FASHION, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

Emma Thompson’s 1995, award winning, adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility set somewhat of a benchmark for period dramas and films to follow. Although perhaps highlighting the inevitable differences between page and modern society’s screen, it is done in such a graceful, efficient and considerate manner. Of course, there is a certain amount of mandatory re-scripting in order that the audience stay captivated for the duration, but kudos to costume designers Jenny Beavan and John Bright who effortlessly bridged the historical gap, leading us wholeheartedly to believe, from our comfy 21st century recliners that we are in fact back in the late 1790’s. There really isn’t much to fault when it comes to historical inaccuracies, in particular relating to fashion and style.

A few points of interest:

The homework was certainly done for this one particular item of clothing style: the overdress (pelisse) illuminating very clearly the era in which this film is set. Worn by both sisters. Elinor and Marianne. This style was very short lived, surfacing around the mid-1790s. A small detail but impeccably historically accurate.  Image

Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is from the Recengy Era. There has been much debate and deliberation over the 1995 and more recent 2008 adaptations; however for me there is a clear winner, Emma Thompsons 1995 showing. The differences in fashion periods are clear and modelled by Mrs. Dashwood. In the latter film she is seen to be wearing Georgian dress, not Regency, although still period costume a more accurate portrayal is seen in the 1995 version.Image

My only few negative points are somewhat trivial, however are vaguely inaccurate; my pet hate comes in the form of the ever pristine dress hems. Persil and washing machines were not around in the late 1700’s, moreover outfits were scarce and dresses would be worn many times before the occasional wash. Regency hemlines were certainly no shorter than several inches above the ankle at the very most, and were usually longer. Days spent walking through mud and dirt would suggest to me that this look of glamour is somewhat of a sugar-coating.Image

Lastly, perhaps finishing on a bit of a sombre tone, I present to you the mourning Dashwood ladies. After the death of her husband, Mrs.D, in Recency England, would have worn black for up to eighteen months and certainly no less than a year. Elinor and Marianne, the daughters, would have remained in black attire for six to twelve months before even considering revisiting a touch of colour. Here we can see blue, canary yellow and light coloured fabrics; this would have been extremely disrespectful and highly unbecoming.Image

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