The Dumbest Things We Believe About Historical Clothing Thanks To Pop Culture

List Rules
Vote up the inaccurate clothing cliches that don't make historical sense.

Ancient Romans always wore togas, Scottish men always wore kilts, and 19th-century women stuffed themselves into painful corsets. At least, that's the impression historically inaccurate costumes in movies and TV shows give about past fashion trends. The worst historical movie costumes just ignore history completely - no, William Wallace didn't wear a kilt, even if Mel Gibson does in Braveheart.  

Sometimes bad historical costumes make sense. If every film set in the 19th century used historically accurate bonnets, for example, they'd be hard to watch. But even these understandable choices leave viewers with some pretty silly beliefs about the past.


  • 1
    551 VOTES

    Everyone In Medieval Times Wore Boots All The Time, Even Indoors

    Everyone In Medieval Times Wore Boots All The Time, Even Indoors
    Photo: Anonymous / Sony Pictures Releasing

    Boots in the halls, boots in the bedroom, boots in the throne room. In medieval movies, men wear their boots everywhere, regardless of what they're doing.

    But in the past, gentlemen put on their boots only for certain outdoor activities like hunting or riding. Indoors, men took off their boots and showed off their calves by wearing stockings and shoes. Heavy boots weren't made for most indoor activities, after all. There's a good reason Hollywood loves boots, though - they're much easier to find and style than authentic medieval hose and leather shoes.

  • 2
    593 VOTES

    Puritans Always Dressed In Black

    Puritans Always Dressed In Black
    Photo: The Scarlet Letter / Buena Vista Pictures

    According to movies, Puritans were very serious people, so they dressed in very serious colors: black with maybe a pop of white. And they often wore identical outfits. Just look at The Scarlet Letter or The Crucible for examples of this historical costume trope.

    In reality the Puritans didn't wear matching outfits, and they didn't only wear black. In fact, black dye was so expensive that only wealthier Puritans could afford it. Instead, most Puritans wore brown or dark blue, because those dyes were the cheapest. As for luxuries, Puritans incorporated fur and leather into their clothes because they were inexpensive and common in New England.

  • 3
    454 VOTES

    Medieval Knights Charged Into Battle Without Helmets

    Medieval Knights Charged Into Battle Without Helmets
    Photo: Kingdom of Heaven / 20th Century Fox

    Two armies face each other down across a bare field of grass. In moments, their weapons will clash and blood will spill. And beforehand, warriors let the breeze waft through their hair rather than put on a helmet.

    In reality, medieval soldiers, whether they were knights or infantrymen, protected their heads. As the Met Museum points out, a lot of tropes about historical armor are "utter nonsense, devoid of any historical base." You can put helmets in this category. Mercenaries, mounted knights, and even archers made sure to protect themselves before fighting, even if they didn't have much money. At the very least, soldiers wore a helmet of some kind.

    It makes sense that Hollywood would leave out the helmets, or have them conveniently knocked off from time to time - after all, you can't tell whether that's Orlando Bloom running across the field under a thick helmet - but it definitely gives the wrong impression about actual armor.

  • 4
    596 VOTES

    Medieval Women (And Men) Were Always Showing Off Tons Of Chest Cleavage

    Medieval Women (And Men) Were Always Showing Off Tons Of Chest Cleavage
    Photo: Shakespeare in Love / Miramax Films

    Heaving bosoms are a mainstay in historical movies, and even men in historical films show off a lot of chest. Just look at Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love

    But the loose garments in many of these films never would have walked the streets of 16th century London. Fiennes's white shirt is actually his underwear - and people generally didn't show off underwear on the street. As Sarah Lorraine at Frock Flicks puts it, "this would have been the 16th century equivalent of leaving your fly unzipped."