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The Three Musketeers Trailer: French Dressing

The (somewhat) recently debuted trailer for director Paul W.S. Anderson’s adaptation of The Three Musketeers affords just the briefest, intensely edited peek at those 17th century costumes in motion. It’s a lace and linen fest.

Alexandre Dumas père’s original story of The Three Musketeers takes place in France before the opulent reign of Louis XIV. This is important because in costume terms the overall style was considerably more sober than in both Henry VIII’s Tudor reign and the French sartorial dominance of the world that was to follow. During the 17th century, fashion was ever changing and evolving, though judging by this trailer costume designer Pierre-Yves Gayraud (The Bourne Identity) is reflecting long-established trends we associate with the era.

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The Musketeers themselves, Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), wear a body-hugging doublet with lashings of white linen shirt billowing out at the cuffs and collar – here replacing the more restrictive ‘ruff’ of the Elizabethan era. A doublet is basically a short, padded jacket with low neck and tight sleeves. The Musketeers’ outwear appears to be leather, Spanish leather as it would have been in the context of the story. Leather is a tried and tested way of establishing the masculinity of hero protagonists; when not used in excess, or the inference generally changes to ‘villain’.

As they seem to be sporting what became known as the ‘Cavalier’ look, the Musketeers wear knee high boots, wide brim beaver hat and suede breeches. Towards the end of the century, men’s clothing would become increasingly more effeminate, their hair longer and face covered in pallid make-up. Luxury was the order of the day. Silk ribbons, for example, adorned most garments, sometimes in their hundreds for those who could afford them.

Women’s costume during the period W.S. Anderson’s film is (presumably) set was comparatively sane. Intended to follow form rather than structure around it, this was when the décolletage, or cleavage, was invented. Plunging necklines accompanied by long, elegant skirts and less rigid stomachers. In this trailer it looks as if Milla Jovovich as Milady de Winter might be wearing a ‘Mantua’; a sloping sides dress with the skirt draped over a wide, occasionally enormous, hoop. More shots of her costume can be seen in fitting photos she tweeted back in March 2010.

What is most significant about clothing in the 17th century, however, is that it conceived what we know term as the ‘3 piece suit’ for men. Back then it was a coat, waistcoat and breeches, worn together as a matching ensemble. Keep an eye out too for slight heel on the Musketeers’ long boots. Invented to keep a rider’s feet in stirrups; these eventually crossed over into everyday wear; from horse to haute couture.

The Three Musketeers (filmed in 3D!) opens in all its costume loveliness on 14th October.

© 2011 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.


  • Multimaniaco

    Looks great! I am always up for another take on my beloved Musketeers. Small nitpick: the story of Three Musketeers takes place during the reign of Louis XIII, not XIV, and clothing is a bit more sober than it would become later. In Twenty Years After, Louis XIV is a child, and only during The Viscount of Bragelonne (the Man in the Iron Mask) we have Versailles exhuberance in full swing.

    Love the blog, keep it coming.

    • Chris Laverty

      Hi Multimaniaco,

      Thanks for your comment. I do actually state in the second paragraph of the article that the story of The Three Musketeers takes place before the reign of Louis XIV, not during. Apologies if this was not clear. I understand that Twenty Years After (The second half of the story? I’m afraid I’m not an expert) does take place during Louis XIV’s early reign.


    • Multimaniaco

      Ow. You are absolutely right, I read it fast (and with a cold) and missed the “before”, so nothing to apologize for on your side :o)

  • ali

    These costumes are certainly different from the usual uniforms we have seen in other Musketeers adaptations. All the costumes are gorgeous and I, for one, can not wait to see this movie. Looks different and I was very impressed to see this trailer. My favorite musketeer: Athos. Great article.
    I read Twenty Years Later many, many years ago.

    • Chris Laverty

      I agree that the costumes are different, but definitely interesting. I’m excited to see them in the finished film. We have to remember too that historical accuracy is not the only factor prevalent with period costume design; it is also about creating visual iconography for the characters. D’Artagnan especially looks to be differentiated by his billowing white shirt more than anything else.

  • Capa

    Wonderful post! Always very interesting and informative! Off topic somewhat- but have you ever noticed how, generally, in “period” films like this, there are certain tweaks in the style to reflect more contemporary sensibilities? It’s usually very small or subtle things, such as the way a certain character may wear a garment that was uncharacteristic at the time, but is common now? I can’t think of an example for costumes, but I suppose the best example I can think of is in the film ‘Vanity Fair’, the guys had faux-hawks. Clearly anachronistic… but at the same time, not obvious. I’ve noticed that this is done in most period films and I don’t know why…I guess it’s the film makers way of portraying a certain time period without alienating the audience? What are your thoughts? Have you noticed this?

    • Chris Laverty

      I think I touched upon this slightly in the previous comment. The responsibility of period costume design is not necessarily to be accurate, but more to give flavour, an accessible flavour, of the era in question. Joan Bergin, costume designer for The Tudors, also mentioned this in our recent interview. She was asked to essentially ‘sexualise’ Tudor era costumes because this fell in line with both the narrative and underlying theme of the show. More specific to your point, producers often desire to associate period costume with modern day audiences and pass this note onto their costume designers. When the tone of the film is generally light hearted, as here, it is intended to have mass appeal; the more ways that an audience can relate to the setting on screen, the better. Or so the thinking goes. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that leather is so liberally used in period costume design? It has period connotations, yet is intrinsically modern.

    • Nisa

      I always notice this too in period films. For example in the time period of Three Musketeers boys were usually very feminine with high waists and baggy breeches giving them a sort of hour glass silhouette, I would think that modern audiences wouldn’t understand or like if the men were an exact representation of the period. That’s my take on it

    • cicely

      I’ve noticed that too. The most extreme example I can think of is the pair of Converse shoes in the shopping montage in Marie Antoinette (I still can’t figure out what that was all about).

      Also, in a lot of period action movies they like to give the characters weapons that absolutely did not exist at the time.

  • ali

    Thanks for the reply. Good point about D’Artagnan’s white shirt, that’s more of the classic musketeer costume we’ve seen in the past. I wonder what the significance of the other musketeers’ costume is. Athos’ is all black, Porthos brown and Aramis is also all black. But they’re all different. Not a uniform. And the hair is also telling. Athos is the only one with a more classic long hair look. Why is Porthos bald?

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