie opens and closes years later with Doris's children going through a trunk of old clothing and laughing at their parents' Roaring Twenties outfits, which they never actually wore onscreen!
  • Pocketful Of Miracles
  • Ralphie's mother in "A Christmas Story" sports a 70s style perm despite the story being set in the 40s. And that's even weirder when you remember that the movie was filmed in 1982! An early case of Still The Seventies, perhaps?
  • Braveheart, mostly for the Scots. Specifically, they wear the belted plaid, a piece of clothing that would not emerge for several centuries, and in a manner which is entirely ahistorical—one historian described it as the equivalent of Cromwell's Roundheads wearing modern business suits with the jackets back-to-front.
  • Every woman in The Ten Commandments has obviously 1950s hair and makeup.
  • Similarly, despite the accurate period costumes, the women in Meet Me in St. Louis (made in 1944, set in 1904) have obviously 1940s hairstyles.
    • Come to think of it, most of the 1940s hairstyles, like pompadours, were inspired by Gibson Girl hairstyles.
  • Pick a Dracula movie. Any Dracula movie.
    • 1931's Dracula can mostly be excused from this - the whole story got a period update from The Gay Nineties to the time the story was filmed, which today may seem odd but at the time was simply Pragmatic Adaptation along the lines of moving a story set in the 1960s to the 2010s. By this logic, Mina and Lucy's bobbed haircuts, heavy makeup and long narrow dresses make sense. What doesn't work, though, is Dracula's ancient "brides" having similarly sleek, short hair.
    • The Hammer Horror series (and unrelated spiritual successors like The Fearless Vampire Killers) are all apparently set in Überwald circa 1965. Try finding one of these films where the women's hairstyles aren't some architectural combination of Gibson Girl poufs and 1960s half-updone bouffants and their dresses aren't some weird gestalt silhouette that only existed in sixties impressions of the nineteenth century.
    • Dracula A.D. 1972, their Setting Update that was actually made at the time it was set, inverts this. Drac's latest victim drifts about in a very-chic-by-early-70s-standards combination fluffy bob/long-in-the-back haircut and a standard diaphanous pseudo-Victorian shift.
    • Bram Stoker's Dracula is a weird case. Lucy and Mina wear painstakingly carefully designed late-Victorian gowns about 80% of the time, with appropriate hairstyles to match, even when the costumes are ugly by modern standards (Lucy's direly frumpy wedding dress comes to mind). But when the Rule of Symbolism flies in, accuracy goes straight out the window, resulting in a few costumes that are just off the wall.
  • Pick any movie set in the 1600s or 1700s made up until the sixties and early seventies, and you'll mostly find dresses with very modest cleavage or no cleavage at all. The 17th-18th century fashions were obsessed with pushed-up boobs and massive cleavage and for a brief period during the 18th century, some ladies of the French court even exposed one breast completely to look fashionable. So much so that one modest 18th century woman (Frances Burney) chose to have her portrait painted with what was for then a very conservative neckline - and it's still more daring than most of what you see in 1940s movies.
  • Mostly averted in Doctor Zhivago, but all the women have very 60s hair.
  • In the Clash of the Titans remake, the Greek Gods have Medieval European suits of armor. Yes, from the High Middle Ages — complete with armor plates. The Greek Goddesses and the civilians do wear Hellenic costumes, though. So it is part Hollywood Costuming, and part Anachronism Stew.
  • In Roger Ebert's review of Spartacus, the film, he criticizes the hair and makeup of the female characters (especially that of the rich, spoiled Roman women at the beginning of the film, who looked like they stepped out of a 1960's hair salon.)
  • You'd think the Titanic (1997) had sailed and sunk in 1997 based on Jack's hair in the movie.
  • Deliberately done in Tangled, where Mother Gothel's wardrobe is clearly several centuries out of date compared to everyone else's clothing, hinting that she's been around much longer than she appears.
  • The costume designer for A Knight's Tale clearly didn't bother with research - fair enough considering the historical character of the movie.
  • Parodied in Time Bandits. Our heroes discover that Robin Hood's Merry Men are disgusting, filthy dwellers of The Dung Ages. Then Robin himself emerges in a spotless lincoln green tunic and tights straight out of an old Errol Flynn movie.
  • Disney's Sleeping Beauty has Aurora in a dress fitting 1950s high fashion, not the 1300s.
  • In Argo, the events of the film take place during 1980, but the characters wear tailored suits and fitted shirts that look far more modern than the (stereotypical) 80s suits that were boxy and loose. Even in moments when the film takes great pains to match the look and style of a 70s political thriller, some of the characters are dressed like they just walked in from a late-2010s runway show.
  • Frozen is supposedly set sometime in the early 19th century, yet the skirts of both female leads' costumes don't even show a hint of crinoline. They either fall in tight folds that flounce nicely when moving, like Anna's ball gown, or straight down, like Elsa's coronation dress. A cut scene from an earlier draft of the movie showed the sisters together in a dressing room where Anna tries on a tight laced corset (as fashion standards of the actual time period dictated), possibly lampshading the physical features both Elsa and Anna display.
  • Susannah York's makeup and short, tousled hairstyle in Battle of Britain are clearly products of 1969, when the film was made, rather than 1940, when it was set.
  • In every film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which is set in 1922, the fashion statements are almost always based in the styles of the second half of the 1920s. Here is what women would have actually wore at Gatsby's mansion in 1922.
    • The 2013 adaptation pushes this even further with the modernized depictions of the 1920s, and the Art Deco motifs. The men's fashions are more or less period accurate on this one (apart from the exceptionally skinny trousers). In short, The Great Gatsby Wears Prada.
  • Jennifer Grey's permed 80s hair in the 1963-set Dirty Dancing.

