Thursday, March 6, 2014

Best and Worst Dressed Jane Austen Adaptations: Guest Post by Miss Laurie

Anyone who enjoys period dramas knows that the Jane Austen film adaptations are some of the very best period dramas around. For me, the Jane Austen films are my favorites mostly because she is my favorite author (also the stories and filming are just plain wonderful!). Now I have my favorite adaptation of each novel, which often is based on the how close each film comes to the spirit of the original work, but a big factor in whether a Jane Austen film is my favorite has to do with which version is most historically accurate, especially in the costumes!

What makes for good costumes?
- Colors and fabrics that look authentic instead of being so influenced by modern times.
- Well fitting outfits - all clothes would have been handmade so there's not much excuse for clothing being too big or too small.
- Attention to detail in trimmings and accessories - looking neat and stylish was important to the social classes Jane Austen wrote about.
- Consistency in time period of clothing - clothing styles should be narrowed down instead of including a wide time span in the fashions (i.e. Georgian or Regency - choose one era to set the story in and stick with it!)

Let's take a look at the Best Dressed, Fair to Middling Dressed and Worst Dressed in Jane Austen adaptations and related films!

Best Dressed Jane Austen Adaptations:

Persuasion (1995) - Faithfulness to the book, attention to historical accuracy and neat Regency fashions are just some of the things that make this adaptation of Persuasion probably my favorite Jane Austen adaptation. Each character's personality is clearly defined by the colors and accessories included in their personal styles. Anne's styles and colors are soft and gentle, Elizabeth Elliot's styles are bold and stylish, while Mrs. Croft's style is a bit eclectic and gives her a well traveled air that belongs to an Admiral's wife. The navy officer's uniforms are perfect and they wear normal clothes on dry land as they should.

Pride & Prejudice (1995) - Besides being the best and longest version of Pride and Prejudice ever, the costumes in this miniseries are gorgeous and fit the Regency style perfectly. The variety and richness of colors, textures, fabrics and accessories are quite astounding! Attention was poured into every detail and the clothing really helps tell about the characters and represent well the time period in which they lived.

Sense & Sensibility (1995) - Wonderful acting, gorgeous scenery, amazing music and on top of that incredible costumes that just make you drool! These Regency fashions are lovely and fit each character perfectly, often adding to the whole color scheme of a scene and reflecting each personality very well. I'm particularly fond of Marianne's wardrobe - minus her wig.

Emma (2009) - Although some of the colors are a bit odd at times it does show the richness that could be found in a Regency wardrobe. Each scene is contrasted or added to by the colors worn by the actors. Clothing is well fitting and helps tell the story as well as the dialog does. I love Emma's wardrobe and plan on stealing some of her dresses when she's not looking!

Emma 1997 - This often neglected version of Emma is unfortunately too short and moves quickly but features some of the best fitting and fashionable Regency costumes around. The colors of the clothing are fairly basic in tones of white, cream and light blue but the styles are very elegant and well fitting. I love Emma's hats and scarfs that she wears in the film, they are very stylish and smart.

Northanger Abbey (2007) - The colors, fabric prints and styles in this film are very youthful and light. The ladies' dresses are particularly lovely and show a variety of dress styles that would have been worn in the time period. Also Catherine's hairstyles are so pretty!

Mansfield Park (1983) - Another much neglected film that besides being very faithful to the original book, and to Fanny Price in particular, features Regency fashions that are simple but elegant. Mary Crawford's costumes are particularly stylish, but Fanny herself has some very sweet dresses.

Sense & Sensibility (2008) - Although some of the hairstyle and color influence are a bit modern the cuts of the dresses and other costumes are well fitting and there are some very lovely outfits. Marianne's dresses and accessories are my favorite but Elinor and even Lucy Steele have pieces to envy.

Pride & Prejudice (1980) - In this miniseries there are some gowns with 1970's colors but the majority of the dresses are neat and sweet. I especially love some of the modest and detailed dresses worn by Elizabeth and Jane Bennet in this film.

Becoming Jane (2005) - Yes, this isn't my favorite Jane Austen related film but it does have some well done late Georgian/early Regency styles, particularly worn by Jane and Cassandra. I'm also quite fond of the gentlemen's styles in this film.

Fair to Middling Dressed Jane Austen Adaptations:

Sense & Sensibility (1971) - I was tempted to add this to the best dressed list but only because it contains some outfits that look amazingly like fashion plates from the Regency era. There's something distinct, especially in Lucy Steele's outfits, that mimics the cut and shape of popular drawings from the time period and almost overshadow the odd colors and excessively curly hairstyles.

Mansfield Park (2007) - So yes Fanny's gowns are mostly quite atrocious, but other characters have lovely costumes and in particular Mary and Henry Crawford's clothing suit the characters perfectly! There are some pretty gowns and very charming accessories, such as parasols.

Persuasion (2007) - Anne and the other ladies have gowns that are quite lovely and the gentlemen are very sharp but there's something too polished about the colors and textures and some characters are too richly dressed for their personality or station in life. Some clothing is also ill fitting giving the clothes a decidedly costume feel instead of a sense of belonging to having been made for them.

Emma (1996) - Emma and Mr. Knightley have some very nice Regency wear but often the characters' clothing is too modern or eccentric in the colors or styles and start to have an overly costume-y feel to them. The hairstyles are also a bit too 1990's instead of staying with the neat and trim look of the Regency period. So accessories, such as hair ribbons, look fresh from a modern craft store instead of giving that old-fashioned vibe.

Sense & Sensibility (1981) - This miniseries version is very faithful to the book (besides cutting out Margaret) and except for a few odd hairstyles the characters wear costumes that are quite nice. I like Elinor and Lucy Steele's dresses in particular but other characters are quote stylish though perhaps a little washed out.

