Fabulous costumes!

With less than a week before the opening of the Jane Austen exhibition everything is more or less installed, with only some minor adjustments left to be done. (Although enough to keep us busy!)

I am very impressed by the quality of the costumes. A lot of hand sewn seams and delicate materials on the gowns and the coats are properly tailored. Jenny Beavan and Dinah Collins obviously know their business.

Here are only a few samples for all you Jane Austen-fans out there:

Photo by Regencygentleman

Miss Bingley’s evening frock is suitably grand.

Photo by Regencygentleman

One of Miss Marianne Dashwood’s lovely gowns. (Kate Winslet is petite.)

Photo by Regencygentleman

Another beatifully made gown. This one is hardly seen on screen. Can you guess which one it is?

The Costumes have arrived!

Photo by Regencygentleman

Yesterday these boxes arrived. They are not just any boxes. They contained the legendary costumes that will go on display, carefully packed on top of hatboxes and heavier shoes and boots.

Our textile conservators started to unpack them and I tried not to drool too much, but took a few quick photos. Starting today, they will be steamed if needed and mounted on to mannequins.  I will keep you posted.

Photo by Regencygentleman
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The Jane Austen Exhibition

Photo: Jens Mohr, LSH

We have hectic days at work now with everything that needs to be done before the palace gates open again in May. The conservators are spring cleaning the state apartments, the shop is stocked with new goods, guides are being hired, and countless other things. Perhaps you remember me mentioning some time ago that the summer exhibition is Jane Austen? The focus will be thirty costumes (supplied by Cosprop in London) as seen in Pride and Prejudice (1995), Sense and Sensibility (1995), Persuasion (1995), Emma (1996 and 2009), and Pride & Prejudice (2005). We are also digging out a handful of not too shabby historical costumes from the museum collections.

Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH

Serious drama going on here.

Today is exactly two months before the opening. The press release and pictures were made public a few weeks ago. Here is an excerpt from the English version (not my translation):

Beautiful scenery surrounds the film costumes worn by actors such as Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Costumes for many people forever linked with characters such as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. In the Jane Austen’s world exhibition, these characters open the doors to tales of the lifestyle, dilemmas and fashions during the early 1800s.

Magnificent costumes in a historical setting
The costumes are presented in the castle’s guest suites, furnished with objects from the late 1700s and early 1800s. This is a unique opportunity to experience parts of the castle which are not normally open to the general public. The objects on display include the fantastic bridal gown worn by Marianne Dashwood (played by Kate Winslet) from the film Sense and Sensibility and not least the once soaked shirt worn by Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth) in the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice. The historical setting of Skokloster Castle is a perfect stage for the exhibition, which presents a period coloured by magnificent clothing, narrow female spheres and strict etiquette.

Jane Austen – always current
Jane Austen is one of the world’s most read authors, and her almost 200-year old novels are more popular than ever, with new editions, interpretations, dramatisations and film versions of her works being released constantly. In her novels, Austen succeeds in combining an easy style with sharp social criticism concealed beneath emotionally charged intrigue.

‘Jane Austen was a perceptive observer of the strict social patterns that permeated the privileged social class to which she belonged. Austen’s young heroines struggle against and with the limitations of their period. For many women, marriage was the only opportunity way they could support themselves. And just like in her books, women are at the centre of Jane Austen’s world. Marriage as a guarantor of the survival of the family is a theme that also forms part of the history of Skokloster Castle. In the exhibition, you can also follow the “Meanwhile at Skokloster” track, which presents a number of women at Skokloster’, explains Annika Williams, curator of the exhibition at Skokloster Castle.

This summer, Skokloster Castle is offering a range of programme activities related to the exhibition, including themed viewings, lectures, a picnic in the castle grounds, Regency dancing, costume displays, a ball and afternoon teas with guest speakers. All in the true spirit of Jane Austen. Guided tours every day.

How about that! If you wish to know more, follow this link.

