Costuming in the EMMA. Movie with Fashion Historian Hilary Davidson

Emma and Mr. Knightley dance at the Crown Inn, Focus Features © 2020

The new film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn opened in general release in the US on March 6th. This enchanting and visually stunning interpretation of Austen’s classic tale of Miss Emma Woodhouse as the misapplying matchmaker of Highbury has received raves from the press and viewers alike.

The costumes beautifully define the film, greatly adding to the characterization and the drama. Joining us here today is fashion historian Hilary Davidson who has generously contributed a guest blog to share her insights and impressions of the costumes made for the new film by Academy Award-winning designer Alexandra Byrne.

Welcome, Hilary. 

Emma. is the best-costumed screen adaptation of Austen ever made. Strong words but delighted ones from a dress historian who has recently written a book on Regency fashion and seen a lot of odd screen versions of the period’s dress. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne and her team studied many original garments in British historical collections and threw all their research into a gloriously realised vision of circa. 1815 dress.

Comfort (1796) colored etching from the nypl.digitalcollections

Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, The New York Public Library. “Comfort” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Director Autumn de Wilde clearly adores the details of dress and pays them great attention. Throughout the film, we are shown the components of women’s dress and how they were arranged, from the knee-high stockings to the chemise and stays that helped create the illusion of a natural body. Emma demonstrates that Regency women didn’t wear underpants in a pose taken straight from Comfort [image]. Mr. Knightley is dressed from the skin to coat in a sequence I’m going to use in teaching fashion history. Continue reading

Pride and Prejudice (1980) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my fifth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

My Review:

I have been blogging about Jane Austen here at Austenprose for over five years and I have reviewed many books and movies, yet I have held off writing about the one that really turned me into a Jane Austen disciple—the 1980 BBC Pride and Prejudice. When something is close to our hearts we want to keep it in a special place, so my personal impressions of Fay Weldon’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s most popular novel has remained my own. In this bicentenary year, I think it is time for me to share.

It first aired in five (55) minute episodes on the BBC in the UK in 1979, and on US television on Masterpiece Theatre between October 26 and November 23, 1980. I was a great fan of Masterpiece and period drama and remember being quite excited to watch the new series. I was not disappointed in the first episode—in fact I was mesmerized—and watched the episode again when it aired again that week on PBS. Considering that in 1980 disco music was all the rage and Magnum P.I. and Three’s Company were the most popular television shows, you might understand why this anglophile was entranced by a series set in Regency England with beautiful costumes, country houses, sharp dialogue and swoon worthy romance. I was totally hooked and started reading the novel for the first time while the series aired. Continue reading

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Finale: Episodes 90-100

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Darcy and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

This week I am wrapping up my look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed watching these videos. They are light, bright and sparkling, just as Jane Austen describes Pride and Prejudice, yet they also have serious modern themes that are relevant today and make the story more accessible to younger generations.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Bing and Jane © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Jane and Bing (Episodes 90-92 & 95)

Bing comes back. He and Jane get a fresh start, yet Lizzie is still unhappy that Jane hasn’t made him beg her to take him back. Bing does try to make amends by bringing Jane snicker-doodle cookies (like she made him right after they broke up). Before their relationship really gets underway again, Jane gets a job offer from New York. Bing finds out about the job offer from Lizzie’s videos and seems hurt that Jane didn’t tell him herself. She was trying to spare both of them the pain that would be cause if he asked her to stay, yet Bing doesn’t ask Jane to stay. Instead he asks if he can go with her. He confesses that he quit medical school several months ago because he was so unhappy, so he too is looking to make a fresh start in NYC. Continue reading

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 85-89 and Domino Videos

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episode 85 Consequences © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington

This week on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries I will be looking at episodes 85-89 and Gigi’s Domino videos. There was just too much to get through with the Lydia storyline to add in Jane and Bing, so I will save that for next week. These are emotionally packed videos, though a lot of the action happens off stage like it does in Pride and Prejudice.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lydia discovers George's video © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Lizzie and Lydia

Lizzie rushes home from her internship at Pemberley Digital, Darcy’s Company, when Charlotte tells her about Lydia and George Wickham’s website. George videoed an intimate encounter between he and Lydia and sold it to a distribution company. The website was advertising the count-down to the release of the video. When Lizzie arrives home she thinks that Lydia knows about the website. It is only after she confronts Lydia that she reveals she had no idea about the site. Lydia stares at the website in horror and disbelief. She just keeps repeating, “This is a joke right?” Yet Lizzie knows it is no joke. George sold the tape without Lydia’s knowledge and never returns any of Lydia’s text, calls or tweets. Continue reading

A Closer Look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Episodes 67-76

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Lizzie Bennet © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

From the desk of Virginia Claire Tharrington:

This week on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Lizzie comes home from Collins & Collins and celebrates the holidays. Episodes 67-76 don’t introduce any new characters (though we do see Mary from Lydia’s videos in Lizzie’s videos for the first time), but there is significant character development of Lizzie, Jane and Lydia. The girls catch up on news from Jane, like that she never heard from Bing when she was in LA, and Charlotte tries to get Lizzie to explain more of what was in Darcy’s letter. Lizzie does do a “story time” where she talks about Darcy and Wickham and how Wickham squandered all his money for college in one year, but she does not mention Gigi at all. Lydia then takes over Lizzie’s vlog while she is in the library studying for exams. Lydia says that the girl’s “summer friends” (Darcy, Caroline and Bing) have “toes filled our lives with drama and annoyance” (Episode 69). She “liked it so much better when it was just you and me and Lizzie and Charlotte and Mary.” Lydia shows her love for her sisters when she says, “It’s almost New Years and that means new people and new places and new super fun times. No more anx’ and drama and stupid people who don’t matter.” While Lydia remains vivacious and lively, this is a slightly more serious side of Lydia because she seems lonely and to be looking out for her sisters and wishing that they could go back to the way they were before Lizzie started her vlog. Lydia says, “We work best just us.

Image from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Charlotte and Lizzie © 2013 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

This, new side of Lydia, is contrasted later by the fight that she and Lizzie get in after her birthday party extravaganza.  Lizzie gives Lydia a book as a birthday present called Where Did I Park My Car? A Party Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Successful Adult. Lydia is really hurt by Lizzie’s gift when she realizes that it isn’t a joke. Lydia sees the gift as a condemnation from Lizzie of Lydia’s behavior. Lydia thinks that Lizzie has been influenced in her opinion of Lydia’s actions by Darcy and Caroline and their criticism of Lydia. While Lydia might have a point she seems to be blowing this out of proportion in Lizzie’s eyes and continues to hold a grudge against Lizzie. This will be one of the factors that drives Lydia into the arms of George Wickham. Continue reading