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Everything begins and ends at the exactly right time and place
August 13, 2012 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I recently watched "Picnic at Hanging Rock," which was made in 1975. I loved that although the movie was set in 1900, the makeup and hair was so 1970s - long straight middle-parted hair, cats-eye black eyeliner, frosty eyeshadow, an updo that could only have ever been constructed under one of those bubble hairdryers. What are some other "period" movies where the hair and makeup betray the era it was made in?

If I remember correctly, Julie Christie in "Dr Zhivago" also had some serious 1970s eye makeup and bouffant hair. Are there others you can think of?*

Was this practice prevalent in movies from other eras, and the 70s simply stand out to me because of the extreme fashions?

Was this intentional on the part of filmmakers and wardrobe people, so that viewers can 'relate" to characters, or an insistence from actresses to look fashionable?

Are we to this day putting a 21st century aesthetic sheen on historical characters in our movies, or is there more interest in visual / historical authenticity now?



*(Exempting the Converse on Kirsten Dunst's "Marie Antoinette," since that was such an intentional choice on the part of the director)
posted by sestaaak to Media & Arts (71 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
An awful lot of the "sword and sandal" flicks of the 1950's suffer from that particular type of anachronism, e.g., Anne Baxter's hair and makeup in Cecil B DeMille's The Ten Commandments.
posted by mosk at 3:28 PM on August 13, 2012


I tried to watch the Eastwood movie "Beguiled" last weekend, but it was too 1970s-Made-For-TV for me.

A lot of the later spaghetti westerns also sport some bitchin' late-60s/early-70s fashions.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:31 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Mad Max movies and the Civil War-era movies made from John Jakes novels (the Bastard, North and South) both come immediately to mind, lots of mullety layered-feathered hairstyles.
posted by headnsouth at 3:37 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The British soldiers in the movie "Zulu" are all clean shaven. (I think there might have been one mustache.) Photos from that time show that every soldier had a mustache, and many of them had full beards.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:37 PM on August 13, 2012


OMG, Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra -- the total nonsense of her makeup and gowns!
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:40 PM on August 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Kirk Douglas in Spartacus looks like Kirk Douglas any other day of the week in the late 50s/early 60s, except with fewer clothes.
posted by phunniemee at 3:41 PM on August 13, 2012


I feel bad picking on a low-budget film, but The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) really had some laughable 1940s styling.
posted by circular at 3:43 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was this intentional on the part of filmmakers and wardrobe people, so that viewers can 'relate" to characters, or an insistence from actresses to look fashionable?

I'd say that this was almost certainly an intentional decision on the part of the film-makers, but probably due to other factors (at least in my reading of the film). Much of the narrative is to do with disturbance: disturbed landscapes, cultures, temporalities. The overall sense is of an uncomfortable, ever-expanding, enveloping miasma of the uncanny: strange, yet recognisable; foreign, yet familiar. I think the decision to use recognisably 70s hairstyles and make-up serves to reinforce these feelings: as spectators we're in 1900 and 1975 simultaneously, and time we're watching is something more akin to dream than history.

Walker is the only film I can think of off-hand that tries to do something similar with temporal ambiguity, and there it's very much more heavy-handed and used in the service of political commentary.
posted by hydatius at 3:45 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


O. Henry's Full House has some amazing 1950s makeup on the women playing 1890s ladies. Jeanne Crain in "The Gift of the Magi" is right out of an Elizabeth Arden ad (bonus: Crain was quite pregnant at the time, so they shot her only above the waist!)

Hello, Dolly! is the most 1960s version of 1890 ever filmed.

Modern historical movies will look equally quaint and "early 21st century" years from now. At least the blockbusters; something like Bright Star, which did pay careful attention to the actual clothes that were worn by people of Fanny Brawne's and John Keats's economic and social standing is rare.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:45 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any movie taking place pre-1900 where the characters have all or most of their teeth. No western that I've ever seen has hair as messed up as the people you see in 1800's photos. And virtually no modern military movie has the hair short enough.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:47 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


According to memoirs I have read from actors, especially women actors, there is more emphasis on performers looking "attractive" by the standards of the era in which the film is being made than on them looking convincing as representatives of the era in which the film is set.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:48 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe this is kind of the norm rather than the exception. Some eras will be easier to notice than others. But I think we do typically do this to a greater or lesser degree and just don't tend to notice.