My co-workers are absolutely wonderful and their dedication to Jane Austen and the Regency era is impressive. At times we indulge in a veritable nerd-fest, I am afraid.

The gorgeous promotion photos accompanying today´s post were taken by our photographer, Jens Mohr. It took considerable time to agree on what type of pictures we wanted in terms of style and atmosphere. We definitely wanted to show a strong and confident young lady, one that might take matters in her own hands instead of passively waiting for a suitor.

You cannot see, but the temperature was near freezing in the state appartments back in early February when Elinor and I tried to look our best in Regency finery, or at least tried to stop shaking… They say the camera puts on extra weight, but it certainly does not help when one is wearing a warm sweater under waistcoat and all. (In hindsight I know I should not have worn it.) Of course Elinor, poor thing, was lovely in the summery open robe and sheer linen dress, channelling her inner Lizzie Bennet. She also managed to not attract pneumonia. Or so I believe. I presented the two gowns here.

Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH

Photo by Jens Mohr, LSH

Next time I will write about which gentlemen´s costumes that will go on display in the exhibition.

Oh, and we have released tickets to the Jane Austen ball in August, and the rest of the programmes. It is going to be so much fun! (And hard work.)

Announcements

Baroque grandeur has replaced my usual Empire elegance. At least professionally. This autumn I moved on to a new position as curator at Skokloster castle, a magnificent baroque palace one hour from Stockholm. It is in fact the largest private house ever built in Sweden. That is the reason why there has been very little time for blogging. But wait, there is more.

Skokloster Castle was built 1654-1676.

I reached for my non-existing smelling salts when my new colleagues informed me on the second day that next summer we will show Costumes From The Jane Austen Adaptations! About five and twenty costumes will be shipped over from Cosprop in London! The ballroom-sized guest rooms were refurbished in the neoclassical style in the early nineteenth century and make the perfect setting for some of the famous costumes from Pride and Prejudice 1995, Sense and Sensibility 1996, Emma 1996, Pride & Prejudice 2005, and I think even Persuasion 2008. Yes, Darcy´s shirt is included and Marianne Dashwoods wedding gown. But so is at least one of Mrs Bennet’s frocks. How about that!  Of course I will write more about this as things move ahead. Now is your chance make a wish list if you need more information or certain closeups of specific garments.

This is what I do for a living. Sometimes life is good.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka mr Tigercrona

Greetings from my “office”.

Now the palace is practically a baroque-era time capsule. It is one of the largest and best preserved private palaces in Europe, along the likes of Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth. Unlike them, Skokloster is no longer a residence. It was sold to the nation in 1967, and has been a museum since.

Photo by Regencygentleman

The exterior was rather old fashioned in the 1650s, but perhaps Count Wrangel did not want to seem too nouveau riche.

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The King´s hall. The ceilings are incredible. A stucco dragon holds the chandelier between her teeth. The chandelier is hanging in its original place at least since 1672, which makes it the oldest known chandelier still in its original position. Photo courtesy of Skokloster castle.

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The Count Wrangel´s state bedroom. The bed hangings are in silk taffeta with silver spangles. The Wrangels were international jet set, and were given diplomatic gifts by people like Louis XIV and hired one of the Bachs as court musician.

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The Armoury. View of one of sveral rooms filled with armour, shooting guns, swords, and curious objects from the new world. The chest to the right holds unique garments and tools from Native Americans in Delaware, shipped over to Sweden in the 1660s. Everything still in place according to inventories from 1690-1700. Photo courtesy of Skokloster castle.

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The unfinished banquet hall. The Wrangels ran out of cash and the political climate became harsh towards the high-ranking nobility in the 1670s. The only surviving building site, complete with tools and machinery, since the seventeenth century.

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The Yellow Bedroom, used by one of the last private owners. (Seen on the desk alongside a signed photograph of Emperor, then Crown Prince, Akihito, who stayed at the castle in 1954.

The Library.

Enough boasting. Over to some costume talk!