  • When Thackeray was drawing the illustrations to his own novel, Vanity Fair, set in the Jane Austen era, he appended a note to the text explicitly stating, "I have not the heart to disfigure my heroes and heroines by costumes so hideous," (!) and so clothed them in the fashions of the years of the novel's serial publication (1847-1848).
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J. K. Rowling has her "Nearly Headless Nick" wearing a ruff to hide the disjunction between his head and neck. Unfortunately, she states in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that Nick was executed in 1492, a good fifty years before the ruff was commonly worn. (The film versions depict Nick in the high style of the 1590s, a good hundred years after his supposed death; blame that on the first book as well, where Nick claimed that he'd been dead for "nearly four hundred years".)

Live-Action TV
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman did this, although to a much milder degree than the other historical inaccuracies of the show.
  • Debatable how accurate most of the costuming in Rome is, but the Egyptian costuming, as well as sets, were totally off. Egypt was a Hellenistic nation at the time, as were many Mediterranean nations after Alexander the Great conquered them.
    • According to the director's commentary they were perfectly aware of the historical circumstances, they were simply going for Rule of Cool, while at the same time trying hard to distance themselves from other well-known and stereotypical depictions of Egypt.
  • The costuming in The Tudors won an Emmy, but if you value your sanity do not claim it's historically accurate on any Internet re-enactment board or discussion list.
  • On Charmed, there are occasionally scenes and episodes where the sisters travel to colonial Salem, or where people from that period come to the present. And there is a conspicuous amount of cleavage shown. Those puritans probably wouldn't have been shown exposing that much skin.
  • Practically every male in Little House on the Prairie had a 1970s hairstyle - shaggy mops for boys, perms on adult men. (Women and girls tied their hair back)
  • Some of Morgana's dresses on Merlin could be worn to a modern-day cocktail party without attracting much comment.
  • A minor, intentional one in Spartacus. The Romans wear very authentic roman soldier uniforms, but at the time Spartacus lived that outfit would not exist for another 70 years. The developers knew this but decided to go with the iconic look to make it feel more Rome-ish. Considering the already highly stylized nature of the series this is probably a good thing.
  • M*A*S*H had hairstyles that looked like they didn't even care that every male looked like he was from the 1970s off the street, rather than a soldier in the 1950s.
  • Every girl on Hogan's Heroes had extremely 60's/70's hair and make up.
  • Same goes for much of the ladies' clothing in Upstairs Downstairs.
  • Happy Days: When the series started out, the characters wore 1950s fashions and hairstyles, but by the fifth season (1977-1978), the cast looked like they were indeed from the 1970s but somehow got warped back to the 1950s. This trend continued into the 1980s, with the characters wearing hairstyles and clothing appropriate for the early MTV era rather than the early 1960s.
  • Averted with Mad Men: the costume designer Janie Bryant worked very hard to get the clothes of the era just right for every character's taste, social class, sensibilities, age, and occupation along with fitting them to recurring themes in an episode. She even went right down to the women's underwear to stay period-accurate (those aren't spanx or elastic pantyhose, those are are actual girdles and bras constructed in the costume department).


  • In theater more than a century or so older, there wasn't even an effort to be accurate in the costuming. You would see Cleopatra in petticoats and an ermine cape and Mark Anthony in a doublet and tights.
  • Christine's frizzy '80s Hair in the original production of The Phantom of the Opera (though, that could be an homage to the 1925 silent film too, which would not necessarily still be this, as Mary Philbin's hair was naturally that wavy and was up for most of the film), although the visual designer of the original production stated it was supposed to be styled after the hairstyles seen in pre-Raphaelite paintings. Over the years, this has evolved into much tidier ringlets.

Video Games
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is generally pretty good about having correct period clothing. Well, except when it comes to underwear.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is set in the 1960s and mostly accurate, particularly with EVA's distinctively 60s hair and makeup, and Para-Medic's various outfits being period accurate. However, there is no way Naked Snake would be able to get away with wearing his hair like that in 1964. This was an intentional decision by the creators to make him look more like Solid Snake, his clone.

Multiple media
  • Because the King Arthur legend kept getting more and more embellished all through the Middle Ages and up to the present day, adaptations almost always depict the characters wearing properly impressive medieval armor and clothing that would not have existed in the 6th century. Most do restrict themselves to chain mail rather than plate, but some — notably Excalibur — go for shiny full plate by way of Rule of Cool (after all, it's not as if historical accuracy is really an issue in most King Arthur stories).
  • Many depictions of Roman soldiers actually have them looking similar to Greek hoplites. The most popular Hollywood article is the Attic helmet, whereas Roman legionaries mostly used the Gallic helmet. Also, the primary weapon of legionaries was the sword; the commonly depicted javelin/spear was a sidearm. Compare this to this.
    • More technically, Roman Legionnaires are usually portrayed in their iconic Lorica segmentata, when for most of their history they used either the Lorica hamata (mail) of the Republican period, or the Lorica squamata (scale armour) of the Late Imperial period. Additionally, they are usually depicted wearing the tunic typical of Mediterranean climates, while those in Northern provinces such as Britain and the German border often adopted barbarian trousers. This is largely because the Roman golden age, the "Pax Romana" took place when this was standard equipment, but it becomes a blatant case of artistic license when it is used in stories set in the time of Gaius Julius Caesar and Augustus, the armour having not been introduced until 9BC, thirty-five years after Caesar's death.
  • Arabian Nights Days nearly always features a mishmash of Middle Eastern clothing, not all of which would have actually been worn at the same time in the same place. Of course, there's very little information available of what people in ancient and medieval Arabia would really have been wearing, but there are definitely clothes that can be pointed to as anachronisms. There is no room for accuracy in Instant Ali Baba Kits.