For example, until Twiggy came along, more buxom figures were the fashion norm. So any modern movie about the past but filled with slim, trim actresses is already getting it wrong, even before you get started on hair and wardrobe. I assure you, most movies are filled with slim people. The fat actress is a relative rarity, and never mind that isn't even accurately representative of the general population currently.

This becomes fairly obvious if you watch remakes of movies. Two movies with the same title and plot tend to be pretty representative of their different eras.

Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina (1995)
posted by Michele in California at 3:51 PM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I remember noticing this with Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, where she often looks much more 1960s than 1930s.
posted by bcwinters at 3:52 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oklahoma! Or a lot of those 50s and 60s musicals.

As for teeth, I think I read that they actually *did* mess up people's teeth for the 2008 John Adams HBO miniseries. But it's kind of the Final Frontier of attention to period detail.
posted by mskyle at 3:52 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, I am on the iPad and can't link images, but an amazing thing is to compare the 1980s movie The Untouchables with the 1959 TV series "The Untouchables" with photos of the actual Elliot Ness and his team. Look at, for instance, hairstyles, hats, and how high up on the chests the first vest button comes. Robert Stack's vests are pure 1959 Brooks Brothers; Kevin Costner's are 1980s Armani; Elliot Ness's vest started maybe an inch under the knot of his tie.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:59 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Any movie taking place pre-1900 where the characters have all or most of their teeth.

This is one of my father's pet observations! He used to watch Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman with my sister and comment, "They sure must have had a good dentist in that town." I've heard there's a Dracula movie in which a close-up of the heroine screaming shows all her fillings.

The Scarlet Empress featured a Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great with long, painted fingernails and very thirties-looking hair and makeup.

I'll give moviemakers a pass on things like straight white teeth and general hygiene (because who among us really wants to see too much realism in those areas), but this kind of thing is why I don't like period pieces made before 1990 or so. I don't think you see anachronistic hair and makeup in movies and TV shows so much anymore. The bar for period accuracy got raised somewhere along the way. I love Merchant Ivory's Howard's End and A Room with a View and think they don't look as though they date from the early 1990s at all.
posted by orange swan at 4:01 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or Great Expectations. This roundup of various Misses Havisham is enlightening. The Gillian Anderson costume is probably the most historically accurate; GE is set in 1830something, and Havisham was jilted at least 20 years previously, so it makes sense that her wedding dress would be Regency rather than the Victorian getups of Martita Hunt in the 1946 film and Jean Simmons in the 1989 television serial. (Charlotte Rampling also went Regency in the 1999 television serial.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:10 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the over-the-top late 90's influence in A Knight's Tale, for an example that was clearly a stylistic choice.
posted by emyd at 4:13 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


On "anachronistic hair and makeup", The Tudors is horrendous. Not to mention casting a slender man as a famously fat man who had always been burly even as a child.

I mean, of course the whole thing is a salmagundi, what with the violin-playing and the people quoting Shakespeare and the King James Bible, but the show is so clearly styled visually to appeal to the 21st century eye rather than represent the 16th century it's striking.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:15 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Various cinematic/TV versions of Tess of the d Urbervilles are equally demonstrative of their respective eras.

1924

1979

2008
posted by fancyoats at 4:17 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This still of Greer Gardon and Deborah Kerr from the 1953 Julius Caesar is another amazing example of 44 BCE via 1953. Check out the bullet bra on Kerr.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:22 PM on August 13, 2012


fancyoats, that is amazing. All of them are miles off from what an English farm woman would have worn in 1871-1879, but the dress Blanche Sweet is wearing in the 1924 still made me laugh out loud in surprise. They just got that from a store, is what they did.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:26 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whoops,my first Miss Havisham link should have gone here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:28 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Modern historical movies will look equally quaint and "early 21st century" years from now.

Came in here to say this. Just about every period film that's made now will clearly do hair and makeup "inspired" by the period, but it's always completely obviously modern hair.

That applies to historical dramas and so forth, but ESPECIALLY to modern movies set in the '60s and '70s. I don't know what it is, but in trying to recreate those looks modern stylists are unfortunately cherry-picking a handful of key details from a handful of fashion plates, and the results rarely look true to period -- like they're so afraid of letting someone look unattractive by today's standards that they don't have the guts to commit to any sort of authentic look.
posted by hermitosis at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yes, on the spaghetti westerns. As soon as I saw your question I thought of Claudia Cardinale in Once Upon a Time in the West. It worked for the movie, though, in my opinion, but I only saw it for the first time 30 years after it was made, and it's obviously such a product of its time.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2012


Oh, and to follow up about whether this is "intentional" or not.