Photo by Regencygentleman aka mr Tigercrona

Meet the new hobbit! Trying on garments used by our education officers. This particular servant´s attire is terrific, but seriously, if I am ever invited to a Lord of the Rings party, I´d borrow this and only add pointed ears and hairy feet…

Our selfie-spot, a baroque banquet.

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Eleven year-old Vilmer posing at the table wearing a 165os doublet I quickly threw together .

Can you believe it, I “inherited” a stash with bolts of linen and broadcloth! So I decided to sew a 1630-40s doublet for kids to try on in our family room. It was a fun and easy project, but I made sure to thoroughly starch the collar and cuffs with corn starch.

A grey satin had to be made into a 1660s bodice and petticoat. I used Janet Arnold´s pattern. This has taken me a little longer to finish.

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When visiting another version of a Jane Austen costume exhibit in July.

Seven Costumes and A Castle

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?

Lizzie and Darcy

This week I saw these very costumes!

This lovely photo caught my eye some time ago:

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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.

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Tjolöholm Castle.

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English gardens overlooking the sea.

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Photography was not allowed inside the castle, but I quickly took this photo before the tour started. This impressive steampunk-esque chandelier was hanging over the billiard table.

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The Dicksons installed several state-of-the-art bathrooms.

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:

Lizzie and Darcy

Awkward encounter at Pemberley. Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. The BBC Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

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The famous shirt! With the breeches, boots, and additional garments on the bench. (The boots should have wooden boot trees or they loose their shape and the leather might crack.)

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.

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I am not entirely sure I liked this display. The other fine garments on the bench just like that? Most visitors in our group just hurried on, unaware of the importance of this “relic”. I fully understand a museum like this works on a budget and staff is limited. But the iconic shirt was simply lacking the drama. I would have given it more space, and had added at least some images of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Why not more about the attention in media back in 1995? Explain the basics of gentlemen´s fashions during the Regency? There were some leaflets nearby, I admit, but I wanted to use those precious minutes on the actual costumes.

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This image is from the internet. It is possible that the boots have wood blocks here and the coat, waistcoat and hat are arranged differently. It looks more tidy.

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Still a bit disturbed by this (thinking that I would have added some quiet music in the background, soundtrack?), but moving on to Lizzie Bennet´s gown, spencer, and bonnet. What I did like was the possibility to get really close, something that is rare in a museum. (This is probably the closest I ever get to Jennifer Ehle…)

Photo by Regencygentleman

A closeup of the spencer. A nice cinnamon coloured linen (or wool?) with fine details. The gown was made of cotton, with the print used inside out. I tried to determine if  the garments were hand sewn, but it was difficult to tell.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Nice diamond-shaped back with piping.

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.

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Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet, hello!) wearing the pelisse and bonnet…

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… that were in a room where you could only stand in the doorway. (Apologies for looking like a stalker.) I find this particular type of pelisse or coat rather uninteresting. But I like the bonnet and the floral sprigged dress, which is barely visible.

Kate Winslet

It looks like this dress (far right). I would gladly have seen more of it. (Sense and Sensibility, 1995)

Publicity photo from Sense and Sensibility (1995): Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant as Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars. (They were young back then!) Both of these outfits were on display, but in separate rooms.

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Costumes worn by Edward and Elinor. The lavender gown is of course the one Elinor wears to the ball in London:

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.

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Edward´s tailcoat looks perfectly fine here, but I always thought the fit was too loose on Hugh Grant. (Of course this shows that his character Edwars Ferrars is completely uninterested in trivial things such as fashion.) The striped double-breasted waistcoat is easy to reckognize.

Photo by Regencegentleman

Wait a minute. This tailcoat looks very tailored. Not nearly as loose fitting as Hugh Grant´s coat above. If going by the cut of the collar, structure of the weave, and colour, I say it is a coat worn by Edward Ferrars, yes, but by Dan Stevens in the 2008 miniseries Sense and Sensibility. What do you think?

Edward Ferrars

Again, Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars, in the 2008 Sense and Sensibility. Look at the m-notch collar and the light gathering on the sleeve cap. Hmm.

