I’m just going to admit it: I flippin’ *loved* the Canal+ show “Versailles.” Loved it. Binged it. Binged it again.
When it comes to historical costumes in television shows and movies, I give a lot of leeway with accuracy, especially in periods that are not best-loved, like the 17th century.
In college I studied visual development and character design for film, animation, theater, and video games. There are many factors that go into the production design of a show, from obvious parts like the set dressing and costume design, to subtleties like lighting, color cast, and camera angles. When watching a show set in a historical time period, consider the work as a whole and how the costumes support the characters, story, and feeling as much as the historical period and place.
I thought “Versailles” did a fantastic job – it was, after all, filmed at the real Versailles – and costume designer Madeline Fontaine expertly balanced what men were really wearing in the 17th century and what modern audiences could stomach when it came to characters that were, after all, supposed to have sex appeal. BIG JOB.
I’ve long wanted to make a Louis XIV suit inspired by the show, so I’ve been collecting screenshots, paintings, and extant garments over on Pinterest. I’ve researched enough of men’s 17th century attire to get my bearings and also to appreciate Fontaine’s decisions when it came to combining pieces from different decades or shifting costume forward in time.
Because let’s face it. French men looked utterly ridiculous in the 1660s. The show is supposed to start in 1667, and I appreciate that Fontaine has the men dressed in doublets beneath their frock coats. By season 2 we’re in the late 1670s to early ’80s and the long waistcoats have come in. In season 3 it’s the 1680s, the waistcoats and sleeves are long, the breeches less puffy, the cuffs smaller.
For my costume, I’m going to lean into the tv show reference and away from historical accuracy. There is one Louis outfit I like most, a sortof pewter-colored jacket paired with bright red and shots of cerulean blue.
The color combo is certainly accurate, but this is what it would’ve looked like in the 1660s:
The screen fabric for the coat is brocade but I’m going with velveteen. The cuffs will be silk taffeta. The trim will be a chaotic explosion of metallic gold applique and galloon sourced from my favorite Greek and Indian trim shops on Etsy. I also found a gorgeous metallic brocade in a peachy-gold design and have *barely* enough to squeak out a long waistcoat if I piece it. A pink waistcoat deviates from the couple combinations of the screen suit but I’m just too in love with the pewter+pink to skip it.
I’m a novice when it comes to men’s patterns. I’ve made one men’s suit – James’ 18th century suit many many years ago – but otherwise I’m somewhat in the dark.
I’m referencing The Cut of Men’s Clothes: 1600 – 1900 by Norah Waugh to get familiar with the pattern shapes. Originally I was going to lean on Simplicity 4923 – the Pirates of the Caribbean pattern – for the coat, as I’ve worked with it before and found it to be quite good, but after a good long stint of overthinking, I’ve decided to try scaling and altering one of the original patterns from Waugh.
So there’s a start. A little one, but a start none the less.