Not really? Or, not really as such.

I've always chalked it up to the designers' desire to choose styles that look period correct, but don't look unattractive to the audience.

For example, mutton-chops and other elaborate forms of facial hair have been not only out of style, but seen as completely bizarre for most of the 20th century. So you'll almost never see actors styled that way for 19th century period films. Until maybe the last five years or so, when styled facial hair has somewhat made a comeback.
posted by Sara C. at 4:32 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pretty much any historical movie with a "naturally attractive" woman in it will have makeup that conforms to present-day tastes rather than the historical ones--eyebrows will be shaped for current trends, eyeshadow and lipstick will be present, when any makeup at all on many historical female characters would be a total anachronism. If you look at some images from HBO's Rome, which did a pretty good job with the costuming, the eyebrows, lipstick, and the very slim and highly toned female bodies are 100% early 21st century.

"Dangerous Beauty" is a good example of current makeup being used deliberately--I seem to recall reading an interview with the director where he talked about wanting to present the courtesan character as a beautiful and desirable woman and that the trends of the time--white lead face paint, eight-inch platform shoes--would have detracted from that.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:37 PM on August 13, 2012


Dr Zhivago - Lara (It's supposed to be 1917)
The Sound of Music - The Baroness (WWII)
Splendor in the Grass - Deanie (1928)
posted by marimeko at 4:37 PM on August 13, 2012


like they're so afraid of letting someone look unattractive by today's standards that they don't have the guts to commit to any sort of authentic look.

This is what I love about Mad Men. The costume designer, especially, almost revels in pulling out the fugly stuff you don't really think of when you think of the 60's. It would be so easy to keep everyone in "swinging 60's" ad-copy gorgeous styles that still look great in 2012. But they don't. Instead they rub our faces in Peggy's unfortunate hair and Betty's sad Pat Nixon inspired clothes.
posted by Sara C. at 4:37 PM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Plus check out the clothing on Pride and Prejudice (1940). Later ones did better.

A friend of a friend was hired to historical consultant on some Roman epic. He was shot down every time on the grounds of how unconvincing his suggestions would be if taken seriously.
posted by BWA at 4:39 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


These are fantastic, keep them coming! 

Totally makes sense that any film is going to be a product of its time and imposing current standards / modalities of beauty seems to be the default.

I'm loving the egregious examples (the feathered hair, eyebrow shapes and indiegirl bangs, the cone bras! Hadn't even thought about anachronistic bust-shapes). Amazing.
posted by sestaaak at 4:47 PM on August 13, 2012


The Godfather.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:50 PM on August 13, 2012


The Big Valley, the television western with all kinds of eyeliner, is what I always think of as an example. Their hair was also very high. The same thing happens with paintings, often, so that a 19th-century copy of a Raphael, for example, will have a 19th-century look that the makers weren't aware of. It's probably unavoidable, and I imagine it happens with music and other things, too.
posted by Francolin at 4:53 PM on August 13, 2012


anecdotally, an actress on Ang Lee's Woodstock movie told me that the production had had a lot of trouble casting extras - everyone is super-toned and lithe now, with trimmed pubic hair. It was apparently very tough to find girls who were thin but soft, or a little hippy, or whatever, and guys who were actually skinny.

another reverse example (how terrible am I at answering the actual question) - I was shocked and pretty impressed at the presence of Molly Parker's (dark, copious) underarm hair in Deadwood's love scenes. in general, the bodies and grooming habits displayed in love scenes stand out as highly anachronistic and for-the-times.
posted by peachfuzz at 4:56 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The insistence on looking like the current-when-the-movie-is-being-made fashion ideal is unlikely to be coming from the actors, male or female, except for megastars like Elizabeth Taylor. It comes from directors and/or producers thinking the performers' sex appeal is a key part of the movie's appeal.

Even for Greer Garson, who was the Meryl Streep of her day rather than a bombshell, glamour was seen as necessary. Contrast her as Marie Curie with the actual photos of the great scientist. (They made the Curies' laboratories a lot more photogenic as well!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:57 PM on August 13, 2012


All of them. Well, maybe most of them.

Anne Hollander's Seeing Through Clothes, which is mostly about the human body and dress in art, also covered how historical dress has been portrayed in theatre and film in Chapter IV. I remember she showed versions of Elizabeth I as played by Bette Davis (in the 1930s) and Bette Davis (in the 1950s), and you could see how each "period" costume so strongly reflected the era of the film.

