No Rant, but some details for the serious geek or the curious.

I’ve decided not to post about my gripes about the anachronisms in LW. If you read the first two posts, you know I went on about the hair and lack of headwear (and I didn’t even get into the side parts, the bangs, the wisps, or the ridiculously clean hair they could never have achieved in the 1860s before running water and showers!).

The hair, oh that fluffy, side-parted, wispy, completely 2010s hair!

So instead, here are some “deleted scenes” which ended up on the cutting room floor: a few not hugely important costume details which show a lovely level of attention to the period. I’m trying to stick with the positive here. (If you want to see what’s wrong with the hair, check out Frock Flicks’s blog post, link follows: the three women who write this blog are always this funny, generally delightfully irreverent, but not always this cranky: badly done hair brings it out in them, and during their Snark Week in January they go all out: .)

On to the fun details: Aunt March wears three different, all wonderful, probably actual antique black lace head coverings; the Metropolitan Museum calls them fanchons. By this time, only married, or older spinster ladies like Aunt March (did you know that in the book she is Mr. March’s widowed aunt, not his spinster sister?) are wearing coverings on their head indoors, and they’re pretty vestigial like these wisps of lace.

Technically Marmee should be wearing something on her head indoors, and so should Hannah–Hannah’s would be to keep dust and baking flour and whatnot out of her hair as she manages the house. But like most movies, this abandons etiquette of headwear. Not to mention the aforementioned hair…Sigh. This is why mommy drinks, as they say…)

Fanchon of French Chantilly lace, c. 1865. Metropolitan Museum.

The “fanchon” Aunt March wears in Paris, when Amy announces she has turned down Fred Vaughn, looks the most like the one above, with little lappets hanging down. I have no screen shot of it, alas; but notice it if you go back to see the movie again, or when you can stream it!

Aunt March’s sleeves are still the wide “pagoda” sleeves of the 1850s, and when you see her bodice, you can see it has the long, pointed waistline that’s also a holdover. Older women often were slow to adopt newer styles, so while her dresses are obviously expensive–trimmed with fine lace, and so on–they’re a few years out of date. It’s a nice touch.

We get a few glimpses of underwear and nightgowns, all of which are pretty well done (except for the colored drawers–pantalettes, people call them now–the trouserlike undergarments; see my rant in the first post).

Drawers were the underpants of the day, made of sturdy white cotton so they could be washed and boiled to keep them clean.

I can’t think of a striped cotton corset like this, but I won’t quibble–white was predominant but not universal. Most chemises had yokes rather than drawstrings like the one in the photo above, but we get glimpses of others that look more right for the period. (What’s not right is SEEING a glimpse of Jo’s chemise, as I think we do more than once, under her unbuttoned shirt. SHOW UNDERWEAR?! Good god no. Who’s old enough to remember when just being able to see a bra strap was considered tacky?)

I loved that this production included the bit about Beth making slippers for Mr. Laurence. Here are two “Berlin work” slippers of about the same time. (We now just call it needlepoint).

From the John Bright Collection

Magazines like Godey’s and Peterson’s, the leading ladies’ magaziness of the time, printed colored patterns for slippers like this all the time.

Top: L, Godey’s 1858 slipper pattern; R, slipper sewn but not made up, about 1860; Below, finished slippers (handmade or commercial??), 1870s. Slippers finished and unfinished from DAR Museum collection.

Moving outdoors…did you wonder what in tarnation Laurie wore to go skating?

That, my dears, was a suit “à la Russe,” or Russian outfit, very specifically intended for skating. I’d swear I’ve seen a fashion illustration of this outfit, but all I can summon, thanks to costume friends, is this photo of Jackson Haines, called the father of figure skating, in a similar outfit in the 1860s:

Thank you David Rickman for tracking this down!

…and this image of a child’s skating outfit on the Vintage Dancer blog, a child’s version from 1873, found by Rachel Anderson, librarian extraordinaire:

I’m not certain whether there was a trend for grown men to wear such an outfit, or only (highly fashionable) children; most images of people skating show everyone more or less in regular clothes (women have slightly shorter skirts so they don’t trip!).

Normal menswear predominates in “Central-Park, Winter.” Currier and Ives, 1862

Possibly the designer researched skating outfits and found the photos of Jackson and thought it was a trend? Perhaps she found the fashion illustration I think I’ve seen? While we don’t think of Laurie being a fashion plate, it’s a choice which shows he’s rich enough to have an outfit just for the few times a year he goes out on the ice. I confess I loved it, because it’s such a period-specific outfit and funny choice.

I think I’ve dissected enough about Little Women 2019…I’ll move on to new movies and other topics.

5 thoughts on “Little Women Costumes Part 3

  1. LOVED all your comments and insights! I agree with nearly all of them! Just one point on the printed petticoat (that we can SEE – that’s a nope!): I’m not sure about civil war women, but women of the period in the Frontier of New Caledonia (what is now called British Columbia) would often demote a well-worn, stained, patched skirt to petticoat… the white ones in all the museum collections have survived because they were preserved for Sunday Best! So it’s possible that the March family may well have had printed petticoats, because they used to be skirts!


    1. Interesting point—I’ll ponder and investigate that, thanks. Never seen references to it and surely one or more wd survive—I’ll ask colleagues if they’ve seen any.


  2. Hello! I found a description of Laurie’s skating outfit in the ‘Jo Meets Apollyon’ chapter just before Laurie and Jo begin to skate together. It is described as follows: “…as he shot away, looking like a young Russian in his fur-trimmed coat and cap.” Other descriptions of Laurie make it clear that he was a bit of a dandy and had the means to buy the clothes appropriate to his self image. In the ‘Gossip’ chapter, Jo chides him for having seventeen waistcoats! I thoroughly enjoy your reviews and spot-on praise and critiques.


    1. Yes! It’s so great that the designer acted on that description. It’s a bit of an obscure reference to most viewers as it’s an unusual outfit, but such fun. Agree it fits in w/his vanity—and ability to afford outfits for every activity! Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed. Hope to get active here again.


  3. My little daughter was in this movie . She actually had on two dresses at the same time both of wool , second one was actually sewed on her .

    Liked by 1 person

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