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.
English gardens overlooking the sea.
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.
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:
Awkward encounter at Pemberley. Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. The BBC Pride and Prejudice, 1995.
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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.
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.
Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet, hello!) wearing the pelisse and bonnet…
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Moving on to Elinor´s other gown, the checked cross-front that we see a lot in the film.
Elinor (Emma Thompson) wears this gown many times, including the important proposal scene.
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.
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!