Aha! Google Books much of that chapter available, which includes a still from the Davis 1930s movie: click on the page 297 link within this page here. It's not just the hair, makeup and clothing: it's the pose.

From page 297 in that excerpt, scroll forward and back to see great chunks of that chapter. Hollander has a lot of interesting points here, including her argument that suggests that as long as an iconic item of fashion is present in a costume, such as Elizabethan ruffs or 18th century white wigs, the audience will accept any fanciful assemblage of dress around that item.

Hollander says that Glenda Jackson was costumed absolutely correctly in Elizabeth R. and to my eye and memory, the court dresses of Elizabeth in the recent Cate Blanchett movies also look pretty authentic because they actually risk being ugly. But I wonder if in the decades to come, Blanchett's styling will obviously be seen to reflect post-punk/Goth stylings, for example, and we just can't see it now.

Judge for yourself: several film Elizabeths, including both Blanchett films. Scroll down to 21 for a perfect 21st century Liz from The Tudors. (I find that The Tudors and whatever that recent Camelot mini-series was just can't be arsed to do period.)

BWA: "He was shot down every time on the grounds of how unconvincing his suggestions would be if taken seriously." It would be interesting to figure out what element of Roman dress would be universally accepted as authentic and what elements could either be fake but accepted by the public, or real and not-too-ugly and also accepted by the public.
posted by maudlin at 4:58 PM on August 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Teeth have been mentioned, but I always notice them in scenes of peasants, dirt farmers, etc. Similarly, I'm often disappointed at seeing such fleshy, well-fed faces in the actors picked to portray people who would have been much scrawnier and, well, hungry looking.

Body hair on women (and to a lesser extent, on men's chests) is a great marker of when something was filmed. Caligula and Rome were set in approximately the same time and place, both have plenty of nakedness, and yet you'll rarely mistake an actress in one for the other.
posted by Forktine at 5:04 PM on August 13, 2012


(Sorry, The Tudors is picture #20 in my last link.)
posted by maudlin at 5:05 PM on August 13, 2012


The Godfather

Any film where the "period" is only twenty or so years before it was made tends to be absolutely horrible.

It's pretty easy to get a costume designer to make something that looks at least recognizably Victorian or Ancienne Regime or whatever.

But make a movie in 2012 that's set in 1990, and it's going to be full of anachronisms. Similarly a film made in 1972 that's set in the 50's.
posted by Sara C. at 5:06 PM on August 13, 2012


Any film where the "period" is only twenty or so years before it was made tends to be absolutely horrible.

I wonder how terribly seventies American Graffiti looks now?Just a few years later, Luke, Leia and Obi Wan certainly evoked a seventies take on futuristic/historical fashions.
posted by maudlin at 5:11 PM on August 13, 2012


I can't find a good example, but the sailors in The Bounty had some very early-1980s-looking hairstyles. (1984 dramatisation of the Mutiny on the Bounty with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins.)
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 5:12 PM on August 13, 2012


This is slightly different from the other answers you're getting, but I think it's relevant: I always thought that Drew Barrymore's character (and her character ONLY) looked totally out of place in The Wedding Singer. Everybody else gets the 80s look right, but she doesn't have big hair, wears a necklace that's much more 90s (plain onyx cabochon, by the looks of things) and wears fairly classic cute-girl clothes. There's never really anything to explain that, either--she just looks totally different from her cousin, Robbie's ex, and any other woman in the movie.

Never quite understood why they did that--my closest guess is that they wanted her to appeal more to the 90s audience, and she just couldn't do it in full-on Madonna-wear and mall bangs.
posted by dlugoczaj at 5:17 PM on August 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not just the hair, makeup and clothing: it's the pose.

This sort of thing is impossible to get right. Acting styles and casting choices are specific to the time. If you're making a movie that takes place before moving images existed, too, it's impossible to even know what kind of posture a king would have had vs. a peasant, or what choreography was like, or the proper way to hold a scepter, sit on a throne, genuflect, etc.

There's a certain amount of detail that we have to just suspend our disbelief on, because either there's no way to know or it would come off distracting/wrong/strange to us.
posted by Sara C. at 5:19 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The British soldiers in the movie "Zulu" are all clean shaven. (I think there might have been one mustache.)

And what a moustache it was.
posted by zamboni at 5:28 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Re American Grafitti.

Doesn't it take place in the summer of '63, before the Kennedy assasination?

IIRC, some characters are pretty OK, and some are not.

For example this looks pretty good for the early 60's.

