Re: Yoicks and Away!

“But really and for true, I am Robin Hood.” Daffy Duck as Robin Hood in the classic Looney Tunes cartoon, “Robin Hood Daffy”.

Admit it–you want to dress up like Robin Hood. Trust me, if Sherwood-mania hasn’t taken root now, it probably will by the time the Ridley Scott’s latest epic hits movie screens this May.

But what’s not to love about that famous outlaw of Sherwood? Indeed there are so many ways to dress like Robin that your main problem will be deciding on your approach.

Errol Flynn (center) as the title character in the 1938 film, “Robin Hood”.

If you want to be immediately recognized as Robin Hood, I recommend dressing in some variant of the following–the hat with a feather, bow and arrow, green tights or leggings, and a green tunic. That particular ensemble, immortalized by Errol Flynn, has come to symbolize Robin Hood in the public mind.

The film actually had some wonderful costumes in it (see a gallery of them by clicking here).  I thought the Sheriff of Nottingham’s was particularly striking, but Maid Marian also wears some lovely gowns in the picture.

Women go crazy for a sharp dressed man. That’s Basil Rathbone (standing), holding a fallen Errol Flynn at swordpoint.

Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian shows off her elegant gown.  “Medieval-style” accessories enjoyed a revival in the 1930s.

Enid Bennett as Maid Marian and Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood in the 1922 film of the same name.

Robin Hood and Little John’s classic quarterstaff fight on the bridge. Illustration from Howard Pyle’s “Robin Hood”.

You could re-create a vintage Robin Hood costume from one of the older films or from an illustration. The beauty of a vintage-style costume is that it gives a little extra punch to what has become a stereotypical “Robin Hood”-like outfit.

The Robin Hood legend has been animated several times so you could dress as Robin Hood Daffy or as Robin Hood the fox from the Disney version of the tale. A fox mask could substitute if you didn’t want to do a fur or styrofoam suit.

The number one reason why the men of Sherwood were always merry.

Of course, the “sexy Robin Hood” costume is never far away from any dress up occasion.  Unlike most other “come hither” character outfits, the sassy wench dressed in Lincoln green actually has historical precedent to recommend her.  In English pantomimes, in addition to the bloke-in-the-dress character, there was usually an attractive young woman dressed as a boy–often as Robin Hood incidentally.

Back in black. Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne from the BBC television series, “Robin Hood”. Designer Tempest drew on race car driver/biker imagery to design his black leather outfit.

Unlike many modern Sherwood producers, the creators of the BBC series “Robin Hood” encouraged costume designer Frances Tempest (read an interview with her) to give a deliberate 21st century-tone to the character costumes. The reason: the producers were aiming for a teen audience and, at one point, hoped to develop a line of ready-to-wear clothing based on the series.

Speaking strictly from an audience point of view, the effect is mixed. Sometimes the clothes, while “mod”, seem believably period, but at other times they seem anachronistically out of place, particularly some of Marian’s second season outfits. Historically, using TV and film productions to influence fashion is not new and, in fact, dates back to at least the 1940s (if not earlier) when studios used to market actual patterns of the actors’ on-film clothes to home sewers.

Sean Connery as Robin and Audrey Hepburn as Marian in the 1976 film, “Robin and Marian”. If you are interested in doing a movie costume, the Connery/Hepburn duo would be a good choice for an older couple.

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood (due out May 2010).

Modern incarnations of Robin Hood on the big or small screen go in for grungy medieval realness. While that does wonders for the audience’s suspension of disbelief, it lends a certain sameness to the costumes. My advice here is that if you want to re-create “modern” Robin Hood costumes, you should look for the most distinctive outfit possible and try to copy that one.