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Sunday, April 18

Jane Austen Movie Fashion Throwdown

Lady Catherine de Bourgh was an unpleasant, opinionated, imperious and grand old dame. Whose wardrobe best matches her character?

This purply puce gown with tight bodice and low neckline presents a formidable front. It is slightly old-fashioned, but elegant, and more like a court gown than a dinner dress. Judi Dench, Pride and Prejudice 2005.

This Lady Catherine wears a fashionable carriage outfit with a pelisse trimmed with fur and a hat festooned with ostrich plumes. The outfit reeks of class to anyone Lady Catherine might have encountered on her journey to Longbourn. Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Pride and Prejudice 1995.

The spencer jacket with a militaristic sash draped over one shoulder is quite fashionable. This Lady Catherine holds a walking stick and uses it to great effect. Judy Parfitt, Pride and Prejudice 1980.

The dress is all wrong, of course, for it belongs to the mid-19th century. But this Lady Catherine, swathed from head-to-toe and side-to-very-considerable-side (mutton sleeves, wide hooped skirt), presents a striking black figure. Any ordinary person would quail when confronted with so much blackness, but not our Elizabeth. Edna Mae Oliver, Pride and Prejudice 1940.

Whose Lady Catherine wardrobe most matches the character?
Judi Dench, P and P 2005
Barbara Leigh-Hunt, P and P 1995
Judy Parfitt, P and P 1980
Edna Mae Oliver, P and P 1940 free polls


Charleybrown said...

Although I love Judi Dench, when I watched that film, I found myself wondering if her wardrobe was accurate to that time period. I guess I preferred the style of Barbara Leigh Hunt's Lady C. I did watch the 1980 version but forgot that it was Judy Parfitt who took on the role. Did you notice the neon colouring on her photo? For a minute, I wondered if they were going for a psychedelic look! As for the 1940 film, I found it amusing so I guess it's apropos that its wardrobe be amusing as well!

Vic said...

Judi Parfitt's skirt had close set pin stripes which wreaked havoc with my simple photoshop software. I wonder if the wardrobe mistress of Judi Dench's Lady Catherine wanted to show that she was above the trivialities of following fashion.

Charleybrown said...

So Vic, was Dench's outfit not true to period then? I don't know enough of the fashion of that time but it did strike me as odd.

Vic said...

First Impressions, the first draft of Pride and Prejudice, was begun in 1796. By this time, dresses were influenced by neoclassical ideals and waistlines had begun to go higher. The walking dresses in this images from 1796 will give you an idea of how fashion still straddled both worlds.

Elaborate hair was still worn, and the dresses had not yet become simple and columnar in shape as the muslin dresses of 1800. This link is of a late 1790's dresses that would have been worn around the time that First Impressions was written.

None resemble Lady Catherine's gown in P&P 2005.

Vic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charleybrown said...

Thanks for those links and explanations Vic!

Nonna Beach said...

Very interesting info ! I prefer Barbara Leigh-Hunt's costumes throughout P & P 1995 over all the others and her portrayal of Lady Catherine is superb !!!

Southerner said...

I wrote this comment in the comments section of the voting link. As nobody appears to be using that, I've copied and pasted my comment there, here.
All the best,
I saw Judi Dench at The Rose Theater in Kingston upon Thames, recently. She played Titania in Peter Halls latest production of a Midsummer Nights Dream.
Sorry, I'm just biased. She was great.The way she works with other actors is a joy to see.
Here's a link to The Rose Theater.

Next time you are in England don't just stick to the London tourist thing.
All the best,