But I remember thinking (when I saw it in the '90s) that Mackenzie Phillips' character is styled in a pretty anachronistic way. Harrison Ford, too, is so Harrison Ford-ish that it's hard not to read all his scenes as happening in the 70's/80's.
posted by Sara C. at 5:28 PM on August 13, 2012


Little House on the Prairie and M*A*S*H are rendered historically invalid by their stars' inability to part with their glorious '70s hairdos. See also, the last few years of Happy Days.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:37 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Group is set in the 30's, but shot with 60's styles.
posted by brujita at 5:50 PM on August 13, 2012


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, most particularly Redford's awesome thick 'n' lustrous hair and bushy mustache/sideburns. (His hair was similarly awesome a few years later in The Sting, though at least there they made an occasional stab at authenticity by slicking it back in some scenes.)
posted by scody at 5:54 PM on August 13, 2012


oh, and I was just watching this over the weekend: Rita Hayworth as the Greek goddess Terpsichore, by way of the 1940s.
posted by scody at 6:02 PM on August 13, 2012


American Graffiti was 1973, set in 1962. I think they did a reasonable job with the clothes, etc.: Ron Howard and Cindy Williams vsPatty Duke and Edward Applegate in a 1964 episode of "The Patty Duke Show", or Dwayne Hickman and Sheila James Kuehl in a 1961 episode of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:30 PM on August 13, 2012


Compare Harry Hamlin's big fluffy hair in the eighties Clash of the Titans to Sam Worthington's twenty first century buzz cut for the remake.
posted by octothorpe at 6:46 PM on August 13, 2012


The pre-Pearl-Harbor Officer's Club scene in In Harm's Way (1965) was a disorienting mixture of sheath dresses, stillettos, eyeliner and bouffant hair. I mean, Preminger didn't even try.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:49 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Connie Nielsen's costumes in Gladiator are pretty anachronistic. Gorgeous, but.
posted by elizeh at 6:54 PM on August 13, 2012


Holy crap, TWinbrook, that is astounding. Compare to an actual 1943 dance.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:55 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The version of Little Women from 1978. I mean apart from William Shatner.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:10 PM on August 13, 2012


I can't believe no one has said Dirty Dancing. The first time I saw it, I missed the intro and it took me 30 minutes to realize it was supposed to be the '60s.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 8:00 PM on August 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Little Women actually has multiple interesting examples: the 1933 (those eyebrows! the makeup!), 1949 (the hair! the makeup again!), and 1978 (as mentioned above by bibliogrrl) versions clearly have style influences of the decade in which they were filmed. The 1994 version probably is the most accurate, but I'm still not sure about those perfectly styled eyebrows on Jo and Meg. The film might look more dated as it continues to age and possibly falls out of step with the latest trends.
posted by castlebravo at 8:37 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I re-watched the '94 Little Women recently, and while it holds up (mainly because it's "my" rendition), it's really no more accurate than the others. See, for example, the Martha Stewart perfect art direction, the hair mainly worn down and long rather than pulled up into tight chignons as would have been correct for the period, and the emphasis on Marmee's feminist bona fides. Dr. Behr and Eric Stoltz's character also shouldn't be clean-shaven.
posted by Sara C. at 8:51 PM on August 13, 2012


Logan's Run.
posted by hypersloth at 9:21 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually (and I'm going to geek out for a minute here, sorry) the hairstyles in 1994's Little Women are, IMO, very accurate and a great example of how even hairstyling can help with character development in a film. Unmarried American girls in that era usually wore their hair down until their late teens, and being able to "pin up" one's hair was seen as a signal that you were old enough to go out into society and be courted by young men. As an example, here's Laura Ingalls Wilder at 14 years old in 1881 (which actually closely matches Jo's hairstyle at several points in the film), and again when she was 17 and dating. Hair down, then up.

Meg, Jo, and Amy all pin their hair up after they come of age, which Meg does almost right away since she's 16 at the start of the story and ready for love. Jo takes longer than normal, at 15 she probably could have started when Meg did, but her character arc is about how she is resistant to the changes that come with growing up. It's very telling that her hair is down in the scene where Laurie tries to get romantic- it shows she isn't ready for a boyfriend. Beth never puts her hair up despite being old enough in the film's second act, and keeps it loose or in childlike braids, a subtle signal that she won't make it to adulthood.

