How much does accurate Historical costuming and props matter when you see a movie?

Jul 2015
124
moxicoism
#1
My friend is making a 17th century movie set during the English Civil War

I've told him that he is doing too much with his budget but he refuses to listen. His budget is 16112 British Pounds and he is going to try to cover most of the conflicts, hiring up to 100 actors in England but a lot of his costuming is severely lacking accuracy.

He insisted that as long as the story is accurate no one will care. The costuming is nice and fresh, full of wools here and there with sharp looking rifles but the period clothing patterns aren't accurate on most of the clothes and a lot of the boots have noticeable zippers.

Would this deteriorate your view of a movie if a lot of the scenery had historical inaccuracies? Do you think that it serves a disservice to the time period itself even though I'm sure, most audiences will not notice?
 
Jan 2016
747
Woodside, Perthshire
#4
It depends how blatant it is - I remember a film/TV show featuring Elizabethan England with one at least of the women having a very noticeable zip down the back of her dress - irritating. Then there was a Robin Hood TV series in one episode of which a male character appeared wearing what for all the world looked like modern military jungle pattern trousers and lace up combat boots whilst everyone else looked - to my untutored eyes - reasonably authentic.
However, I'm no expert on dress in olden times, so unless it is really way out, I almost certainly won't notice. What really bugs me is mechanical artefacts out of their time frame - especially weaponry, about which I do know a little. American Civil War scenes with characters toting 1873 Colts and 1894 Winchesters, characters somehow loosing off 20 shots from 6 shot revolvers, that sort of thing.
Mike
 
May 2016
811
Vatican occupied America
#5
My friend is making a 17th century movie set during the English Civil War

I've told him that he is doing too much with his budget but he refuses to listen. His budget is 16112 British Pounds and he is going to try to cover most of the conflicts, hiring up to 100 actors in England but a lot of his costuming is severely lacking accuracy.

He insisted that as long as the story is accurate no one will care. The costuming is nice and fresh, full of wools here and there with sharp looking rifles but the period clothing patterns aren't accurate on most of the clothes and a lot of the boots have noticeable zippers.

Would this deteriorate your view of a movie if a lot of the scenery had historical inaccuracies? Do you think that it serves a disservice to the time period itself even though I'm sure, most audiences will not notice?
There's a ready made supply of free extras in reinactors. They not do they have appropriate costumes they'll buy the film if in it and can be free technical advisors. The females into sewing can also make appropriate costumes at cost for a credit in the film. Use the forces of those already in love with the period and their vanity.

The real actors need to be in period costumes, but there should be under a dozen of them. The reinactors also have contacts with prop vendors. They might provide the use of the props for free as props used in films sell to collectors at a premium or he could get the reinactors to buy them for use in the film for the glory of owning them afterwards.

Even non-antiquitarians will notice gross things like zippers on boots. Once they do the story will matter a lot less. His budget is so tiny he'll have to be every creative in making his film. Right now he's just doing the typical just get it done and will just create another crappy film rather than a passable or good one. He's right that the majority of the public will not notice the fine details, but wrong that they will not notice the gross costuming errors. The costumes only have to look period to the general public.

That said he's likely to ignore anything we tell him, seeing our arguments as just more nay saying to the completion of his project. So one just can't tell him you have to manipulate him into seeing it for himself. Use the forces of his vanity and intelligence against him. Manipulation starts not with talk but with subconscious visual props.
 
Jan 2015
2,928
MD, USA
#6
There's a ready made supply of free extras in reinactors. They not do they have appropriate costumes they'll buy the film if in it and can be free technical advisors. The females into sewing can also make appropriate costumes at cost for a credit in the film.
Whoa whoa WHOA!! "Free"?? Screw that! If you want a bunch of people to help make YOUR movie so you can get rich, you can darn well pay them! Reenactors all have "real lives" and even jobs and homes and families, and are actually not all sitting by the phone waiting with bated breath for some Hollywood wacko to call and accept their slavery for weeks of filming. And reenactor slave labor for the costuming department, are you kidding? Can you show me even one film where that happened? Would it surprise you to know that a lot of MALE reenactors actually make their own clothing? I even made a lot of what my wife and daughter wore, for many years.

Use the forces of those already in love with the period and their vanity.
Any more insults you want to heap onto a dedicated group of knowledgeable people who consider themselves teachers, and who care far more about history that any ego-tripping director with some drug-fogged "vision"?

The real actors need to be in period costumes, but there should be under a dozen of them. The reinactors also have contacts with prop vendors. They might provide the use of the props for free as props used in films sell to collectors at a premium or he could get the reinactors to buy them for use in the film for the glory of owning them afterwards.
I think we need to define "prop". The reconstructed clothing and equipment used by reenactors are NOTHING like "props", but are (optimally!) more like real-life everyday items. Some are production items, many are carefully hand-crafted, all with the intent of making them as close to the "real thing" as possible. Obviously the degree of accuracy will vary! "Props", on the other hand, are cranked-out show pieces made of modern materials, designed to be cheap to produce and maintain, but most of all designed to fit the production teams ideas of what they want to show, regardless of any historical content or lack thereof. In other words, they often don't look like anything from history. Armor and weapons, for example, are generally plastic, fiberglass, and rubber.

Reenactors generally have no use for Hollywood props, since they simply aren't historically accurate enough for what we do. Even if they pretty much look right on film, they won't be made of the proper materials. Props are collected by *movie fans*, a few of whom may also be reenactors. So "prop vendors" who work for the film industry are usually very different from the suppliers and craftsmen who cater to historical reenactors. Usually! There *are* armorers and other craftsmen who have worked on various films, and it's always fun to spot their work.

