San Diego's Costume Guild
encourages us to think of a movie that reflects the costumer we are currently
wearing and tell people when we are asked because not everyone can
relate to historical dates or Era's but they usually can relate to a period movie.
We don't want to make people feel uneasy when they don't know. If you are trying
to date a photograph, movies can help you place your photograph in the general
decade, but that's all you can trust. You may want to watch a movie
in slow motion, or constantly pausing so you can take a good gander at the period
clothing. Especially the movies that brag about being period accurate in their
costumes right down to real mustaches, grown just for the movie, and even when
there is exacting attention to detail, often the makeup and the hair, or the
hats, reflect the current fashion.
A bit about costume designers. I have learned from reading books and on the internet and costuming friends, that not all the costumes in the movies are period correct. Costume designers for the movie industry though are students of period correct costumes will deliberately create a costume that appears to be of a particular period knowing that it is not correct. Why? you ask. It is my understanding that the costume designer works very closely with the director of the movie to create a mood with the clothing for one. By altering the period correct costume by using colors that may not have been used in that decade or alter the shape or length of a garment to be more appealing to the current moving going generation or an fussy actor's physical appearance needing a bit of altering for their ego. Think about this. There are many examples of classic movies that came out in the 1930s then done over ten years later then another ten years and we usually like the new version. That's because, with each new version the costuming was better and so was the changes in the costume that looked more like the decade it was running in. Otherwise no one would like the movie with period correct clothes because we would find them unappealing to modern sensibilities. So to the general public it looks good but to the person who studies photographs and photo dating will agree that it's close but not usually accurate.
If you like dressing in costumes, here's a quick story you can relate to. I was dressed up one day in civil war clothes that I knew was not correct but looked close to the 1860s and was getting compliments left and right. Then this lady came up to me like she was in a hurry but had to stop and looked me up and down and as she walked around looking each detail she would make a comment like "lovely brooch and mitts" looking at my jacket "is that an antique piece...uhmm yes I thought so" "lovely out-fit my dear but the hats all wrong" and she walked away. Later I found out she was a costume designer and author on costumes. If you like dressing in costume and depending on how period correct you want to be, is a matter of preference, price and design skill. If you just want to get close enough to get the general idea of the decade your trying to recapture, just as long as it's a believable silhouette and you don't look like a Halloween costume. The average person doesn't have the foggiest idea. Those of you new to costuming will find this chart helpful.
Those of you who know of Bat Masterson may want to go to the Ford County Historical Society site. (close window to return) and have a look at a fabulous photograph of the Peace Commission of Dodge City of the same time period. See Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. They all wore very cool hats called bowlers or derby's.
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