Happy Christmas

Dear all,

T’is the season to be jolly! Or is it? I never comment on politics, but I have to say 2016 saw a world in turmoil. How did that happen? On a personal level I cannot complain, 2016 turned out to be rather terrific. One week before Christmas, for example, I had the opportunity to see this gorgeous carriage up close. The painted decor does feel appropriate for this time of year, don´t you think?

It is a phaeton, or a curricle, an elegant carriage for the sporty and perhaps even adventurous gentleman driver. (Remember Willoughby and Miss Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, 1996? Or Sir Percy and Jane Seymour in Scarlet Pimpernel, 1982?) This particular carriage was used by the De Geer family in the 1790´s, and is now in the stable building in Leufstad, once their country seat with ironworks two hours north of Stockholm. This type of vehicle was very light, drawn by a single horse, and could go fast, just for fun. There is a seat in the rear for a groom or footman, though, so the gentleman (and his company) was not completely unattended. (On a side note: feeding a horse cost £30 a year, more than dressing the groom in his liveries and feeding him…)

Behold the phaeton! It is really elegant, isn´t it?

The snow is gone now, but this heavenly view greeted me when arriving at work one or two weeks ago.

Regencygentleman aka Mr Tigercrona

Let us pretend I wore Regency attire all the time. Tally ho!

 

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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:

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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.

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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?

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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!

 

Every Savage Can Dance

The Holiday season is upon us. Hopefully you meet friends and family and get to eat lots of wonderful food. Two hundred years ago these festivities would have offered many opportunities to dance.

This autumn Mrs E and I decided to sign up for a dance class. One needs a project, right? We are nowadays on different levels, so we chose historical dances for beginners and moderately experienced dancers. Many of the popular country dances – as described by John Playford – I could perform in my sleep, but I have never quite mastered the menuet.

How did they learn to dance back in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Well, many dances are easy enough to learn by following suit, but many more have complicated formations that don´t come to you without some effort. And the dances often come in different versions, depending on time and place. We know that dancing, or in Jane Austen´s words “the felicities of rapid motion”, was an important social activity. One of her novels wouldn´t be complete without a ball or the occasional dancing. And of course the dance scenes are important in the film adaptations.

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Sense and Sensibility, 2008.

A grand ball was the highlight of the Season and there was plenty of impromptu, spur of the moment dancing in parlours and drawing rooms. Public or semi-private dance tutoring was offered to the middling classes. Professional dance masters (both male and female) could receive paying customers in their homes. Another method, although more difficult, I imagine, was to purchase a book with written instructions – again Playford´s country dances, first published in 1651. The gentry would hire tutors on a regular basis. It was expected of young masters and ladies to be in control their limbs, to have correct posture. Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son: “Now to acquire a graceful air, you must attend to your dancing; no one can either sit, stand or walk well, unless he dances well.”

If you dance – how did you learn? A last minute workshop before a ball? Long time practice? Are there dance courses available in your town?

On a side note: I find it much easier to dance wearing period attire. The fitted garments come with posture and dignified manners. And it´s much more fun!

One of the best parts with this dance project is to visit the old town every week. Stockholm is built on islands (“Venice of the North”), and the historical old town with the Royal Palace is surrounded by water. Facing the big market square, opposite the elegant stock exchange building, is the cultural centre, housed in a labyrinth of historical buildings. All sorts of activities seem to go on there such as yoga classes, Russian folk dancing, art classes, baby-meetings… Our teacher Ivar is great and it is nice to catch up with old friends and meet new fellow dancers.

Photo by Regencygentleman

Photo by Regencygentleman

One of the dances we have learned is a Swedish quadrille: Gustaf´s Skål, recorded by Baron Åkerhielm in 1785. I found this uncommented clip, showing the quadrille performed by members of the eighteenth century association in Sweden. Nice costumes! (Gustaf III was king 1772-1792.)

