The Costumes: Nineteenth century gorgeousness: gals in gowns, blokes in black(ish) suits, and a treasure trove of jewellery and dangly things.
The Constrictions: A web of confused illegitimacy rules, as characters are plagued by the restrictions of their social standing in the face of potential love.
Emma wants to set Harriet up with minister Mr Elton, but then Mr Martin starts showing an interest in her, and Mr Elton makes advances on Emma. What a bother!
If They Changed Costumes: Swapping their attire with the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show should give all involved cause to breathe a sigh of relief. Sexuality in Rocky Horror runs rampant, and bed-hopping is all but encouraged. Gwynie in leather and stockings? Why not!
Vera Drake (2004)
The Costumes: Lots of brown. Go easy on them; it was just after the war, old chap.
The Constrictions: It’s all about the A word: (whisper it) abortion. Back in the 1950s, it was illegal for women to abort their unborn children. Which made it all the more scandalous that one Vera Drake was unafraid to help those women-in-need.
If They Changed Costumes: All that russet clothing is just too depressing. How about some bright ‘n' busy clown costumes? Sure you might scare a few kiddies (and coulrophobic adults) on the way, but it’d distract from all that abortion talk now, wouldn’t it?
Anna Karenina (1948)
The Costumes: Silk and other assorted glad rags: those Russians aren’t afraid to flaunt what they got.
The Constrictions: Marriage. Ain’t it a drag? Poor Anna’s trapped in a loveless union with her husband. Problem is, he won’t grant her a divorce – it just wasn’t the done thing back then.
So, even when Anna falls in love with Colonel Vronsky (a love that he returns), she must conceal their affair or face severe social penalties.
If They Changed Costumes: Pop Anna in a Princess Leia outfit, shove Vronsky in some Han Solo garb, and let them play out their romance against a starry backdrop. Could end happily this time (no trains in space).
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
The Costumes: Damn they had style back then. Festooned in the finest of fineries, these guys won’t wear anything but the best. They’re the Footballers’ Wives of their day.
The Constrictions: More a case of bored upper class nitwits scheming against each other than anything particularly constricting.
If They Changed Costumes: Shove Isabelle and Sébastien into some Matrix-style leathers and let them vent all that rage and bubbling passion. Nothing sorts out a bit of sexual tension like guns and a pair of shades.
The Phantom Of The Opera (2004)
The Costumes: Theatrical as hell. Minnie Driver dons a wig that’s bigger than her torso before wearing a furry wrap that looks like that huggy thing out of the Vicks advert.
The Constrictions: That mask looks pretty tight for a start. Forced into hiding after being abused as a child, the eponymous Phantom is a tragic figure of prejudice and victimisation.
Meanwhile, the unattainable object of his affection is torn between her suitors. It’s a tough life.
If They Changed Costumes: What the Phantom really needs is the facemask from Jim Carrey's The Mask . It's a more effective mood-changer than Prozac: no moping on this Phantom's menu. Might even get the girl this time.
The Costumes: Before Stargate ’s neo-Egyptian headdresses, Elizabeth Taylor donned a variety of decadent designs. There’s a lot of gold involved.
The Constrictions: Plays for power. Standing in the face of the imperialistic Roman forces who want to seize her kingdom, Cleopatra finds herself an island of resistance in a sea of Roman rule.
Oh, and then she falls in love with some bloke called Antony. That’s when things start to get really messy.
If They Changed Costumes: Time to crack out some Jack Sparrow garments. Chuck Antony a pirate’s hat, shove Cleo in a deckhand’s outfit and watch them sail off into the sunset. Ahhhhh.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
The Costumes: Trust the French to get one up on us in the fashion stakes (sort of). Funking up the sexy 1700s, these extravagant threads are all about hot summertime shades and frivolous ruffles.
The Constrictions: Drawing parallels between celebrity/youth culture and the life of a fledgling Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola delights in forcing her teen queen to live under a strangulating amount of scrutiny. Poor doll can’t even have sex privately.
If They Changed Costumes: Marie just wants to break free. So why not let her, by grunging her up as an Almost Famous -style groupie? More parties, more men and (most importantly) sex behind closed stage doors.
The Costumes: Ornate with a capital ‘Oh!’ Not a penny is wasted on our Queen’s wardrobe; it’s a wonder she can move under all that fabric.
The Constrictions: You’d think being Queen of England would be seven shades of awesome. Unfortunately, when Elizabeth inherits the throne she discovers that she’s nothing more than a figurehead/pawn as the men around her seek to influence her with their own designs.
That tight-as-hell clothing couldn’t be more symbolic of Elizabeth’s constricted existence if it were made of iron and barbed wire.
If They Changed Costumes: Girl power to the rescue! Get Elizabeth some platform shoes, a Union Jack dress and one seriously effective brassiere (not to mention four annoying sidekicks), and she'll mop the floor with those conniving government types.
Bright Star (2009)
The Costumes: Nothing too fancy: Keats gets a nice blue jacket, Fanny dons a handful of modest dresses.
The Constrictions: Initially, it’s all about class again. Fanny’s a wannabe fashionista, Keats is a lowly poet. They embark on a secret love affair when Fanny falls for Keats’ words (among other things). Of course, the ‘doom’ part of their doomed relationship only comes with the poet’s inevitable death.
If They Changed Costumes: How about swapping with the cast of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet ? Another doomed relationship, but at least this one would give Fanny and Keats a bit of meaty drama to chew on rather than the tame courtship they undertake.
Sense & Sensibility (1995)
The Costumes: These lasses are on a bit of a budget, but if it’s volume of material that you’re after, there’s reams of stuff here. The blokes look pretty dapper, though.
The Constrictions: Ah, Austen really loved her class wars. When Mr Dashwood dies, he leaves behind a wife and three daughters who are rendered destitute and penniless.
They rely on a kind relative, who takes them in and gives them shelter. But the Dashwood girls’ lack of status means they’re deemed undesirable for marriage; even when Elinor gains the affections of the affluent Mr Ferrars, his family force him to end the affair.
If They Changed Costumes: The Dashwood girls really should learn to appreciate what they've got. Time spent in some threadbare Oliver! garments should humble them. Of course, that would make them even less suitable for the gentlemen whom they wish to attract...
Cold Mountain (2003)
The Costumes: Kidman gets a lot of floaty gowns and soft shades, while Zellweger dons a frumpy hat and a double-barrelled rifle.
The Constrictions: In a word, war. A soldier injured in the American Civil War weathers storms as he drags his wounded body back home to his love. Meanwhile, said love is dealing with the aftershock of her father’s death, and attempts to run the farm alone.
If They Changed Costumes: Wizards! Give Kidman a lightning scar and a wand, and hey presto, the farm’s no longer a problem.
The Leopard (1963)
The Costumes: Yeah, rather swanky.
The Constrictions: Aristocracy is on its last legs in Sicily, so certain people are clinging ardently onto the days of yore with all the strength left in their frightened souls.
Fabrizio Corbero in particular won’t go quietly into the night, refusing to give in to the waning of his Princely power. But as a new Sicily starts to crowd around him, his nephew attempts to ensure his own survival by marrying the daughter of an on-the-rise ex-peasant.
If They Changed Costumes: Austin Powers' wardrobe could go a long way in helping Fabrizio. That velvet jacket and ruffled shirt combo is just irresistible for the ladies. Frabrizio need never worry about losing rank and money again, he can marry into any rich family he desires.