Death Comes To Pemberley (2013) - There are some lovely outfits in this new sequel to Pride and Prejudice but there's not much of a variety, characters mostly wear the same outfits over and over again and some pieces are recognizable from other films of the era. Also older characters are stuck wearing older Georgian styles instead of keeping up to date like they probably would have. There are some very nice articles of clothing but overall the costumes are just so-so.

Miss Austen Regrets - This film based on Jane Austen's life features some nice Regency styles but there isn't much variety in the colors. One thing that is unique is the bonnets and other head coverings that actress Olivia Williams wears as Jane Austen, they do show a lady past her prime and at home writing the day away.

Worst Dressed Jane Austen Adaptations:

Pride & Prejudice (1940) - Some of the costumes are quite lovely but the reason this black & white version makes the worst dressed list is that it completely misses the Georgian or Regency time periods that the book could be set in and runs right into high Victorian era styles! I mean really, Elizabeth Bennet would never have worn a hoop skirt!

Persuasion (1971) - This actually isn't a bad adaptation of the novel, it really does capture the details of the story in it's slow pace. The problem is that the colors and fabrics used to make the costumes are so 1960's-1970's that they give a nauseating feel to some of the scenes. And don't get me started on some of the hairstyles!

Northanger Abbey (1986) - Because Jane Austen first penned this story in the late Georgian era it seems quite reasonable to me to place the story in that time frame costume-wise. But this 1980's version makes the costumes so over the top in colors, fabrics, accessories and big hairdos that they make the whole thing quite laughable. Add to that a saxophone music soundtrack and you have a near nightmare that only Catherine Morland could dream up!

Mansfield Park (1999) - As much as I dislike this "adaptation" of Mansfield Park I do have to admit that there are some period accurate (if rather immodest) costumes stuck in there. Particularly of interest are the outfits worn by the Crawfords, daring and yet the height of Regency fashion. This Mr. Crawford is a veritable Beau Brummel (Regency fashion icon)!

Pride & Prejudice (2005) - Granted there are some lovely pieces in this film, some dresses even made their way to other Austen Adaptations. And I know so many people love this film, but I still maintain that the costumes stretch too wide of a time span that includes early Georgian to late Regency. Narrowing down the timeline would have been best. Not keeping the Bennets current in fashion trends is something that added to their image as poor ignorant untidy farming folk, and "more genteel" characters like Caroline Bingley almost go too far forward in Regency fashion and border on inappropriate. Also a lot of characters are too comfortable without jackets or in their undergarments showing a total disregard for customs of Jane Austen's time.

Emma (1972) - Though some of the styles are passable for the Regency era others are in colors and ridiculous uses of lace that are quite laughable. And I always burst into simultaneous giggling and gagging when Emma says to Harriet "You may borrow my lace ruff.", as if that Elizabethan style will make all the gentlemen swoon!

Lost In Austen (2008) - Granted this film is all about a modern woman entering the story of Pride and Prejudice, but does that world have to include weird and ill-fitting Regency fashions? Yeah, I guess it's not really that bad it's just not very well thought out perhaps.

Well, that's my list! Do you tend to agree or disagree?
Which Jane Austen adaptations do y'all think are the Best Dresses and Worst Dressed?

Thank you Emma Jane for inviting me to guest post during your Period Drama Fashion Week!


Old-Fashioned Charm
 Miss Laurie is a 20-something modern day lady striving to live every day for her Lord Jesus Christ and show His love to others. Her blog Old-Fashioned Charm is dedicated to sharing her love of Jane Austen, period costume dramas, classic literature, historical eras and everything old-fashioned. She also runs Austen Efforts, a website dedicated to info and reviews on all of the Jane Austen film adaptations. Check her website for details of any films mentioned in this post.


  1. What a lovely post!!!!!!
    I completely agree with you!!
    And I think the P&P05 is indeed very badly dressed. And P&P95 is the opposite!
    I enjoyed this post immensely!!!!!

  2. Pride and Prejudice miniseries is one of my faves ever and I still love the costumes, I recently saw Northanger Abbey and Emma and loved the costumes in that! Lots of lovely blues and sweet costumes in Northanger and lots of great colours in Emma, showcasing some of the brighter outfits that seem to be being discovered these days. I also loved the outfits in Bright Star, the main character was known in her day for having her own stylish sense of fashion and making her own clothes, and they really brought that across with her gorgeous dresses.

    I am glad you mentioned Lost in Austen, I kept thinking while watching it that the dresses were badly made, they often seemed to fit wrong and there was a weird belling underneath the high busts that tended to make characters look as if they carried a lot of weight in their bottom halves, which I do not see in things like Emma or Pride and Prejudice. Regency dresses should be flattering on all body types if made right, since Regency Era praised fuller figures, and the style was meant to emphasise round bosoms and arms.

    Lucy Steele's brown spencer with the pointy ends and grey lace trim is definitely one of my 'one day' items.

  3. Yay, my least favorite Emma made the worst dressed list. Someone told me the colors were period correct but I always felt that movie was too modern overall though I couldn't pin point it very well. Its not just the costuming but the actions as well. The same for the newest version of Mansfield Park (I haven't seen the other, its sound bad not just poorly done). I am glad you pointed out such things as late regency because from going to the Jane Austen festival I have learned that waistlines bounced around from middling to very high depending on the exact dates.


I'd love it if you'd drop me a line or two! I always enjoy receiving comments from readers and friends. I ask that you please keep your comments clean and God-honoring, and please don't write anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to read. Also, if you are commenting under anonymous, please do leave your name (or some sort of moniker so that you aren't totally nameless). Thank you so much and have a lovely day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...