Death Comes to Pemberley

P.D. James wrote the novel and it was adapted for television earlier this year. The main plot is, as the title reveals, a murder. Who did it? And why? Who is that mysterious lady in Lambton? There are many comments and reviews out there, both regarding the book and the adaptation. They are very mixed. Some of you like the plot, some of you don´t. Some of you enjoyed meeting Darcy and Lizzie again, some of you, well, did not. I have not read the book but watched the two part series recently. It is undoubtedly a lavish production with magnificent Chatsworth House with its gardens as the exterior of Pemberley. The interiors were filmed at Castle Howard (also known as “Brideshead”), another stunning palace up North in Yorkshire. This post takes a look at the costumes worn by the gentlemen in the adaptation. I do not intend to comment on the actors and their performances, or the anachronisms seen here and there. The costumes were designed by Marianne Agertoft (Poldark). Many of them were created especially for DCTP, while others were recycled from earlier productions. The story is set in 1803, so we see mainly early Regency fashions and some late Georgian costumes on the older characters. (Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine de Bourgh comes to my mind. We have seen that in other Austen-adaptations.) The costumes are in muted colours and have that “lived in” look. I like that. However I feel they aren´t always grand or varied enough for people living in a place like Pemberley. They are supposed to be members of the landed aristocracy! Mrs. Darcy probably owns several gowns (very nice too) but they all look similar. Some of you out there might even think that the shades of Pemberley are polluted by shabby looking impersonators. But I think we can all agree that there is a lot more publicity shots nowadays, which is good for costume-bloggers like us.

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Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, played by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin.

 

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The mistress of Pemberley greets her dear papa and mama, the Bennets. Darcy is standing to the right, showing the back of his tailcoat. The footmen are decked out in liveries in what would be the Darcy-colours. It was important to separate family and guests from servants, so the butler and footmen of the Regency era would be dressed in ornate coats, waistcoats, and breeches but in a style that was fashionable several decades earlier. Hence the powdered wigs. Observe Mrs. B:s fancy trunk up on the carriage top.

 

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Stunning publicity still. Georgiana Darcy (Eleanor Tomlinson) out walking with young Henry Alveston (James Norton). Sombre colours. Nice top hat and overcoat. Also nice to see some colour on a Regency lady.

 

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Mr. Darcy, master of Pemberley. A good example of Regency day-wear, in a “non-costumey” sort of way. Blue single-breasted tailcoat cut in a soft curve at the front. Wide lapels and tall collars. Fall front trousers and riding boots. Large overcoat and top hat. But no gloves or fob watch…

 

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Matthew Rhys as Mr. Darcy, in same tailcoat, trousers and boots, but different waistcoat and without the coat. Hat and gloves. Nice tailcoat. Looks very comfortable. I can see myself in it. Unpadded shoulders, wide lapels (the bubbles along the edge indicates hand stitches), narrow sleeves, selfcovered buttons. I am sure Mr. Darcy would be in possession of more than the one coat, though.

 

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Lydia (Jenna Coleman) and Mr. Wickham (Matthew Goode). Handsome but extremely annoying people. (Weren´t they always?) Wickham fashionable in a nice double-breasted tailcoat. Notice how the narrow sleeves are slightly gathered at the shoulders. Fall front trousers. Boots, top hat. Shouldn´t a dandy like him also carry a watch? Or perhaps it was left in a pawn shop…

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Yes, there is a death. Is it murder? I like the wigs on the doctor and the other older gents.

 

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Members of the cast during filming. A good picture for compairing details on coats and waistcoats. The gentlemen have a lot of hair and many layers of clothes. Must have been warm – notice crew in the background wearing t-shirts.

 

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And finally, three versions of Mr. Darcy, all in similar outfits. Colin Firth 1995, Matthew Macfadyen 2005 and Matthew Rhys 2014. Do you have a favourite?

