PART a modern audience, and so with this

PART 02 – THE
MANIPULATION OF COSTUME

Chapter 01: High Fashion
Influences (1995 Series)

1.1

“We aren’t making a museum
piece … we wanted to ensure the clothes would look attractive to a modern
audience.”

 

Relative to its manipulated genre, the Costume of the BBC’s
1995 series of Pride and Prejudice is
imperative to its heightened sensuality. Women are frequently seen in layered
sheer drapes and empire waistlines, featuring bare bosoms and arms. A period
with a surprisingly ample amount of female skin on show (in comparison to older
fashions), this exciting period of mobility and quick-transitions in Western Fashion,
given the rise of the Industrial Revolution, add an air of excitement to the
BBCs interpretation of Jane Austen’s world. Whilst Costume Designer Dinah
Collin’s inclusion of ‘a few too many low dress necklines’ were seen as a
historical ‘misstep’ by some, they certainly do work in enhancing the ‘sensual’
interpretation of a Regency Britain. Moreover, the costume department actively
tried to make these costumes appeal more attractive to a modern audience, and
so with this there was more room for stylistic interpretation. And, as written
in her critique of Pride and Prejudice’s
costume, Fashion Historian, Lydia Edwards aptly notes that it is ‘evidently
hard to get away with no contemporary concessions” in period film.

1.     2.

1.2

Collin’s use of thin muslins and silks are not only
suggestive of the female form, but they allow for the easy and natural
movements of the characters. When paired with the Empire Waistline and its
natural fall from beneath the breast, this creates a sense of mystery and spurs
not only sexual tension between interacting characters but romantic and
flirtatious potential in its movement against the body. This is mirrored less
in the male characters’ costumes, however, Mr. Darcy’s sheer wet linen shirt
(the result of his dive in the ‘Lake Scene’) creates this same effect. Further,
Elizabeth Bennet’s witnessing of Darcy in this state; skin showing clearly
through his clothing, creates a tension and intrigue that is understandable, in
an age of sure modesty where the naked body is seen as mysterious and taboo.

1.3

Whilst the costumes in the 1995 adaptation are relatively
true to the series’ Regency setting, they are also clearly in a similar vein to
the fashions of the time. In its Autumn / Winter collection of 1994, Christian
Dior debuted a number of Couture gowns, both with affecting Empire Waistlines,
as well as with a basis of thin and sheer materials. Similarly, the
short-fitted single breasted jackets (known as ‘Spencer Jackets’ after the
second Earl Spencer) were of fashion in the 1810s, however were seen more
frequently in the latter half of the decade. The series (set in 1813), used
such jackets heavily, and their arguable reliance on them may have been
influenced by their prominence on the early-mid 90s fashion scene. Indeed,
Chanel’s Spring / Summer Collection of 1995 heavily featured similarly inspired
jackets, showing a parallelism between these two worlds, and further cementing
the 1995 adaptation as ‘modern’, ‘sexy’ and ‘fun’.

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