Jane Austen´s World, part 3

Greetings to all new and old followers! Or perhaps you are perusing, collecting ideas for your own Regency costume? This blog has a little bit of this and that, but main focus is on Regency fashions, and I try to share my sporadic costume projects. This year I have been involved professionally in staging Jane Austen´s World, a costume exhibition in Skokloster Castle, where I work as curator. Since I happen to have this blog I simply must blog about these familiar – some of them even iconic – film costumes in a series of posts.

We already met the Bennets, the Dashwoods and Emma Woodhouse in the daytime parlour. Read about them here and here. In the second room we step in to the bedchamber. It is a lovely guest room, but we added some furniture and other objects from the collections. The four-poster beds are ca 1800, with printed cotton hangings, British, ca 1830. A dressing table, mirror, wash basins, towels and a bidet were added. This is the intimate sphere, where the young ladies – could be the Dashwood sisters or Jane and Lizzie Bennet – are being dressed. We talk about personal hygiene and how cotton fabric became more accessible around 1800.

A pair of nightgowns flanking a pair of stays and a chemise. These are not specific to a certain production or certain characters, but came from stock. Everything else is from the museum collections. Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH.


British Regency fabric on the beds: the printed cotton is lovely, and in excellent condition.

This intimate sphere includes other important features in the world of Jane Austen. Writing letters, for example:

Many of these letters are crucial to the plot, and Jane Austen often includes them in her novels. We also wanted to mention one of Austen´s contemporaries, a female author who wasn´t afraid to be published and who had to fight for her beliefs: Mary Wollstonecraft.

This is where we introduce one of the most famous literary characters ever created, Mr. Darcy. He is sitting at his desk writing the long letter to Lizzie Bennet where he reveals Mr. Wickham´s true nature:

Mr. Darcy. The coat, breeches and boots are from ‘Pride & Prejudice’, 2005. (The film version starring Keira Knightley as Lizzie and Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy.) For some reason this particular costume does not resonate with me, so I didn´t bother to take that many pictures of it.

Looks better on Matthew MacFadyen, but still not my favourite coat. (Pride & Prejudice, 2005)

But then there is that certain costume that most people associate with Darcy (and Jane Austen adaptations, for that matter): The Shirt.

This ordinary linen shirt caused quite a buzz back in 1995. It was Colin Firth´s ticket to eternal stardom and started Darcymania in its many varieties.

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

This phenomenon has been analysed so many times since then, so what else can I add? It is fun to observe our visitors when they see the shirt and decide (if not sooner) that now is the time to take pictures.

Marianne Dashwood is there too, with her letters to that scoundrel Willoughby. Marianne Dashwood´s day gown is exhibited. It was designed by Jenny Beavan and worn by Kate Winslet in several scenes in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. It is a sleeveless silk robe with v-neck collar over a cotton dress. It is easy to miss it on screen, but it is a beautiful gown, with many details. Of course Marianne is the romantic, passionate sister, something that nearly kills her. Her relationship with Willoughby does not end well. It is interesting that both of them ignore propriety in several ways. On one of their outings they visit Willoughby´s estate, unshaperoned. That is enough to ruin a girl´s reputation in Regency society. Marianne seeks up Willoughby at the ball in London, again very unladylike behaviour. Society would frown upon a young lady writing (passionate!) letters to a gentleman to whom she isn´t related. We learn that there never was an engagement.

Marianne´s dress from Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Scattered on the desk is her desperate letters to Willoughby, and finally his polite but cold reply. Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH.


A drawstring closes the neckline. The silk dress has hooks and eyes on right hand side, concealed by the belt.


The silk appears to be either hand painted or hand printed. Or stencilled? Notice the amount of fabric that is pleated at the back? This create the elegant Empire style silhouette, so make sure to use enough material in your gowns, ladies!

This reticule came with the dress, so Marianne had to carry one of her letters to Willoughby in it.


Kate Winslet as Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Here with Emma Thompson, Imogen Stubbs and director Ang Lee.


This costume is seen earlier in the film when the girls gather reeds and Colonel Brandon offers Marianne a knife. They are still in mourning so Marianne is wearing a black lace cape or shawl with it.


Or does she? Here she is wearing only the cotton dress with a sleeveless green velvet spencer. Now I´m confused. And I have an excuse to go and watch the film.

 

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