We should discuss the films in as close to as chronological order as is possible, although they probably overlap in the time line. First would be “Sweeny Todd,” taking place in the years (roughly) 1849 to 1850, second would be “From Hell” from 1888, and third would be “The Prestige” from roughly 1890 to 1901.
Sweeny Todd mainly wears outfits to this effect:
Then, “From Hell:”
And finally, the Prestige:
So one can see, that despite some very slight differences, like long cravats, or big bow ties, that the styles of that era are essentially the same as today. The only difference is the occasion in which we wear them. In other words, they would be viewed as slightly formal for today’s tastes and daily activities, but I am of the mind that we should all be dressing like this all the time because it looks better…
The one thing you notice is the evolution of the style. The longer, or the more recent that the fashion gets in these films, and thus in the real world on which they are based, the less covered up they become. This I don’t believe is an accident.
Not only did one have to take care for much colder damper weather in times past, but people had less access to baths and showers. The cost of a room in an inn would not only get you a nice room and hot meal, but also a much needed bath. Back in the day most people didn’t have baths in their home or the time or money to afford to heat all the water to have one. So I believe this layering of clothing you see is more based on trying to hide stink and dirt than anything else!
You will see that vests are very common in these shots, and it is funny to note the comeback in certain quarters of the vest. Often you will see younger men these days wearing vests and sporting caps.
If one goes farther back in time, one finds fashion that is similar to today, but not as similar as what these shots show. For example in 1780, a mere 40 years from the earliest of these stories, one sees fashions such as this:
So in conclusion, I think it is obvious that for whatever reason, fashion went from the frilly funny breeches and stockings of the above pictures, to a more modern look, almost immediately in terms of fashion. Who knows why, but I am glad it happened!
PS I Would love a Frilly Shirt..but god save those stockings…….