& the slipper still fits

A Costume Drama girl’s guide to adaptation adoration

PART 1 : So you're a newbie

Are you a newbie to the whole costume drama scene? Do you have a friend you want to introduce to the fandom, but don’t know where to start? Have you seen a few, but still don’t get the terminology or “rules”? Well, I’m here to make sure it’s not nearly as so big or scary or confusing. Because nothing as wonderful and costume dramas and adaptations should be big, scary, or confusing.

Let’s start with Costume Drama’s definition. There really are three definitions, or "levels" might be a better way to explain. And to make things even more confusing, most fans have their own particular definitions based on their likes and dislikes. But we’ll start with the basics:

Level 1: It’s called costume drama – Which means, above all, there are breath-taking costumes in the production. This is the central thread that really ties the costume drama fandom together. Thus, most costume drama blogs are not about the stories, or the actors, or reviews, but about admiring and dissecting the gowns and clothing worn. Therefore, you can say anything with elaborate costumes can be considered a costume drama, including: films such as Black Swan and Robin Hood, shows like Merlin and Mad Men, Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, and fantasy films.

Level 2: It’s about a historical time period/literary subject – This is generally what people mean when they say they love costume dramas. Most that are included in this category are adaptations of classic novels either produced by the BBC or a major studio. A great example is the many adaptations of Bronte’s Jane Eyre. There are four versions made by the BBC and over five made by major motion picture companies; all are considered costume dramas at this level. Additionally, films like Becoming Jane and Bright Star would fall under level 2 because it is about the life of a literary/historical figure.

Level 3: It’s all BBC all the time – The final level of costume drama is considered a very hardcore streamlining of what costume drama can be. Put simply, if it wasn’t produced by the BBC, and about a literary or historical figure, it’s not a costume drama. Likewise, this would make all costume dramas a mini-series. And, to be fair, when people use the term costume drama, they are often talking about a BBC production. But it is a very flawed definition, and so most fans of costume drama are not so fanatic as level 3; for example, under this definition the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice would be considered a costume drama, but the 2005 version with Keira Knightley would not.

On most community forums or blogs, the writers and community members stick within the range of level 2. (To be exact, it’s more like level 3 with their favorite big budget movies included.) Why are these definitions important? Well, really, they’re not, but if you’re just starting out, these distinctions can help you sound like an old salt fast; and can help you understand some of the general themes that communities have – why the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice is considered the seminal example of costume drama, for instance.

Looking to get a friend interested in costume drama? The above definitions can also help you navigate where to start your friend on their costume drama journey. Did they love Gosford Park, but swear they could never stand a costume drama? Well, you can politely nudge that Gosford Park can be considered a costume drama(level 1), and if they love it, they’ll probably like Dowton Abbey (level 3). Too much mini-series for them? Think about showing them Easy Virtue (level 1). Not enough? Upstairs-Downstairs (level 3) could be their cup of tea.

And that’s the basics. Remember, when watching costume dramas, it’s all about what you enjoy. And if it’s with your favorite actors, that’s even better.

Now that we have our definitions, what’s the next step? Well, recommending/watching some costume drama of course! Watch for Part 2: Start at the very Beginning, it’s a very good place to start.

First Look: The Conspirator (2011)


Well, dear reader, today is actually a snow day for me. All that nasty winter weather they said hit the North East? Well, I'm mid-east, just above and to the right of DC, and we got hammered. Needless to say, it took us a good 5 hours to plow ourselves out. Hey, with 9+ inches and a VERY long driveway, it takes that long; and with all that winter sun and exercise I feel wonderful and tired. Its such a nice feeling to have.
Now that the sun is going down, and the heating blankets are on, I feel like I should share what I did on my snow day. First, we of course, plowed and shoveled like we've only done a handful of times before. And we complained like we ALWAYS do, even with a half inch. 

