‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Dressing for the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice: Regency Fashion

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Vic from Jane Austen’s World who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history. Her first of four contributions during the event analyzes the costumes worn at the Netherfield Ball in three movie adaptations in comparison to the fashions of the day.

The Netherfield Ball. Ah! How much of Jane Austen’s plot for Pride and Prejudice put on show  in this chapter! Elizabeth Bennet – its star – enters the ball room hoping for a glimpse of a strangely absent Mr. Wickham, but is forced to dance two dances with bumblefooted Mr. Collins, whose presence she somehow can’t seem to shake. (From his actions the astute reader comes to understand that this irritating man will be proposing soon.)

Mr. Darcy then solicits Lizzie for a dance, and his aloofness and awkward silences during their set confirms in Lizzie’s mind that he suffers from a superiority complex. As the evening progresses her family’s behavior is so appalling (Mary hogs the pianoforte with her awful playing; Kitty and Lydia are boisterously flirtatious with the militia men; and Mrs. Bennet brazenly proclaims to all within earshot that Mr. Bingley and Jane are as good as engaged) that the only enjoyment Lizzie takes away from the event is in the knowledge that Mr. Bingley is as besotted with Jane as she is with him.

In anticipation of furthering her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham, Lizzie probably dressed with extreme care, making sure both her dress and hair looked perfect. In the image below, Jennifer Ehle’s “wig” is adorned with silk flower accessories, and a string of pearls, which was the fashion of the time. She wears a simple garnet cross at her throat (Jane Austen owned one made of topaz) and her dress shows off her figure to perfection.

Continue reading at Jane Austen’s World

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 7  June 23     Group Read: Chapters 15-21
Day 8  June 25     Tourism in Jane Austen’s Era
Day 9  June 26     Group Read: Chapters 22 – 28