Disclaimer: I know very little to nothing about Medieval Fashion and even less about the Romani people. Also this post only focuses on Esmeralda and Fleur de Lys’ costumes.
On first glance Esmeralda’s costume in this version sucks. It looks like something a Juliet would wear. It’s a pink overdress with a high waistline with a dark red and gold embroidered bodice. It’s layered over a chemise with bell sleeves and embroidered armbands. She wears bangles on both wrists and has pink ribbons in her hair. It also seems like she has another gold over layer around the bodice that has some streamer-like detail going done the skirt What is this costume?
Well this could be one the worst contextually Esmeralda costumes or it could be one of the most accurate. Isn’t that a crazy thing to suggest?
Looking at art from the late 1400’s with Romani as the subject matter, they didn’t dress all that dissimilarly from White Europeans. They do seem to be wearing a cloth headdress which is exactly what we see in Caravaggio’s fortune teller painting and in Manfredi’s painting but not in Vouet’s fortune teller painting. What is in all these paintings that is in not in the earlier illustrations is the sari-like drape garment. So it would seem, at least me, that the blanket sari-like wrap was a garment worn by the Romani in the late 1500’s and not in the 1400’s. Could be wrong but given the art available, it points to that notion.
Which bring us back to the 1977 version of Esmeralda and her Juliet-ish costume. A pervasive thought is that Romani were given clothing for fortuning or what not, so Esmeralda COULD have been given this dress in exchange for pleasing some noble for her dancing. Makes a certain level of sense.
Comparing Esmeralda’s costume to Fleur de Lys’ costumes you may notice that Esmeralda’s dress has a different silhouette. Fleur’s costumes are more in keeping with the style of noble women in the 1480’s. The color for Fleur and Esmeralda’s costumes were inspired by the 1956 version of Hunchback; a red tone for Esmeralda and blues for Fleur, someday we’re going to discuss the topic of Esmeralda wearing red again, because I have more to say on that subject.
Since we’re on the topic, all Fleur’s costumes are all very beautiful in this version. She gets the fur trim and the hennin which all things that were in style for a lady of her standing in the 1480’s.
Esmeralda’s costume looks a bit more like the style from the 1450’s which had a higher waist line but was that costume designer Dorothea Wallace’s intent? Was Wallace’s aim to emulate a style from the 1450’s suggesting that Esmeralda was gifted her dress? Or is there something else operating here? Something Groovy???
Like every single period movie ever, costume design is more of a reflection of the time in which the movie is made rather than historical accuracy. It’s a truth! In the 1977 version while there is a historical silhouette that looks like Esmeralda’s movie costume, the silhouette was in vogue in the 1970’s especially with long gowns. High-waisted empire waistlines were not super popular in the late 1970’s but you did see it. Also the dull muted pink color of Esmeralda’s dress was in keeping with the muted earth tones that dominated 70’s fashion. Whereas Fleur’s costumes are light and bright in color I.E not as trendy for the decade. See another example here
Does this mean anything? In my non-expert expert opinion, I think this means the costume of Esmeralda is trying to endear the audience to Esmeralda as her costume is aesthetic pleasing to the times and Fleur de Lys’ costumes are not as trendy. Meaning the costumes are showcasing the lovable tragic heroine and the cruel rich bitch.
So while Esmeralda’s costume is a 1970’s take on Medieval style and Fleurs’ costumes are a little bit more in keeping with medieval sensibilities but are the costumes in the 1977 version good? For the most part they are good.As earlier started Fleur de Lys costumes are all lovely but Esmeralda’s costume doesn’t seem correct. This actually could be less of the fault of the costume and more with the casting. Michelle Newell is not a great casting pick for Esmeralda. This costume does showcase a sweeter Esmeralda that had not been seen since 1923 but it just doesn’t really work with the character or the attitude of the actress.
Esmeralda’s costume could have read as more accurate depiction of what a young Romani woman could have worn in the 1480’s, the reality is that her costume was just made with the 1970’s fashion aesthetics in mind.Follow thehunchblog