EMMA: This absolutely bites, and it’s all the time a problem, every time there’s a Regency anything, in the unbelievable disparity between the relative hotness of the men’s and the women’s clothing. There is absolutely nothing attractive, flattering, or stylish about women’s Regency clothes, and I’ve looked. It bites, and it needs to stop.
KNIGHTLEY: I don’t know what you mean.
EMMA: No, but it’s universally true, even though nobody else knows it yet but me. Look at you; look at your clothes, perfect. Collars up to your ears like jawline buttresses, linen waterfalls instead of neckties, big fucking floorcoats, boot-leggings, dressed like a fucking My Chemical Romance video, but in a really fun way. Objectively, it looks good; objectively, clothing for men of this era looks really fucking good.
KNIGHTLEY: You spend so much time saying things are “objectively” something that it took me a while to realize you just mean it as an intensifier – like, you really like something, not that you actually believe other people feel the same way.
EMMA: That is just how feelings work!
KNIGHTLEY: That…also does not seem like a claim you are making seriously.
EMMA: It’s Kant’s Universal subjunctive! I don’t know, Grace is still asleep and I can’t ask her to remind me what that is again. Universal subjective, I think. It means what it means. You know? The point is that, possibly uniquely in human history, clothes for women in Regency England were bad, and unflattering, and everyone knows it, and I’m right.
KNIGHTLEY: Do you think this could possibly be a transmasculine thing?
EMMA: What do you mean.
KNIGHTLEY: Do you think maybe it’s less that “clothes for women were objectively bad” so much as you watched a lot of Regency costume dramas before you transitioned, and also you transitioned so you could wear “men’s clothes” (you know you could wear them before but also you know what I mean).
EMMA: That sounds plausible, but it’s wrong. Lots of women’s clothes are great. Objectively great, even. Just not during this roughly fifteen-year period. Fucking look at us. Everyone’s in Empire-waist dresses, the worst waistline imaginable, with tiny fussy little sleeves, everything in baby colors, wan little curly pigtails snatched up and dressed over the ears, every woman alive right now looks like she’s wearing jammies and having a tea party with baby farm animals, but not even in a fun way.
Oh, and that other thing I hate, where sometimes she’s wearing two dresses, and one of them splits open over the other one, again from that one point directly on the underwire line? We do that all the time now, and it sucks.
It just bites! Look at this! He looks good, she looks awful; he looks good, she looks like a child who’s badly dressed for bed. Like someone who failed to dress fashionably for bedtime!
And she’s a perfectly good-looking drawing of a woman!
And in just a few years, women will look nice again. 1803, bad. 1818, bad. 1826: lovely! But right now it’s Bedtime for Bonzo all the time, big sleepytime chamomile hats and too-high waistlines and baby lace and it’s awful.
KNIGHTLEY: Okay, fine. What are some examples of periods where you think the women’s clothing looks better than the men’s?
EMMA: Dressing gowns! Auntie Mame! Male dressing gowns can look, at best, a little suave, but mostly boring.
KNIGHTLEY: Oh, come on.
KNIGHTLEY: Don’t play dumb!!
EMMA: I’m not! What’s wrong?
KNIGHTLEY: You’re trying to make a claim about an entire era in dress, and for a counterexample of how open-minded you are about women’s fashion, you come up with a single fictional woman, whose will thing was that she doesn’t dress like most women. Not that she has her own unique sense of fashion; that she deliberately dresses in baffling, opaque, unrecognizable styles.
EMMA: Is that not allowed?
KNIGHTLEY: Of course it’s allowed! It’s just not much of a counterweight to “all women in Great Britain from 1800-1820.”
EMMA: Well, I think she looked nice. And I’m sure that Kant would agree with me. And I just think everyone should agree that when making future Regency dramas, the men should wear period-appropriate clothing, and the women should wear dresses from either 1770 or 1830, when clothing for women was good.
EMMA: Lots of clothing for women looks good.
EMMA: It’s not a trans thing!!!!
EMMA: It’s just demonstrably and empirically true that —
KNIGHTLEY: It’s not, though! Actual, demonstrable people disagree with you!
EMMA: “Demonstrable” and “empirical” mean “a lot” and “very much” and “I feel very intense about this.”
KNIGHTLEY: It’s clear that you’ve got a lot of affect bound up in this.
EMMA: Don’t condescend to me!!
KNIGHTLEY: How is it condescending to acknowledge that you feel something intensely when you’ve just told me that you feel something very intensely?
EMMA: I don’t KNOW! But it is!
KNIGHTLEY: This feels like the kind of conversation where my participation is not welcome.
EMMA: You are WELCOME to LISTEN and AGREE with me.
EMMA: God, your clothes look incredible.
THANK YOU for putting your finger on this, which has apparently been troubling my subconscious mind for at least the past twenty years
"Emma" is objectively, demonstrably, empirically right. You can tell Knightley that 1970s women's clothing will look better than 1970s men's, though this is admittedly a very low bar.