PART 02 – THEMANIPULATION OF COSTUMEChapter 01: High FashionInfluences (1995 Series)1.1″We aren’t making a museumpiece … we wanted to ensure the clothes would look attractive to a modernaudience.” Relative to its manipulated genre, the Costume of the BBC’s1995 series of Pride and Prejudice isimperative to its heightened sensuality. Women are frequently seen in layeredsheer drapes and empire waistlines, featuring bare bosoms and arms. A periodwith a surprisingly ample amount of female skin on show (in comparison to olderfashions), this exciting period of mobility and quick-transitions in Western Fashion,given the rise of the Industrial Revolution, add an air of excitement to theBBCs interpretation of Jane Austen’s world. Whilst Costume Designer DinahCollin’s inclusion of ‘a few too many low dress necklines’ were seen as ahistorical ‘misstep’ by some, they certainly do work in enhancing the ‘sensual’interpretation of a Regency Britain.
Moreover, the costume department activelytried to make these costumes appeal more attractive to a modern audience, andso with this there was more room for stylistic interpretation. And, as writtenin her critique of Pride and Prejudice’scostume, Fashion Historian, Lydia Edwards aptly notes that it is ‘evidentlyhard to get away with no contemporary concessions” in period film.1. 2.
1.2Collin’s use of thin muslins and silks are not onlysuggestive of the female form, but they allow for the easy and naturalmovements of the characters. When paired with the Empire Waistline and itsnatural fall from beneath the breast, this creates a sense of mystery and spursnot only sexual tension between interacting characters but romantic andflirtatious potential in its movement against the body.
This is mirrored lessin 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 clearlythrough his clothing, creates a tension and intrigue that is understandable, inan age of sure modesty where the naked body is seen as mysterious and taboo. 1.
3Whilst the costumes in the 1995 adaptation are relativelytrue to the series’ Regency setting, they are also clearly in a similar vein tothe fashions of the time. In its Autumn / Winter collection of 1994, ChristianDior debuted a number of Couture gowns, both with affecting Empire Waistlines,as well as with a basis of thin and sheer materials. Similarly, theshort-fitted single breasted jackets (known as ‘Spencer Jackets’ after thesecond Earl Spencer) were of fashion in the 1810s, however were seen morefrequently in the latter half of the decade. The series (set in 1813), usedsuch jackets heavily, and their arguable reliance on them may have beeninfluenced by their prominence on the early-mid 90s fashion scene.
Indeed,Chanel’s Spring / Summer Collection of 1995 heavily featured similarly inspiredjackets, showing a parallelism between these two worlds, and further cementingthe 1995 adaptation as ‘modern’, ‘sexy’ and ‘fun’.