Summer greetings to all of you! I have not travelled to the Lake District, nor have I picked strawberries. But I have seen an exhibition that might interest you. First, some familiar faces. All of them are formidable actors portraying some of our favourite Jane Austen-characters. Now, what do these have in common?
This week I saw these very costumes!
This lovely photo caught my eye some time ago:
It is promotion for the summer exhibition at Tjolöholm Castle: Costumes from three famous Jane Austen adaptations! These fine ladies and the gent are reenactors based on the westcoast, so I am not acquainted with them. Back in June there was a Regency style picknick and they have arranged one or two themed afternoon teas. It is some hours away from Stockholm, and with work and all, I was unable to attend.
On a peninsula on the Swedish westcoast, overlooking the sea, is Tjolöholm Castle. It was built around 1900 by the wealthy Dickson family of Gothenburg. They had Scottish/British ancestry and chose to build their country retreat in the Arts & Crafts style with furnishings from Liberty. The castle is now a museum. Read more about it here. Dear Mrs E and I decided to pay them a visit.
All of this is lovely. You are only allowed inside on a guided tour, which we enjoyed, since it was our first visit. But our main reason for going there was of course the exhibition.
A perfect way to build up ones expectations was to visit the café in the old stables. There was a space with a generous amount of garments that visitors were allowed to try on. They were provided by students at the Gothenburg costume academy, and they were really well made. (I admit, I examined several of them up close.) Unfortunately there was a rack with Elizabethan costumes as well, a bonus from last year´s summer exhibition with costumes from the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth films, which obviously caused some confusion. Too bad since the general Swedish public still seem to have a limited idea of Regency era fashions. No wonder then that a handful of nice spencers in colourful velvets were hanging with Tudor doublets, and a farthingale-thing was mixed with the empire frocks. The museum should either remove the 17th century garments or put really obvious tags on them.
So over to the stars – the costumes, provided by Cosprop. These were on display in the castle, on the third floor. You had to go on the guided tour to get there, and the group was given just enough time to enjoy the exhibit. Photographs were allowed. What a treat it was! I suppose these costumes have been on tour for years now. (I have vague memories of seeing quite many of them back in the late nineties.)
Anyway, who could forget the unexpected encounter between Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy at Pemberley? The famous pond-scene that started Darcymania and made Colin Firth a star? Just to remind you:
The costume designer for Pride and Prejudice (1995) was Dinah Collin, and she was awarded with an Emmy for her outstanding work. I still think the costumes are very good, and they continue to be an inspiration to many of us. Keep in mind though that they are theatrical costumes, not extant garments, and therefore an interpretation of the era. Someone commented on the unlikely usage of the same pattern for all of Lizzie´s frocks and the “pretty” girls are always wearing low cut evening gowns, even at daytime. Read more about these issues over on Frock Flicks. IMHO the gentlemen´s costumes were perfect, from fashion-forward Darcy and Bingley, to the more conservative Messrs Bennet, Gardiner, and not the least , Collins.
In three adjoining rooms were costumes from the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility (1995). This story is set a few years earlier, somewhere in the late 1790´s. The silhouette is slightly different from P&P; we see fuller skirts, and narrow, 3/4 sleeves. Costume designers Jenny Beavan and John Bright were nominated for a Bafta and an Oscar, and they certainly did a great job! My favourite costumes among the gents are seen on Colonel Brandon, Sir John, and that awful Willoughby. Their costumes were not included in this exhibition, though.
The gown is nicely executed. I managed to see hand stitching at the belt and the trim, and the hook-and-eye closure. This is also a good example on the importance of correct undergarments. Emma Thompson is wearing a pair of good stays, that make the most of her assets.
The exhibition had one final costume, and that was something completely different: A robe a la Francaise. This is from the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. (The “Keira Knightley” or the “Pig” version.) This time they decided to move back the story to the 1790´s when Jane Austen originally wrote the novel. This means transitional fashions between the Georgian era and the Regency. Was it good or not? This has been discussed ever since. Here, and here. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran was nominated for a Bafta and an Oscar.
The purple gown was worn by no other than the great Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This portayal is not my favourite. Judi´s Lady Catherine is hot tempered and feisty, not as sly and manipulative as Lady Catherine in the 1995 version. Judi Dench is also very tanned, which Lady Catherine most certainly wouldn´t be. It is nevertheless a splendid gown.
To sum this up: The exhibition was small and tucked away in this castle, but should be a treat for every dedicated Jane Austen-fan. Have you seen any of these costumes? Do tell!