Then, I finished my fall quilt. I know, its way after fall, but quilting takes a long time! My mom is one of those women who is a master at those fine craft arts: croquet, sewing, quilting -- she has magic hands. We've done many quilts together, but this one was the first I did all on my own. I wanted reds and oranges, lots of print, and for it to really feel like fall when you looked at the completed quilt. (I still think the back looks like pumpkin pie too!) The entire blanket is hand-quilted by momma-dear and I, and I have the needle pricks to prove it.  The solid squares have maple and oak leaves with acorns, as do the corners where the rope meets up. It's a thinner quilt, but still amazingly warm.

Now, if chilly, winter, craft projects are not your cup of tea. There is always my last post, which was the January Brush Set. And don't worry, no actors or themes are really featured in this one.

What else will I be doing? I plan to snuggle up with the computer and start typing out the six pages of story I wrote a few days ago. Hopefully, I'll find another sentence to share with you soon. But, oh dear, Tristan and Isolde is on and I just saw Henry Cavill step on screen. All motivation is lost. CRAP.


There is nothing like a great landscape or light texture. This set has the best of both. Instead of telling you about the 12 abstract and other brushes, I have some way cool fan art (...I think) to show you. The fanart below uses brushes from this set, as well as brush set 1. The brushes were created by greatly abstracting photos of birds, light spots and cellophane; many are best used on an overlay or screen layer.  


Alex Pettyfer approached to play Jace Wayland in Mortal Instruments And this is where Heather had a slight reversion to a 10 year old girl last night. It's not official yet, but about as close to it as movie-magically possible. In case this seems totally out of the blue, here's the KMC where I talk about Clary casting.

First look trailers appearing for Starz Camelot. Jamie Campbell Bower sums up with 1 word: 'fleshy'

Syfy’s remake of ‘Being Human’ can’t match up to BBC hit Let me try to 'esplain. Because I did watch the first episode. There was nothing else on, dear reader. I know, you have lost some serious faith in me. Apart from the fact Syfy should have just bought the BBC version lock, stock, and barrel and reaired it (a-la Merlin and its amazingness, to CBS' credit)...well, what else can I say? Its basically the same dialogue and story word-for-word from the BBC version. (Which does air on BBCamerica, just FYI.) Key differences: They renamed the WHOLE cast and (in complete contrast to the BBC version) cast a Edward look-a-like for its vampire lead. Annie is now named Sally, and Meaghan Roth is absolutely no Lenora Crichlow; George is now Josh; and ...wait for it...Mitchell is now Aiden. Did you have a WTF moment too?! I did! My review, don't bore yourself with this remake, it will just flop in comparison with the original.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena Premieres A must read if you were a fan of season one. Considering what's happened with production, it wasn't a bad premiere. One should not call it a season, I think; its more like a 6 episode mini arc. Think Dr.Who Christmas Special in between the regular season. I also think Showtime should have been more open about what this "season" was going to be about. People would have been on board more if it was, say, tag lined: how Crixus rose to be champion. The comparison between his outsider rise and Spartacus' should be interesting to watch.  Showtime really is lucky the acting of their mostly male cast is so good, or else...you know...

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: 1788 George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born.

First look at Blackbread in new PotC

BLOG IN 140 1.12.11

7 inches of snow and no plow yet. List of blog todos and little doing. I did finish Alice in Wonderland yesterday, thought. Go me on novel-research reading!


I am all about, dear reader, I fantastic new book while curled up in bed on my warm couch during the winter months. I’m all about a fantastic new book any time of the year, really. But I can be particular. I loathe reading about cold places and chilly snow in any book during the winter. If I wanted to think about being cold, I’d think about going outside. The romance novels below, and yes they really are all romance novels, take me far away from the bitter wind-chill outside and keep my imagination nice and warm.

Enchanted Elizabeth Lowell
Main Relationship: Simon & Ariane
Page Length: 395


Enchanted is the third and final installment in a series. The first two are Untamed and Forbidden, but you don’t have to read the first two novels to enjoy this one. I myself have only read Untamed (and loved it), and while it does provide some back story for the characters, you won’t be lost without it . Needless to say this is one of the better romance novels I’ve ever read. I know, that’s like saying this is the best milk I’ve had past its expiration date; you’re thinking: why are you even drinking expired milk? But really, Enchanted is a medieval historical romance with enough pithy dialogue and plausible plot points to keep you interested. And its hero is a Crusader haunted by his past. Simon the Loyal has to be one of my favorite romance novel heroes; he’s right up there with his brother, Dominic LeSabre.