 

Austenland

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Jane Seymour as Mrs. Wattlesbrook

Some time ago Mrs. E. and I decided to watch Austenland. As a true “Jane Austen afficionado” it is, in my opinion, an obligation to keep an eye on Regency-related books and films. Not all of them is a masterpiece, I might add. The film Austenland is the only one to appear on the big screen this year. It is based on a bestselling novel (“chick lit”), written by Shannon Hale. The story is sort of relevant to us with its references to the Austen-adaptations and “Darcymania”. But why be so chocked/blasé if you spend all your money on a stay in Austenland? If you are more than familiar with Miss Austen´s novels then perhaps some Regency etiquette shouldn´t come as a total surprise. I got the impression that Keri Russel´s character was looking for a way to escape rather than actually embracing the rules. But I did enjoy Jane Seymour (I admit, I had a teenage crush on her. Scarlett Pimpernel! War and Remembrance! The French Revolution!) and of course the formidable Rupert Vansittart. The film has its funny moments – and apparently the cast had a great time during filming – but in the end it is a mere trifle. What do you think?

So what about production design? The manor was stunning. Plenty of nice costumes designed by Anne Hardinge. (And plenty of costumes that took liberties with Regency fashion!) And would you know it – some of the clothes seen in Austenland were originally created for Colin Firth´s Mr. Darcy back in 1995!  J.J. Feild is seen in a banyan, a linen overcoat, and top hat, the very ones that once belonged to our dear Mr. Darcy. Compare pictures! (Apologies for many exclamation marks!) Must have helped J.J. to find his inner Regency gentleman.

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J.J. Feild (with Bret McKenzie and fabulous Georgia King) in same coat and hat…

 

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…as Mr. Darcy. (Difficult to see but he is holding the hat.)

JJ Feild Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey

Another connection: in the 1997 Northanger Abbey J.J. Feild played Henry Tilney. In similar if not same green coat as…

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…seen on Mr. Darcy.

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Rupert Vansittart as bon vivant Mr. Wattlesbrook caught in a moment of, ahum, ungentlemanlike behaviour. Nice waistcoat and fierce sideburns!

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Rupert Vansittart was of course Mr. Hurst back in 1995. (And married to one of the unpleasant Bingley sisters.)

Mr. Elton in Emma (2009)

Mr Mrs Elton 2009In 2009 we got a completely new take on Emma. In a two-part miniseries there was time to include more details from the novel. Three of the main characters are actually motherless – Emma, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. The story begins with flashbacks to their childhood, and we get to understand why Mr Woodhouse is so very, very careful. The acting is perhaps too modern, several reviews have problems with that. It´s more like 21c people in gorgeous countryhouses dressed up in regency costumes. Enough said on that matter.  The costumes are different from the nineties adaptations. Designer Rosalind Ebutt chose to work with deep colours, especially for the ladies. And at last there are more than black garments in Mr Elton´s wardrobe! Some nice soft grey coats, striped waistcoats, etc. Blake Ritson does a good job with Mr E. The comedy is there, and so is his darker side. Christina Cole as Mrs Elton is very elegant, but her performance is a bit pale, only because I can´t forget Juliet Stevenson!

For the Crown inn ball Mr E wears the elegant and correct formal wear of the 1810s. Black tail coat, pale yellow silk breeches, white stockings, pumps,  and white waistcoat. Very much like fashion plates from the era. We are getting closer to what I plan on wearing, I think.

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Mr. Elton in the BBC Emma (1996)

Mr-and-Mrs-EltonThe same year we got Another Emma, created by Andrew Jackson and the team behind Pride and Prejudice in 1995. This is a darker story than McGrath´s version. There are many fans out there who prefer this, and I like it too. However Dominic Rowan´s Mr Elton is too sulky for my liking. Again he is dressed in black, this time by another award-winning designer, Jenny Beavan. Read more about her costumes here. Mr Knightley is so moody so I didn´t notice his costumes. Frank Churchill on the other hand is much better in this version and so are his costumes. Mr Elton´s outfits feel well researched and historically accurate. The ball scenes are very short so we don´t see much of Mr Elton´s finery. Mrs Elton is played by Lucy Robinson (Mrs Hurst in P & P. Liked her better there).

Sum up: Must take a look at the latest version of Emma!