You should also not get the idea that all movie-makers WANT reenactors on their set! We won't have the grim fantasy look that they want. And they CERTAINLY don't want historical advisors that will actually be so bold and stupid as to try to inflict any real history into the movie! Anyone with facts to share should sit down and shut up. Why pay for annoying people like that? It's far easier to hire a mob of professional extras and dress them in the usual zippered cotton-poly costumes and plastic armor, and they'll be happy to do whatever you tell them for days on end.

The rest of the actual question has always been kind of perilous for me to get into. Good costuming and historical accuracy does not necessarily mean it's a good movie. Bad costuming and lots of INaccuracy does not necessarily mean it's a bad movie. It *is* funny how much time, effort, and money a director will put into adding MORE inaccuracies, since, after all, it's all supposed to be about making money, right?

Matthew
 
Jul 2015
124
moxicoism
#7
I won't watch a "historical movie" that doesn't have reasonably accurate gear.
Well keep in mind, some of the most influential and well sought after movies did not have historically accurate gear

Abel Gance's Napoleon 1927



and

Dw Griffith's America 1924



Although both of those films get the basics right, if you look at the extras around the scenery, some are wearing 17th century style dresses, hair is down naturally in most of the shots before that became a fashion trend and it becomes apparent that the creators didn't care too much. Regardless, these films are meticulous in camera work and visceral sequences and thus, became extremely influential.



Stanley Kubrick (The filmmaker behind Barry Lyndon) admitted that the majority of his film cycle was inspired by DW Griffith. A man who was more focused on entertainment than historical accuracy.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2010
6,330
US
#8
To me, it depends on what the movie is trying to accomplish. If the movie is claiming authenticity, then obviously I would want all the costumes and props to be accurate. If the movie is a fictionalized event that just happens to be set in a certain time period, then it doesn't really bother me if I notice something off. For instance, The Last Samurai is one of my favorite movies. If I held all of the historical inaccuracies against that film, I definitely would not feel that way about it. Conversely, Letters From iwo Jima is also one of my favorite movies, but more so because it is one of the more accurate historical films I've seen.
 
Jan 2015
2,928
MD, USA
#9
To me, it depends on what the movie is trying to accomplish. If the movie is claiming authenticity, then obviously I would want all the costumes and props to be accurate. If the movie is a fictionalized event that just happens to be set in a certain time period, then it doesn't really bother me if I notice something off. For instance, The Last Samurai is one of my favorite movies. If I held all of the historical inaccuracies against that film, I definitely would not feel that way about it. Conversely, Letters From iwo Jima is also one of my favorite movies, but more so because it is one of the more accurate historical films I've seen.
Absolutely! I love "The Wind and the Lion", even though I know the history is completely bogus--couldn't tell you much about the props and costuming, though. "I, Claudius" is still one of the best things ever filmed, and the armor in that is *awful*, classic Hollywood plastic!

"Gladiator" was a particular trial for me as a Roman reenactor, though. It should have been OUR FILM, custom-made for uber-geek Roman history buffs. It never even crossed my mind that the costuming and armor might be in the least bit accurate, and in fact I was pleasantly surprised to see some rather nice mailshirts and shields (even if they were painted Standard Black...). I could easily have gotten over the usual garbage heap of gray and brown fantasy armor worn over ragged burlap and fur bits, but everything *else* about the movie was a travesty: bad plot, bad script, bad acting (Joaquin Phoenix had one excellent scene!), bad directing, and migrane-inducing "jerky-cam" battles. Warfare based on gasoline bombs. Every three minutes I was slapped in the face by something ludicrous.

Perfect costuming would not have helped. But they could have made the costuming *worse* and gotten something like "I, Claudius". And I'd be helping them to make money by getting all my friends to go and see it with me again!

And I am STILL having to waste my time at reenactments and classroom demos explaining even to *teachers* that "Gladiator" is not historical! That gets old.

In contrast, the costuming and armor in "Alexander" look excellent! Could probably use tad more polishing, but hey, realism! I never saw the movie, but apparently the costuming didn't help it get any better than VERY mixed reviews.

Matthew
 
Jul 2015
124
moxicoism
#10
To me, it depends on what the movie is trying to accomplish. If the movie is claiming authenticity, then obviously I would want all the costumes and props to be accurate. If the movie is a fictionalized event that just happens to be set in a certain time period, then it doesn't really bother me if I notice something off. For instance, The Last Samurai is one of my favorite movies. If I held all of the historical inaccuracies against that film, I definitely would not feel that way about it. Conversely, Letters From iwo Jima is also one of my favorite movies, but more so because it is one of the more accurate historical films I've seen.
Well then you're probably not going to like his movie. It's based on the English Civil war and King Charles 1 is in the movie. King Charles' clothing looks very authentic from what he's shown me. He told me King Charles' uniform cost him 479 pounds and most of the clothing did for the central characters. The costuming was custom made by designers to match paintings and looks lovely.

But for side characters, a lot of the costumes are made of polyester and he admitted that some did come from halloween type costume shops. Like a musketeer halloween costume to play a guard lmao... But he showed me the paintings, and he blended halloween costumes to look like the real thing but the material is polyester. I've seen it done in tv movies and it didn't hinder the greatness of it...

The more I think about it, how does inaccurate costuming really destroy the image of our ancestors? It doesn't hinder their character useless in any way, it just shows that the filmmaker has a fragile budget. And even then, most average audiences will still be wowed by the amount of costumes I'm sure and the only people to scoff are historians. But after thinking logically about it, how does slightly inaccurate costuming, if it looks nice, destroy the image of a historical character? Because it makes reenactors pretty damn mad.