2010s Period Movies That Had the Best Costumes, Ranked

There’s something fascinating about films being used as a way to let us glimpse our past, whether it’s authentically depicted or not. Either you are intrigued to see how society worked in Jane Eyre or you just enjoy historical humor as in king’s man, or you are a hopeless romantic and love the story of Pride and Prejudice – either way, period films offer it all.

Period films give us the opportunity to escape to a time when it wasn’t necessarily better or easier, but films romanticize the struggles for us. On top of everything, the fact that people in period films dress differently from us now, gives us the opportunity to detach from our common, sometimes gruesome history. In this way, let’s take a look at the ten best period movie costumes of the 2010s, ranked.

Related: These Are Period Romances We Can’t Live Without

ten Harriet (2019)

Focus characteristics

Harriet is a biographical film based on the incredible story of former slave turned abolitionist political activist Harriet Tubman. There’s a strong sense of character development, and thankfully there’s no white savior character. In the 1860s, it was difficult for costume designers to do outfits justice, as they worked with little or no imagery. Designer Paul Tazewell explained that they “wanted to emphasize how heroic and mythical her role was, to elevate the energy of her personality”, so they decided to have Harriet (Cynthia Erivo) wear blue to distinguish her other slaves.

9 Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

the return of mary poppins
Pictures of Walt Disney

Mary Poppins Returns will definitely make you miss the traditional animation. It was very surprising when Emily Blunt was snubbed by the Best Actress Oscar nomination for the role of Mary Poppins. That said, the film received a nomination for Best Costume Design and deservedly so. A musical fantasy film set in London during the Great Depression unquestionably gives the designer a wide range of possibilities when it comes to making costumes stand out. The colorful costumes shine throughout the film. Just watch the scene where they first enter the Royal Doulton Bowl artwork, and you’ll know what we mean.

8 Hidden Figures (2016)

20th century workshops

We meet another successful biographical blockbuster, which tells the story of three black female mathematicians (Vaughan, Johnson, Jackson), who made countless contributions to the US space program. Not only was hidden numbers well documented talking to mathematicians who were still alive, but the narrative is well paced and the aesthetic takes you completely back to the 1960s era. The one costume that particularly stands out in the film is Mary’s pastel blue dress Jackson (Janelle Monáe) with a light colored hat.

7 The Danish Girl (2015)

Universal images

Despite the criticism The Danish Girl Received for misrepresenting historical events and portraying a cisgender man as a transgender woman, the film still garnered critical acclaim and worldwide recognition. The story follows the lives of two painters, one of whom (Eddie Redmayne) had one of the first sex reassignment surgeries. Paco Delgado outdid himself with the unique costume designs, earning him a nomination for Best Costume Design at the Oscars.

6 The Greatest Showman (2017)

20th century workshops

The greatest showman is yet another biopic, this time a musical based on the life of PT Barnum, who was arguably the father of showbiz, as he created the Barnum & Bailey Circus. It is important to note that most lovers of this film are very aware that Barnum was a problematic man and his film version is completely fictional. As for the costumes, each one, from Jenny Lind’s (Rebecca Ferguson) white and silver dress to the Ringmaster’s cropped coat with intricate detailing on the accessories, screams perfection.

5 The Great Gatsby (2013)

Gatsby the magnificent
Warner Bros.

Upon hearing that something is set during the Roaring Twenties, everyone knows that if done right, the costumes will be top notch. And Gatsby the magnificent didn’t let the public down, or the Oscars, as it won Best Costume Design. The plot is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of the same name, telling the story of millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his neighbor Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire). Yes, the costumes may be inaccurate for the era, but nonetheless heavily stylized.

Related: These Are The Best Movies About The American Dream

4 Beautiful (2013)

Projector images

One of the best films directed by a black woman, Amma Asante’s British period drama Beautiful tells the part-real and part-fictional story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, whose great-uncle was England’s Lord Chief Justice William Murray, who helped bring about the abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. One could argue that Beautiful is the predecessor of Bridgerton with its neon colors. Not only is the romance absolutely stunning, but all of the costumes are stunningly beautiful. Anushia Nieradzik excelled in drawing the designs, from the purple dress worn by Lady Mansfield to the light purple dress worn by Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

3 Anna Karenina (2012)

Universal images

Adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 novel, Anna Karenina tells the story of the affair between a Russian socialite (Kiera Knightley) and a cavalry officer, Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Knightley starred again in a popular period romance drama directed by Joe Wright, following her powerful performances in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Jacqueline Durran took extra care of detail, especially the beadwork worn by Knightley. Stylistic choices add a touch of extravagance and luxury.

2 The Servant (2016)

the servant
C.J. Entertainment

If you haven’t seen this South Korean erotic psychological thriller, be sure to watch it ASAP. The servant is based on a Victorian-era novel by Sarah Waters, but it was changed when Korea was under Imperial Japanese rule. A maid (Kim Tae-ri) is hired to serve a Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) when she plans to cheat on her. But what they both don’t expect is to fall in love with each other. It’s a phenomenal film that will leave you surprised and shocked by its many twists and turns. The fantastical traditional costumes are truly sensory overload.

1 Little Women (2019)

Pictures of Colombia

The March Sisters Chronicles directed by Greta Gerwig garnered six Oscar nominations and indeed won one for Best Costume Design. The film took inherently romantic gestures and turned them completely into a universal experience of platonic friendship. It is true that Little woman followed the stereotypical trope of dressing their progressive feminist female character in more masculine clothes, but other than that, the design aesthetic is nice to look at. The costume choices are fascinating although not quite period appropriate, as with many of the other period films mentioned above.


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