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File:Princess gwendolyn.jpg

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.

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

Examples of Hollywood Costuming include:


  • Quite common during the Golden Age of Hollywood, although still around.
    • Picture comes from The Court Jester.
    • Vivien Leigh's obviously 20th century makeup job as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind.
      • Please note that an authentic 19th-century makeup job would have looked rather garish. "Well-brought-up" ladies of the period were not, in fact, even supposed to wear cosmetics at all, which were at best considered vulgar and at worst associated with prostitutes. The modern idea of makeup as a part of feminine elegance didn't really take root until the 1920s and 1930s.
      • Aside from the makeup issue, also note that Gone with the Wind is a fairly good example of Shown Their Work in regard to costuming; the clothes of the movie are overall quite accurate for the 1860s and early 1870s.
    • This picture of Rose Hobart as Anne Neville (with Basil Rathbone as Richard III) in 1939's Tower of London.
    • 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.
      • Interestingly enough, Pride and Prejudice had a low budget and had to use dresses recycled from Gone with the Wind.
  • 300 is an extreme example of this.
  • 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 costumes (1917, Theda Bara; 1939, -+ Colbert,+ Claudette+ (Cleopatra)_01.jpg Claudette Colbert; and 1963, Elizabeth Taylor) were particularly fun to compare.
    • Caudette 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.
    • Along the same lines, 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!
  • Same with 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.
  • Averted spectacularly in the Czech Hussite trilogy, the first part of which was made in 1954. Although all the chain mail is knitted silver wool, the costumes are otherwise very period accurate to the point of looking ridiculous.
  • Pretty much every woman in The Ten Commandments has obviously 1950s hair and makeup.
  • 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 Uberwald 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 Stokers 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.
      • Actually Lucy's "direly frumpy wedding dress" isn't really that accurate for the period. Mina's dresses certainly aren't whereas some of the styles of Lucy's dresses are. Mina dresses far too conservatively for a woman in 1897, wearing a dress that looks about thirty years out of date and something that would have been worn in America in the 1860s.
  • 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 armors. 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 had sailed and sunk in 1997 based on Jack's hair in the movie.
  • Deliberately done in Tangled, where Goethel's wardrobe is intentionally designed to look several centuries out of date compared to everyone else's clothing, hinting that she's been around much longer than she appears to look.


  • 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".)
    • Fridge Brilliance, possibly? If the whole point of the ruff is the hide his near decapitation, it must have been added to his costume post-mortum. This flies in the face of the idea that ghosts are permanently attired as they were when they died - but according to the 7th book the Bloody Baron didn't die with those chains either.

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.
  • 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.
  • MASH 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.


  • 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 Eighties 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

  • Some folks have pointed out that Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood generally has pretty good costuming, except when it comes to underwear.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 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.

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 Did Not Do the Research when it is used in stories set in the time of 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.