Sherlock Holmes: Downey Jr. & Law New Poster Clothes | Clothes on Film

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20 Jun ’09 Filed under Clothes from 1837-1919, News. Tagged cravat, frock coat, Guy Ritchie, Jude Law, lounge suit, Robert Downey Jr, stiff collar, Victorian. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment. Leave a Trackback (URL).

Not sure if these new posters for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes are Photoshopped portraits or paintings, but either way they give further insight into the costume style adopted by the movie, which is proving unusual to say the least. See them HERE.

Ritchie has been adamant for a while now that Holmes would not wear a deerstalker cap or MacFarlane coat, so no surprises there. Watson however is a bit of a shock. With his sharp, forward-thinking tailoring he makes Holmes seem a bit of a scruff.

Just analysing the poster images alone, dating the fashion seems to come in somewhere between early-mid 1800s – 1910 or thereabouts. The books are set in the latter half of the nineteenth century and just into the twentieth. Though even with creative licence there is some seriously fanciful styling going on here:

Jude Law as Dr. John Watson

The mark of a Victorian gentleman was to be discreet. This was the era of scientific and industrial innovation; of working for a living. The feminine-esque dandy was dead.


Law wears his grey suit jacket with only the top button fastened and pulled open to expose his matching waistcoat. This is called the ‘Richmond style’ and was very popular around the mid-1800s. That the trousers also match the jacket forms the origin of the lounge suit, which began to replace the frock coat from the last quarter of the nineteenth century onwards.

As men grew more physical in daily life and took better care of their bodies, tailoring (including overcoats) became tighter and tighter – as can clearly be seen on the poster shot. Trousers remained tight until the twentieth century, relaxing again considerably after the First World War.


The detachable stiff round collar is possibly a tad low for the end of the 1800s; though the decorative shirt front is a nice touch. This marked the wearer out as not buying their clothing ready made. The long necktie (with finger-thick gap to show top button) was also fashionable during this time.

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr. flaunts an entirely different style to Jude Law; his new breed Sherlock Holmes wears a creative mix of trends, some oddly outdated, others entirely fashionable for Victorian London. His trousers are striped and clearly roomier than Law’s. Also the waistcoat is patterned and its revers folded upwards.

These are characteristics of the relaxed ‘Romantic’ (not to be confused with the dandy; dandies were neat and stiff). It’s a look similar to Oscar Wilde’s, especially worn with the older, flowing style embroidered frock coat. These looser fitting frocks were fashionable until about 1830 when hardier overcoats eventually replaced them.


It is not possible to tell for sure from the poster, but Downey Jr. could be wearing a greatcoat. These long wool overlays first surfaced in the 1700s and were common in the military. They tended to have a cape collar, though not always, and sometimes loop fastenings instead of buttons, a fur collar and braid adornment.

More modern is the upright spread collar on his shirt, which was common around 1900. The belt is a bizarre addition; these were not worn to hold trousers up until the 1920s. This could be a costume blunder or a sly way of implying Holmes’ extreme individuality. The four-in-hand cravat however was perfectly acceptable into the early twentieth century.


It’s Watson who gets the walking cane now, not Holmes. By the looks of things Holmes doesn’t even get an umbrella, which tended to replace the cane in the early twentieth. Goodness knows what he does if it rains. Besides get wet of course.

Watch the trailer for Sherlock Holmes HERE.

© 2009 – 2011, Chris Laverty.

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