Photo by Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Moving on to Elinor´s other gown, the checked cross-front that we see a lot in the film.

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Elinor (Emma Thompson) wears this gown many times, including the important proposal scene.

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Closeup of the sheer embroidered trim. Notice how the muslin apron is buttoned on. When Elinor is doing heavier gardening in front of the cottage she covers it with a thicker apron:

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.

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Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Pride & Prejudice, 2005. Gorgeous hair!

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!

 

Pride and Prejudice Twenty Years

“It is 20 years since Mr Darcy strode sodden from the lake in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Television – and Jane Austen – have never been the same…” Nicolas Barber, the BBC, on 22 September.

P&P1995

In September 1995 BBC aired a miniseries based on Jane Austen´s novel Pride and Prejudice. It turned out to be a huge success. We were glued to the tv screens wondering if there was any hope at all for Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy. Little did we know that twenty years later we would still be talking about it. This adaptation entered popular culture and has never really left. At the moment in particular “P&P95” is everywhere on social media. Time will tell if Downton Abbey is up there in the same league…

This faithful adaptation with its excellent cast and production values is the reason to the revived interest in all things Jane Austen and the Regency era. Not to mention Darcymania, Colin Firth´s ticket to stardom, Bridget Jones, zombies, Austenland, costume exhibitions, sequels, and endless discussions – about adaptations, and how desperate, exactly, are the Bennets´finances, and haven´t we seen certain costumes in later productions? I could go on.

Colin Firth will always be dear Mrs E´s favourite actor. (It is always fun to tease her about it!) I have been a great admirer of Jennifer Ehle since Camomile Lawn (1992) and watching her brilliant interpretation of Elizabeth Bennet gets me every time. The other characters are wonderful (and annoying), of course, only mentioning Mrs Bennet, Mr Collins, and Miss Bingley here.

Here is a selection of links to some interesting reading:

The BBC features an interview with Andrew Davies, read it here.

Autumn Topping over at Silver Petticoat Review published an anniversary review yesterday and excellent Frockflicks focused on P & P & Feminism in yesterday´s post.

Writes Mary Sollosi on Entertainment Weekly: 6 reasons we still love the Pride and Prejudice miniseries after 20 years.

Jennifer Ehle was interviewed earlier this year: Jennifer Ehle: on nude scenes, Pride and Prejudice and why she doesn’t want fame.

And even earlier, in January, Colin Firth commented on the lake scene.

I find it very soothing to watch one or two episodes when real life is particularily hectic, or if I need some inspiration for new costume projects. And Mr Beveridge´s Maggot is a favourite dance with everybody I know, once you master the steps.

How many of you still watch the series at least once every year? Do you have six-hour marathons or do you prefer certain scenes or episodes?

 

Tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me:

Capital, capital!:

 

Self-centred? Moi?

Solitary Elegance-Persuasion

Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did.

“Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.” Jane Austen, Persuasion.

Jane Austen sums up Sir Walter´s character in a wonderful way, doesn´t she?

I sort of like the slim fit pantaloons in this image. Very daring. The great Beau Brummel is often pictured in similar pantaloons. On the other hand one day I just have to make a pair of loose fitting white cotton canvas 1810-trousers.

(Found image in my laptop. Illustration by C. E. Brock, ca 1900. Cannot for the life of me remember where I found it…)

Summer in Highbury

aka Mr Tigercrona

Strawberries by Regency Gentleman

“Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet
and her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering,
accepting, or talking–strawberries, and only strawberries,
could now be thought or spoken of.–“The best fruit in England–
every body’s favourite…”
(Dear Mrs E on picking Mr. Knightley’s delicious strawberries at Donwell Abbey.) Read more about the history of cultivated strawberries here.

“The whole situation is most alarming! There is nothing worse than a sore throat. Its effects are exceedingly bleak.”  Mr Elton in Emma.

Pictures of full Regency ball outfit coming up tomorrow!

Regency dance