10 Memorable Period Drama Costumes From Television and Film : The Men’s Edition

August 6, 2017

Check out all the costumes mentioned in the article in the gallery above!

A while ago we collated a list of the top 10 gowns from period dramas. This time, it’s the turn of the guys, as we look to the top 10 memorable suits and uniforms in television and film that rival the extravagant costumes of the women. The fashion fun doesn’t have to completely belong to the ladies, after all! Check out the list below – do you agree with our choices?

  1. Jay Gatsby’s pink suit in The Great Gatsby

Why not start with one of the most iconic outfits in literature? Jay Gatsby’s pink suit is ridiculous, but the colour (as with the entirety of this novel) represents a greater connection to the diluted American dream. Even without that straight analogy, the suit marks him out as a man with self-confidence and a desire to be special. It’s not easy to pull off after all, so just as well Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio were the men chosen to do it in the screen adaptations.

2. Don Draper’s grey suit in Mad Men

If gorgeous period costumes is what you’re looking for, Mad Men is the perfect television series to indulge in. Through the incredible work by costume designer Janie Bryant, each piece of clothing suited the character, representing their social status, their changes throughout the seasons and often a deeper symbolism. For this list however, I’m choosing one of the more controversial options – Don Draper’s tailored and minimalistic grey suit. Out of all the characters, Don’s style changes the least through the 60s, so that by the time we reach the 70s he looks like a man completely out of place. It’s an excellent comment on the character himself, utilising the power of costumes to further emphasise the figure’s inner life.

3. Mr Darcy’s iconic white shirt in Pride and Prejudice

I mean, it’s not really a very formal outfit but mention the words ‘Colin Firth’ and ‘white shirt’ in the same breath and every single period drama fan will know exactly what you’re talking about. Screenwriter Andrew Davies transformed public perceptions of period dramas in 1995 from buttoned up cardboard entertainment to something far more risque. Before there, nobody really saw Jane Austen as sexy, but then all it took was Darcy diving into a freezing lake (to cool his burning passion, of course) for opinions to dramatically change. When he walks up to Elizabeth Bennet in that soaking wet shirt, her reaction is as speechless as many of the viewers watching.

4. Richard Sharpe’s uniform in the Sharpe series

Sean Bean had plenty of time to play soldier Richard Sharpe in the eponymous ITV series, which also gave him lots of hours to look like a heroic dream in military garb. It was never glossy either – the uniform was always a bit grizzled from whatever conflict he’d been a part of. No time for dry cleaning in the 17th century, but it did not ruin the effect one bit.

5. Kenny’s lounging outfit in A Single Man

I’d feel neglectful to not include the clothes of fashion designer Tom Ford in this list. His gorgeous pieces make men’s clothing truly beautiful, always timeless and perfectly tailored. Starring Colin Firth and Nicholas Hoult, A Single Man is a sumptuous 1960s-set period piece where style unabashedly triumphs substance. Firth wears a lot of beautiful suits in this one, but my favourite is the more casual outfit worn by Hoult’s character Kenny. Men’s fashion can often be very dull, especially these days. It’s wonderful to see what can be done when clothes become more creative, even if it’s in a period setting.

6. Ross Poldark’s duster coat in Poldark

This was put out to an open vote on Twitter and results are still pending, but Ross Poldark has had a number of iconic outfits that fans love. I’m particularly fond of the navy duster coat, which has been with Ross on all his foolhardy adventures and gallops across the Cornish cliff. It makes him look moody and it ripples in the wind when he walks. A perfect choice for a romantic hero.

7. Colonel Brandon’s suit and hat in Sense and Sensibility

Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Colonel Brandon became a heart-throb from the moment he walked through that parlour door, but the costuming of the character is also carefully done. One iconic scene sees Marianne and Brandon snipping at tall reeds – he stands out in a dark outfit and large brimmed hat, looking like a dark figure as if in mourning. You’ll notice in that film too, that Edward Ferrars doesn’t wear a hat once and if wearing them at all, other background characters wear much less conspicuous top hats. The only other person to match Brandon in the wide brim hat stakes is suitably Willoughby – the rival for Marianne’s affections. I prefer Brandon’s hat, personally.

8. Prince Andrei’s military uniform in War and Peace

Hmm, there’s a lot of military uniform on this list, but in my defence, they are all pretty fantastic! James Norton as Prince Andrei in War and Peace gets to wear a lot of imposing outfits, and while he looks great in green battlefield attire, you’ve got to love the outfit he wears in that gorgeous ball scene. While still a symbol of his role in the military, this one is purely ceremonial, and the white jacket forms a perfect match with Natasha’s delicate gown.

9. All Philippe’s outfits in Versailles

Whether dressed in conventional male or female attire, King Louis’ brother Philippe knows how to dress to stand out, even when that’s not an easy feat in the court of Versailles. Each costume has been beautifully designed with hundreds of tiny details, bows and frills, and is always finished off by a perfectly coiffed head of hair. He even looks incredible in his military outfit – if there was a role model for adventurous male fashion, I’d nominate Philippe for the role.

10. John Keats’ suit and hat combo in Bright Star

John Keats might not have been very healthy for much of the 2009 film about his life, but the costume designer Janet Patterson made sure that he still dressed the part with flair. One particularly brilliant piece is an emerald coat, elegant enough to make anyone green with envy. It provided the perfect counterpoint to Fanny Brawne’s feminine pink gown and finished with a top hat, made him the dreamy romantic poet we all see.

Which ones have we missed? Leave a comment and let us know!

More about Jen Scouler

Jen Scouler is a magazine journalist, film critic and the founder of Lost In Drama. With degrees in both English Literature and Digital Journalism, she has experience of writing for popular print and online publications. Jen is also devoted to her metaphorical novelist aunties - Aunt Jane, Charlotte and Jo are particular favourites - and is usually found with an Earl Grey tea in hand.

Speak your mind, dear reader.

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