This year as every year, when the Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design are announced, the ballot will invariably be filled with hoop skirts and tailcoats and perhaps a touch of Far East or outer space-style exotica. It's only natural to admire the costumes in a period movie, redolent as they are of painstaking research and construction. Rich, complex clothing from other eras can also stand as a corrective to our own, 21st-century sartorial mediocrity. But this emphasis ignores the ...

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