Costume rant: BBC War & Peace (2016), ep. 4
“I have no one to talk to about clothes,” Helene moans to Natasha at one point in this episode. “Will you come and advise me? We can try on things together!” Of all the bad things Helene was enticing Natasha to do in this episode, I was most alarmed by this one. Sounds like a threat more than a promise.
This episode is the worst of the worst as far as costumes go. We’ve hit a new low in this miniseries. I actually think I have to rewatch the episode, because I could not focus on the plot for more than two minutes at a time due to the enormous number of hideous frocks being flung at me in quick succession. Let’s see how much shit we can wade through here.
We have some returning favorites. These old friends are back:
Let’s be honest here, the former is a 1930s something, the latter is a re-purposed sari. They both feature completely inappropriate colors, fabrics, and construction for the time period (1811-1812 by this point).
Oh yeah, and the slutty Arwen negligee is back:
It’s so bad that you can actually see her bra underneath–a totally modern, flesh-colored shaping bra. Great, wonderful. I mean, who’s ever heard of corsets or stays in this miniseries? Those are soooo 1810. You’re so ahead of the times, girl.
Speaking of which.
Yep, she’s up to her old tricks. The flapper Grecian look.
The famously horrid red dress also makes a reappearance in an even worse guise:
I mean, the woman has devil’s horns on her head by this point–literally. Look! She’s so over-the-top mustache-twirlingly evil that I find it unbelievable that even a naive girl like Natasha is taken in by this.
This whole outfit screams Art Deco to me. I especially like her little triangular brooch with the freemason eye–like, what is that supposed to be, a gift from her loving husband? I also love the “evil queen” high collar there on the jacket (which desperately wants to be a spencer, but I will not dignify it with that name).
Her early-twentieth-century fashion tastes are obviously rubbing off on Natasha, because Natasha went and invented the bowler hat this week:
Wow, Natasha, impressive: more than half a century ahead of the fashion trend!
We also get a new player in the gross costume game this week: the ill-favored but rich heiress Julie Karagina, who also sports the Downton look:
Julie continues her Edwardian ways at the opera, with what looks like a Roaring ‘20s qipao made of black sheer, and that Art Deco headband to go with:
Her future mother-in-law there on the left opts for full-on Orientalist, which still makes her more period-appropriate than poor ugly Julie.
Strangely enough, in the midst of all these Downton outfits, we actually get a clear case of 1820s too:
This has no place in 1812, gtfo.
What’s particularly disturbing to me in this episode is the drastic acceleration of a trend that was already apparent in previous episodes: the desperate attempt to make the costumes seem oh so very “Russian,” as opposed to just the usual Pride and Prejudice types (or Downton types, as the case may be). Thus we get nonsense like extra fur lining on everything…
…and this painfully egregious example, Nikolai wearing a traditional Russian shirt underneath a 19th-century-style waistcoat:
Ugh, stop! We get it already, it’s supposed to be Russia!
Then there’s this party that Helene holds, where she has this French actress performing a selection from Racine’s Phèdre for her guests. This is what the French actress is wearing:
Hm! I didn’t know they had wild, weird, off-off-Broadway performance art in 1812 Moscow! The opera singer costumes in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 are more plausible as period theatre costumes than this, and that’s saying a lot if you’ve seen the show.
Then there’s the charming frock that Helene wears to her own party, which, I must actually remind you, is not a costume ball:
Repeat, not a costume ball. Yet she came dressed in something that looks like Xena the Warrior Princess got caught in a cotton candy machine. I especially appreciate the gold bondage ribbons all up and down her arm and randomly splayed across her chest and back…I think I know what look she’s going for here…
Nailed it. Nice one, Helene, but you might have stiff competition in the costume contest from Dread Pirate Roberts Dolokhov from last week’s episode.