Friday, May 23, 2008

Master and Commander Movie Costumes

This past weekend we took a little trip over to San Diego. Because of my obsession with Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World I couldn't miss the HMS Surprise at the Maritime Museum! I wasn't too sure what sort of exhibits they had on the Surprise but I had my fingers crossed that they would have some costumes from the movie. I got lucky! Behind Plexiglas in a tiny room they had four uniforms, belonging to Jack Aubrey, Mowett, Blakeney, and a marine. Sadly they seemed a little forgotten. There weren't any signs or labels to indicate that they were from the movie and they were all crowded in a corner. Jack's costume was hidden behind all the others; all that could be seen was his hat and collar!
I took advantage of the opportunity and spent about an hour sketching what I could see of each costume. I also took a few photos but the glare on the Plexiglas kept them from turning out very well. I thought I'd post my photos and sketches here in case anyone needs some reference material when trying to make their own costume. FYI, I've left all of my notes on the sketches including my spelling mistakes and some stuff that's unrelated (like the names of the guns on the Surprise!). If you need me to translate any of my writing please let me know.
(By the way, if you're serious about making costumes from the Master and Commander movie, you need to buy The Making of Master and Commander by Tom McGregor. I just bought it and I wish I had it when I made my Jack Aubrey costume because it has lots of great reference photos! *See the update at the bottom of the page for another great reference book.

Second Lieutenant Mowett Uniform
This appears to be a Lieutenant's uniform, and I decided it was Mowett's because he's the only Lt. I remember that wears a top hat. You can see a photo of Mowett in hat and uniform on page 102 in the Making of M&C book.

Midshipman Blakeney Uniform
Since this midshipman's uniform had the right arm pinned up it could only be Lord Blakeney's!

Blakeney and Mowett Uniforms

Blakeney and Mowett Trousers. Mowett's have stirrups at the bottom (you can see them better in my sketch).

All that can be seen of Captain Aubrey's Uniform

Royal Marine Uniform
Unfortunately the hat is about the only thing that can be seen in detail on Jack Aubrey's uniform. I don't know which character wore this Marine's uniform. It's not Captain Howard because he wears a different hat. The edging on the Marine's uniform is cool, it's white with a red stripe and a blue stripe (I put asterisks on the sketch to mark where this edging was used). There's a good photos of a bunch of Marines in uniform on page 86 of the Making of M&C book.

Sailor's Outfit
This sailor's outfit was not in the same room as the other costumes. I don't recognize it so it might not be from the movie (it could be a real antique outfit for all I know!). I thought it was interesting that the edges of the jacket weren't turned under and hemmed. Instead they've completed all the edges with an oversewing stitch (I couldn't think of what it was called when making my sketch so I called it a blanket stitch).

*Update 7/12/09: When visiting the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich this summer, I ran across this amazing book: Dressed to Kill: British Naval Uniform, Masculinity and Contemporary Fashions, 1748-1857. It's written by Amy Miller who is a curator at the NMM. The book describes a number of uniforms in the museum's collection with front, back, and detail photos of each as well as line drawings showing their pattern construction. I remember seeing it on the internet while researching my Jack Aubrey costume but there was no indication in the very brief Amazon description that it contained all these amazing reference photos and drawings. If you are interested in making an authentic Royal Navy uniform you definitely need this book!

Update 8/16/11: I was checking the Amazon link for Dressed to Kill and saw that it is out of print, with resale copies going for over $400. Ouch! Same thing over at Amazon UK. The price I bought it at was £15 (so about $30). It is still listed at that price on the National Maritime Museum's list of publications but with no option to buy. If you are desperate to have it but can't pay the insane resale price, my only suggestion would be to contact the museum to see if they still have any copies.

(Oh and thanks, Amazon, for offering to buy back my copy of Dressed to Kill for $5.52 so you can resell it at $424.99. That sounds like a great deal!)


Anonymous said...

Awesome!! I love lord Blakeney's outfit!!!

Anna Andalasia said...

I am also obsessed with Master and Commander. It is definitely my favorite movie. About a year ago, I watched it every night for four months, so I've seen it over 120 times!

I'm enjoying your blog, going through older posts and such, since I love sewing as well. Your blog is in my bookmarks! =)

Cat Carlisle said...

I've not ashamed to admit that I've watched it every night for months at a time too! Glad you're enjoying my blog. :) said...

Well done! Thanks for the excellent images.

Cat Carlisle said...

You are very welcome! :)

Anonymous said...

What a great page! Little trivia for you, I worked a while with a milliner who had got hold of one of Russell Crowe's hats from the movie. Tried it on and very grand it looked, but he has a surprisingly small head.

Anonymous said...

thanks helped with school project x

Cat Carlisle said...

You're welcome! I'm very curious what kind of school project would involve Master and Commander movie costumes...

Nate Geslin said...

This is fantastic! I'm putting a photo shoot together that will be using just these types of costumes. This post is (and already has been) very, very helpful! Your drawings are golden!

I am certainly going to have to watch this movie again!!

Cat Carlisle said...

Glad I could be of some help!

Anonymous said...

Where I get the Comanders big Hat- to buy ??

Cat Carlisle said...

Anonymous, I have never found a commander's hat to go with my costume. Your best bet would be to look at costume or historical re-enactment suppliers.

Unknown said...

i am watching the movie right now (once again) i have never found out the meaning of the various hats. there are so many, like jack's hate that is worn to the side...the other man forgot his name, wears it forward. then the top hats..and many more.

they must signify rank i would imagine...but what rank goes to which hat.

if you can help i would app

Cat Carlisle said...

Hi Unknown! Sorry for the delay, it has taken me some time to find my books so I can better answer your question. I believe the film is supposed to take place in 1805. According to "The World of Jack Aubrey" by David Miller, "In the 1795 uniform, this [the bicorn hat] had a rear brim higher than that at the front, and was worn "athwartships" (i.e., with the points above the shoulders). Under the 1812 regulations, however, this changed to a hat with equal sized brims, which was worn "fore-and-aft" although admirals in full dress persisted (as was their prerogative) with the older, athwartships fashion well into the 1820s (p. 64)." On the previous page in this book is an illustration of two captains, both wearing the 1795-1812 uniform pattern. The captain in full dress is shown with the hat worn fore-and-aft, while the other captain is in "undress" (i.e. day-to-day uniform) and the hat shown is worn "athwartships."

I also found some information about the movie hats in the book, "The Making of Master and Commander The Far Side of the World" by Tom McGregor. On page 83, it is mentioned that Lieutenant Pullings wears his hat "fore-and-aft" while Jack Aubrey wears his "athwartships" in the manner of Lord Nelson. On page 87, there is some hat discussion from the actor who played Mowett - his character was supposed to wear the "fore-and-aft" hat like Pullings, but apparently it caused problems on set - it was big and blocking the view of other actors in the scene. So they put Mowett in a top hat instead.

So from what I can gather, it sounds like the decision to have Jack wear his hat "athwartships" was made because it was the "old-fashioned" way of wearing it and because it was the way Jack's hero, Lord Nelson, wore his. Wearing a hat fore-to-aft was a newer fashion, so the younger officers were shown wearing theirs that way. I did not find any information in my books about the design of a hat indicating officer's rank. I believe the epaulettes (the fancy gold shoulder things on their jackets) were one indicator of rank, an were the ribbons on the jacket's cuffs.

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