I'm with you on the film's inaccurate facial hair, though.
posted by castlebravo at 10:20 PM on August 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


The movie Battle of Britain was one I noticed - all the women had 60's hairstyles instead of 40's.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 10:40 PM on August 13, 2012


Haha, it's funny you mention the scene with Laurie, because that was the one I thought of that caused me to think it was unusual that the girls all wore their hair down. If you're old enough for someone to be proposing marriage, you're old enough to wear your hair Up. (Why, yes, I did read a lot of Anne of Green Gables as a child.)

I do think it's mighty coincidental that the hairstyles were all very flat and naturalistic, with middle parts, and tending towards hanging loose rather than in braids. While their hair might be consistent with the period, it's also very 90s.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder photo is interesting -- that's exactly how I wore my hair circa 1991, and it was a popular style for girls throughout the 90's. Yet another reason I pegged the hair in Little Women as being potentially anachronistic.

Oh, god, the set decoration/styling in your Meg photo is so 90s I could vomit.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 PM on August 13, 2012


American Graffitti (1973). The guys have much longer hair than would have been ok in the 50's.
posted by telstar at 12:00 AM on August 14, 2012


Never quite understood why they did that--my closest guess is that they wanted her to appeal more to the 90s audience, and she just couldn't do it in full-on Madonna-wear and mall bangs.

There's the opposite issue to what the OP is talking about here, which I've seen referred to as 'movie car syndrome' If it's set in 1986, all the cars will be from 1986, all the music played will be from 1986, and nobody will be wearing an article of clothing that was popular before 1986. Perhaps the makers were trying to avoid this by having someone look fairly classic? It's been a while since I've seen it, to be honest. As SaraC says, this is emphasised in recent period pieces which is something that drives me insane.

The film of I Capture The Castle showed the main character receiving a bottle of perfume for a gift in the 1930s which wasn't manufactured until 1985. The film was made in 2003 and so was probably the first association made when the book mentioned a perfume that smelt of bluebells.
posted by mippy at 5:14 AM on August 14, 2012


Honestly? Pretty much all of them. The hair and makeup is always "retro" or "[filming_date] does [film_period]" - never authentic.

You don't see films full of Tudors with rotting face cancers and overall so dirty you can practically smell them through the screen, can you? Also seconding the above remark about dentistry.

In general, you will never be shown whatever the current era thinks was awful or gross about the time period in which a show is set.
posted by tel3path at 5:36 AM on August 14, 2012


Steve McQueen in The Great Escape always strikes me as sticking out like a sore thumb in that movie. I could never figure out how a flyer managed to get shot-down over Germany wearing tan chinos and a cut-off athletic sweatshirt. Compare his ensemble to any of the other prisoners in the move, who retain some semblance of their actual military garb. McQueen looks more like he's walking along the Monterrey beachfront.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:06 AM on August 14, 2012


Especially the white jeans he's wearing during the breakout. White trousers for a night operation? Ridiculous!

Any film where the "period" is only twenty or so years before it was made tends to be absolutely horrible.

ESPECIALLY to modern movies set in the '60s and '70s. I don't know what it is, but in trying to recreate those looks modern stylists are unfortunately cherry-picking a handful of key details from a handful of fashion plates, and the results rarely look true to period


So true, so irritating. And why? It's not like there's any lack of film and photos from the period.
posted by Rash at 9:16 AM on August 14, 2012


There's the opposite issue to what the OP is talking about here, which I've seen referred to as 'movie car syndrome' If it's set in 1986, all the cars will be from 1986, all the music played will be from 1986, and nobody will be wearing an article of clothing that was popular before 1986.

I got that sense from Apollo 13 -- in the domestic scenes, it's like the house came straight out of a 1970's designer catalog.
posted by endless_forms at 9:19 AM on August 14, 2012


I think the decision to use recognisably 70s hairstyles and make-up serves to reinforce these feelings: as spectators we're in 1900 and 1975 simultaneously, and time we're watching is something more akin to dream than history.

I know it's Peter Weir and all, but you're giving him a lot of credit for what probably amounts mainly to the same problem as in all the other movies mentioned here: you (director, art director, costumer, makeup, etc.) try to make your actors look beautiful and believable, but what's beautiful and believable is always rooted very much in the present, so, knowingly or not, you make your characters look modern.
posted by pracowity at 1:17 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's one for you (speaking of Kirsten Dunst): Dick
(although the actual film wasn't as egregious as its advertising).
posted by Rash at 9:10 AM on August 16, 2012


I was just watching an old Poirot episode from ~1990 and it's interesting because a lot of the characters look VERY 1930s but especially the minor female characters often have very 1990s hairstyles and makeup.
posted by mskyle at 3:22 PM on August 18, 2012


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