The Cobra and the Concubine Bonnie Vanak
Main Relationship: Khepri/Kenneth & Badra
Page Length: 340
Disclaimer: I bought this in a 5 for 5 bin at an off-brand bookstore chain. That should tell you a little about its caliber. But again, considering spoiled milk—the book is entertaining and will satisfy anyone’s Sahara fantasies for a while. I think this is why I particularly love this book: it’s set in the middle of the Sarah desert, and I love any desert, especially ones with sand. The novel also provides the British Victorian twist of an orphan raised by desert warriors who falls in love with a desert girl. While the story is rather predictable and the plot dragged along as an afterthought, it’s still a warm read. I enjoyed reading about desert culture and Vanak describes it with a deft and knowledgeable hand.

Across Time Nina Beaumont
Main Relationship: Adrienne/Isabella & Alessandro/Sandro
Page Length: 376
Of all the great reads I’ve found in a free bin at the local book fair, this has to be one of the best. It’s old, over 16 years old, but if you love renaissance romance novels, this is one for you to pick up. The back reads:

Alessandro di Montefiore could not trust his wife. Isabella was a woman known as much for her powerful cruelty as for her startling beauty. Yet when she looked at him with a stranger’s innocence in her passion-darkened eyes, he found himself willing to risk almost anything for the promise of her desire.

Fate had plummeted Adrienne de Beaufort through time into the body of her ancestor, a woman steeped in hatred and betrayal. But Adrienne’s soul was still her own, and only she could prevent the tragedy that lay ahead for Alessandro: death at the hand of the treacherous Isabella…

It certainly has the flair of the Borgais in it. It does have some heavy subject matter within its pages, (actually all the picks but the next one do) so I wouldn’t pick this one up if you’re squeamish. And don’t worry if the multiple names thing is confusing now…I read it and am still half confused.

Lord of a Thousand Nights Madeline Hunter
Main Relationship: Ian & Reyna
Page Length: 357
I know, I know: there are no surprises with that title, but Hunter’s book is surprisingly tame for a romance novel. Its shock factor is low, and the characters are solidly created. Thousand Nights was another free bin buy, and, like Across Time, would have been worth paying for. Not only does it have some fantastic romance, but has an interesting mystery plot as well. A plot, that while simmering the whole time, fully develops right where is should and isn’t trite or forced or stupidly unexplainable.

I think by now dear reader, you know I don’t just recommend books. Sure, I’ll read practically any book, but for me to actually recommend them, I have to really think they’re good. These four are. They’re some of my favorite romance novels and they’ll keep you thinking of keeps and sand, crusaders and warriors all the way through a wickedly cold winter.


Dear reader, I have to stay I am completely floored by the latest about Dowton Abbey. I feel a slight rant coming on...

First, do I admit that PBS, on occasion, cuts pieces of an adaptation? Yes. Do they do it singularly because they think their American audience is equivalent to a brain-dead piece of celery? NO. This is PBS for God's sake! They're one of the only networks that still has educational value as a central focus. To be quite honest, I'm a little affronted Mr. Hastings thinks we're so painfully stupid. Or that we wouldn't notice.

And cut two hours? Cutting 10 minutes maybe (which happened with the latest Northanger Abbey adaptation), but cutting what would be considered 2 episodes worth of length and plot is basically impossible. Someone should learn how to use his calculator. Oh wait, he's probably too proud to.

What about Mad Men? What about Breaking Bad? What about Lost? Trust me. If we can follow the plot of Lost, American viewers of Dowton Abbey (who are a particular cross-section of Americans) will be able to follow its plot.

There's my rant for the night. Long and short: PBS is not cutting anything from Dowton Abbey, and if they are cutting a few minutes, it would be the opening and closing credits seen in the British version. Oh! And Laura Linney is lovely. Pick on one of your own actresses.