Re: Men (and Women) of the Hood

“We’re men of the hood. Merry now at your expense.”–Russell Crowe, Robin Hood

Now that the movie Robin Hood is close to officially opening, a lot more still photos are available. The costumes for this production are truly beautiful and very detailed.  Although Janty Yates is the official costume designer for this movie, if you look under the credits, you will see a whole raft of costuming people listed which is not surprising considering the breadth and scope of this film.

Here are just a few stills to give you an idea of the beautiful costumes:

Lea Seydoux as Isabella of France, King John’s wife.

Lea Seydoux (Isabella) and Oscar Isaac (King John) in their bedchamber.

The kingdom may be financially insolvent, but King John (Oscar Isaac) is still a sharp-dressed man.

William Marshal (William Hurt) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eileen Atkins), the Queen Mother. Note William’s fabulous armor and Eleanor’s beautifully embroidered gloves.

Here’s a shot of Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) in action. Notice the awesome sleeve details. Although you can’t see it well in this photo, his vambrace is covered in Celtic designs.

Am I wrong in thinking that we’ll be seeing a lot of Robin Hood costumes this Halloween? Don’t think so. I haven’t left out Marion (Cate Blanchett), but I want to make her blue dress so I will discuss that in another post.

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.

Re: Hello, Sailor!

Russell Crowe as Lucky Jack Aubrey in “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World”. Not every guy can wear ruffled shirts and make them seem macho, but Crowe carries the look off.

I watched “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World” just recently and was completely blown away by two things: 1) how dishy Russell Crowe looks in 1805 naval gear and 2) the impressive amount of work designer Wendy Stites had put into the costumes.  This eye for historic accuracy is matched throughout the production and you really get a feel for what it was like to work and live aboard a Royal Navy ship during the Napoleonic wars.

Crowe in full uniform as Capt. Aubrey. His ship, the HMS Surprise, is in the background.

One of the most difficult things about costuming a historic period piece like “Master and Commander” is that the costume must be true to the period, but at the same time must say something about the character as well.  Capt. Aubrey is described as a traditionalist, a guy who still wears an old-style uniform, so Crowe’s outfit is copied from Aubrey’s hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Throughout the movie, the wardrobe and makeup people play up the generational difference in fashions. The older men like Jack wear knee breeches and have their hair in long pigtails while young men in the crew have their hair cut short and wear long pants. This is the beginning of the transition in men’s fashions from breeches to pants.

From left to right, unknown seaman, Midshipman Callamy (Max Benitz) and Midshipman Hollum (Lee Ingleby) check the waters for enemy sails. Notice that while the seamen and the officers have similar articles of clothing, they wear them differently. Both have black neckerchiefs, for example, but the officers wear them wrapped twice around their necks (called a “stock”) while the seamen wear theirs tied loosely about their shoulders.

The class difference between officers (usual drawn from the upper classes) and the enlisted men (usually working class) is indicated by their garb.  Enlisted men were expected to supply their own gear and while they might get some second hand clothes, for the most part they cut and sewed their own clothes. I was surprised to learn that there was still considerable leeway for officers to express their individual dress sense and that Naval officers often competed with each other to see who could be the most fashionably turned out.

The Royal Marines, by contrast, were very regimented in their dress. The Marines wore red coats with white pants in summer, blue pants in winter, and a white “undress” uniform which they are seen wearing in the movie while on the Galapagos Islands. In addition to being sharpshooters and a landing force, Marines also served as security guards aboard the ship.

Paul Bettany as Dr. Stephen Maturin in “Master and Commander”.  I covet his banyan–the loose outer coat that he’s wearing.

As ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin is one of the few civilians aboard ship. Like his friend, Jack, he wears the old-style knee breeches, but unlike Jack, he has his hair cut short and brushed forward in the fashion of the period. His hairstyle, like the banyan or Indian-inspired jacket that he wears on-shore, indicates that he is an intellectual and a progressive who favors social and political reform.

I was able to find a couple of neat fan-made costumes on the Net inspired by the movie.

Cathy from The Crafty Cattery made the above Jack Aubrey uniform as a Halloween costume. She wasn’t trying for an exact re-creation, just an impression, but I think it turned out great. Click here to read her blog entry describing the project.

Lord MoufMouf did this beautiful rendition of Dr. Maturin’s Galapagos Island outfit. Notice the excellent spats as well as the small cage for live specimens. Dr. Maturin is an amateur naturalist as well as a physician and a linguist.

The folks over at the  Man the Capstan blog make a habit of re-creating Napoleonic garb and have some great costumes to show.

You should check out this small set of exhibit photos from Alleycatscratch (scroll down about 2/3s of the page). The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising also has a couple of pictures here including the only good shot I was able to find of Captain Howard’s uniform.

If you are serious about re-creating one of the costumes from the film, I highly recommend “The Making of Master and Commander” book which has plenty of stills as well as background information. The book is currently out of print, but you should be able to borrow a copy from or through your local library.