Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love & Friendship (2016) Costume Study

Have you seen Love & Friendship yet? It's fantastic. I'm pretty sure I laughed my bonnet off. If you haven't, you might want to trot out at once, even if it's just to drool over the costumes.

Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh was the costume designer- interesting, as she also did Becoming Jane (2007), and both films show a decided preference for the fashion of the 1790's, which would have been the styles Austen herself would have worn as a young woman. I feel like this was a good move on Mhaoldomhnaigh's part- both the novels that this film took from, Lady Susan and Love and Freindship (yes, that was intentional) were written by a young Austen in the 1790's. Bravo. 

Mhaoldomnhnaigh also paid careful attention to echoing the story with the costumes, as any good movie designer should. From an article on the Hollywood reporter

"Mhaoldomhnaigh helped elevate Lady Susan's fearless behavior through a series of costume changes, starting with an all-black ensemble that revealed her as a mourning widow. But as the film progresses, Lady Susan starts shedding off her grief.
"If you actually laid out the costumes, it goes from black to black and grey to mauve, more of the mourning colors for the time, and every time she's in the country she's affecting the widow and trying to be discreet... But when she goes to London, the colors change."
That's when Lady Susan starts to embrace brighter hues, wearing corseted gowns in light pink, scarlet, and purple (with black lace), which Mhaoldomhnaigh is quick to note is also a grieving hue, "[but] she's very slowly discarding her widow's weeds, getting rid of her mourning colors." 

In an article on WWD , it was noted that while the film's budget was "relatively small", Mhaoldomhnaigh had all of Lady Susan and most of Mrs. Johnnson's (both pictured above) costumes custom made. 

I think the costumes of this film stand in stark contrast to the majority of other Austen period-dramas out there- why? I think Mhaoldomhnaigh's careful attention to the fashion of the period and the characters themselves helped to create a very drool-worthy parade of frippery. 

Also, the fact that Lady Susan and Mrs. Johnson wear custom-made dresses is more unique than just searching through the film closets over at the BBC... such as evidenced in these infamous examples

Lady Susan and Mrs. Johnson aren't the only ones wearing fabulous costumes, though- the entire cast is robed beautifully! 

Catherine DeCourcy Vernon wears several beautiful dresses throughout the course of the film. 

...and her hair (on right) is always on pointe! 

For those of you inspired to sew based on the fashions of this film, I can recommend Mrs. Chancey's 1780's Portrait Style Dress, which is near enough in style to these costumes. 

Have you seen "Love & Friendship" yet? What did you think of the costumes?


  1. I saw it today and I loved it, so funny! I hadn't read the book and was hoping that Lady S wouldn't get her comeuppance at the end, as so predictably happens. But Austen was a pretty feisty woman and I think she rather liked Lady Susan.
    The costumes I found problematic. They all looked the same, made from the exact same patterns. And every woman wore a band in her hair - it may have been a fashion but it wasn't a mandatory requirement. In one scene, where young Freddie had messed up Susan's dress but she was taking tea with Catherine, they were wearing identically cut dresses, both with organza tuckers cut and arranged identically. It felt very theatrical. My view of period costuming was irrevocably impacted by the 1996 Persuasion, where suddenly characters had ill fitting and dirty clothes, showing signs of having been washed and ironed, and made by different hands. It was fantastic. And as in real life, people clung to different aspects of fashion, sometimes from the past even as older women sometimes do today. The uniformly fashionable look is not realistic.
    However, while this irked me a bit, I didn't let it spoil my enjoyment of a wonderfully funny movie. I shall recall Sir James trying to make small talk about verse and poetry for many years to come.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Very interesting. I have to say, though, with regards to your finding the costumes "theatrical": I believe with the way the film was done and the overall style of the director, the costumes fit very nicely. The settings, the dialogue, the actors themselves, the very etory- all of it lent itself to having the costumes that it did. Not every costume has to be historically accurate or realistic. Sometimes, it really is okay to have a "froo-froo eye candy" film!

      As to the "comeuppance" bit being predictable, I do believe that was Austen's whole point in writing her novels. She was combatting a popular genre inundated with little sense, shoddy morals, and no substance, so it should not be surprising that characters receive their dues on the end. She was very concerned with the correct arrangement of the reason and the passions (evidenced very strongly in Sense and Sensibility) and had a very keen understanding of justice, which is not necessarily served in all her novels so obviously as it is in "Mansfield Park".

      In any case, pardon my literary rant. I've been studying Austen all year (both in class and out of it), so that's my excuse. :-)

  2. The main thing which irked me about the costumes in this was the use of cheap upholstery fabric on costumes. It just looks so tacky and polyester, and it doesn't lend itself well to the cut of the costumes. The costumes are very idiosyncratic - all over the map from 1770s to 1790s. I've seen much better work done on tv budgets.