There is no denying that there is something very attractive about a man in period costume, the big question is why, exactly? And I should mention upfront that not every actor who appears in period costume develops a legion of adoring fans, so what is the difference between those who simply play a period part, and whose who make us have very some impure thoughts while playing a period role?
I recall Richard once saying how the costume of John Thornton, with it's stiff high collar and cravat, made him hold himself more upright which helped him inhabit the somewhat “stiff” character. Indeed as he also pointed out, the moments when the cravat come off are some of the most telling in the series. (His comments on Thornton's costumes here, at about 2.30)
He also said of his character Percy Courtney
“The costumes are surprisingly more restricting than other dramas I’ve done; they make sure every single little hair is in place.” [Hat Trick Productions press pack ]
So perhaps it is this very “stiffness” and the resulting restrictions they place on a character and actor that makes these costumes so very appealing, for both the actor, and consequently the character is bound within their costume, which can be seen as a metaphor for the restrictive morals and etiquette of the day.
Where as modern drama might convey sexual attraction with a wink, a smile or perhaps a suggestive remark, the period actor cannot be so forward. Sexual attraction must instead smoulder, just below the surface so that society cannot pass judgement.
The good actor will still be able to show interest with his eyes, with his voice, with every fibre of his being without needing to resort to more modern overt methods of flirtation. I believe it is this very tease which makes period costume so very appealing; we the viewer are allowed a glimpse of the desire and are drawn in by it, desperate for more. After all, if a character can show that much emotion just with his eyes and the set of his shoulders, imagine the depths of the passion that could be lurking below that prim exterior!!!
And now for some gratuitous screen caps of Richard Armitage in Victorian costume, which let's face it, is really why you came!
|Thornton with top hat! Yum!|
|Percy got a little bit of variety and branched out from the usual black|
|Thornton, sans cravat.|
|And Percy in grey.|
|Okay, so Thornton got to mix it up a little too, with a gold (cream? vanilla?) cravat|
|I must say, prefer Thornton's sideburns to the moustache|