The Most Exquisite Period Costumes In Film And Television

A walk down memory lane

When it comes to film and television, costuming—like direction, screenplays, cinematography and soundtrack—is a vital part of the movie-making process. From scene-anchoring dresses, to narrative told through costume, the art of dressing the characters within a film is pivotal.

And no other genre knows this better than period—the costumes in a film attempting to show a glimpse into the 1800s or the 1920s are a crucial element in not only setting the scene, but communicating the story.

Here, we take a look at the most beautiful and memorable period costumes in film history.

The Light Between Oceans

Although not sweeping and ostentatious, the costuming in 2016’s The Light Between Oceans, set in 1918 Australia, is subtle and poignant. Especially on Alicia Vikander’s character Isabel.


Marie Antoinette

You might be able to find flaws within the direction or narrative of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) but costuming probably won’t be one of them. The costume design by Milena Canonero is masterful down to the last flounce and OTT ruffle.



Justin Kurzel’s deep and dark rendition of Macbeth in 2015 was most praised for its dramatic and gripping cinematography, but its execution of costume design shouldn’t be looked over. Having been set in the early 11th century, the heady combination of historical accuracy and creative compromise is brilliant.


In The Mood For Love

Widely regarded as having one of the best uses of colour-grading in film, In The Mood For Love (2000) also has brilliant costume design as well, managing to straddle the line between traditional cheongsam designs and 1960s appropriate styling.

in the mood for love

The Crown

With a budget of $130 million USD, it’s not surprising that Netflix’s The Crown nailed Queen Elizabeth’s clothing and jewellery, but the breadth and consistency is to be admired.

the crown

The Borgias’

The Borgias‘ (2011) controversy and intrigue might not have been for everyone, but Gabriella Pescucci’s work on costume was impressive for a 29-episode television show.


The Tudors

Similarly, The Tudors (2007) enjoyed four seasons of intricate and detailed costuming at the hands of Joan Bergin.


The Great Gatsby

Catherine Martin’s larger-than-life approach to costume design in The Great Gatsby earned her an Academy Award.



Poldark (2015) might be more well-known for portraying the less-glamorous and working class side of 1700s Cornwall, but, on occasion, the characters do enjoy a show-stopping moment (like this one from Demelza).


Memoirs of a Geisha

The masterful use of silks and cottons with pin-point historical accuracy by Colleen Atwood snagged her an Oscar for Memoirs of a Geisha.

Memoirs of a Geisha


A re-imagined Queen Victoria at the hands of creator Daisy Goodwin and costume designers Michael Howells, Rosalind Ebbutt and James Keast is a triumph in Victoria.


Peaky Blinders

Although mostly known for its sharp suits and razor blade-equipped flat caps, Peaky Blinders (2013) enjoys a glamorous moment or two.


A Little Chaos

The fluff and fancy in Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos is a sight to behold.


Anna Karenina

A late 19th century Russia captured expertly by Oscar-winner Jacqueline Durran in Anna Karenina.


A Royal Affair

Although not a huge budget film, 2012’s A Royal Affair had its fair share of gorgeous costume moments, especially for Alicia Vikander’s Caroline Mathilde.

Although not a huge budget film, 2012's A Royal Affair had its fair share of gorgeous costume moments, especially for Alicia Vikander's Caroline Mathilde.


Most may remember it for the green dress (and rightfully so), but Antonement’s triumph also lays in the depth and subtly of its costuming.



Brooklyn straddled a sweet line between fanciful and accurate with its costuming.



Amma Asante’s Belle was expertly guided by costume designer Anushia Nieradzik.



Costume designer Alexandra Byrne may not have taken out the Oscar, but Elizabeth’s detailed and OTT dresses were a memorable nomination.


Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Luckily Alexandra Byrne struck lucky the nine years later with the sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age.


Downton Abbey

Although not always exciting with its drop-waists and shapeless shifts, Downton Abbey’s costuming was always well-executed.



The impressive recreation of costumes by Madeline Fontaine in Jackie earned her an Oscar nomination.


Jane Eyre

Although designed to make her look drab and boring, Jane Eyre’s dresses were sublime in their make.


La Belle et la Bête

Pierre-Yves Gayraud’s work on La Belle et la Bête nabbed him a Caesar Award.


Les Misérables

Although not intended to show an opulent or glamorous picture, the costuming in Les Misérables (2012) was subtle and in-depth.


Miss Julie

It may have been an indie film, but Miss Julie’s costuming was more than good at the hands of Consolata Boyle.


The Last Samurai 

Showing both the Japanese and American sides of the 1870s era, The Last Samurai features both beautiful kimonos and armour and expertly-tailored suits.


The Paradise

Bill Gallagher’s The Paradise is a sweetly-told story with some very, very beautiful dresses.


The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria’s costume designer Sandy Powell picked up an Oscar for her work.


Wolf Hall

Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall cuts a striking figure in her costumes.

wolf hall

Wuthering Heights

An indie rendition of Wuthering Heights, directed by Andrea Arnold, had its fair share of beautiful wardrobe moments.


The White Queen

The White Queen may not have maintained its momentum through the entire series, but it definitely had the occasional win, especially Queen Elizabeth’s golden coronation gown.


Related stories