“First, I must tell you how ardently I love this dress. From the moment I saw it, I never wished to be parted with it from that day on.”
If you’re as big a fan as I am of the 2005, Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen, you’ll recognize the above quote, though it is slightly altered. 🙂 There are a few films that I can play all the way through in my head, scene by scene and this is one of them. The other two are The Wiggles Magical Adventure, and The Apple Dumpling Gang. Take that information as you will.
Fun Fact: the book Lizzie is reading as she walks in the opening scene is actually text from the last page of “First Impressions,” the original title Jane Austen put down for today’s Pride and Prejudice. The book I’m holding is a 1903 edition of Pride and Prejudice. I recently discovered that walking and reading at the same time is a skill yet to be acquired.
Out of all the beautiful gowns in the film, this one is my favorite, and I instantly knew I had to make it for myself. After a LONG time researching and looking for the right materials (I went to so many fabric stores to find this exact fabric, and finally found it at a random Joann’s) I started to self-draft the pattern. As with any of my recreated film costumes, I always watch the movie it appears in as I sew. It’s a cool experience! Until the movie is over and there’s only half a bodice completed because Mr. Bingley is having a ball, Lydia has run away, and Charlotte Lucas is engaged to be married!
I looked at a LOT of still shots of Keira wearing this gown, and attempted to replicate (almost) every pleat, seam, and detail visible. The most important thing for me was getting the silhouette right. Long live trial and error. I also had the white blouse to figure out. I was about to start drafting a pattern when I realized that I already had a white blouse exactly like this. It even had the overlapping shoulder seams like the original. All I had to do was make a wider collar and hand sew it on, which I must admit, is already coming loose. That’s something I’ll have to fix.
A little disclaimer: this dress is not historically accurate to the era in which Pride and Prejudice occurs. It was designed by Jacqueline Durran, (who also designed the dreadfully inaccurate costumes for Little Women, 2019 which I despise and ranted about in this post. . . but let’s overlook that). As long as it is duly stated that this gown is not accurate to the regency times, we may continue. I may be a bit of a hypocrite, but I do believe Durran’s work in Pride and Prejudice proves much more historically accurate than in Little Women. Speaking as someone who has studied Victorian fashion, and not Regency.
This was absolutely the most fun day, running around in fields with my sister until sunset, playing the soundtrack to the film along the way, and saying almost every quote we could remember. I felt like I was in the movie. Although dressing like a fictional character from another century can definitely deliver you some odd looks, finger points, and quiet conversations as people walk away, it wasn’t as bad as I had predicted. Even in the mall afterwards, I didn’t seem to notice too many people questioning my attire, (yes, I went into a busy mall in this dress to pick up my other sister, and yes it was pretty fun).
I’m definitely not the first to recreate this design, nor the last. There are multiple YouTuber’s videos/tutorials out there that show the whole process of creating this gown, if you’re interested in making one of your own. Here are some of my tips for recreating this gown:
- Make sure your fabric is correct (I used a thin linen.) I’d also recommend buying it in person and not online. Photos and descriptions can be deceiving.
2. Make it a wrap dress. I’m not sure if this is specific to the original, but I think it’s a lot easier not only to make, but to put on and actually use as a functioning dress. I added ties to both the inside and outside flaps. The buttons aren’t really doing much.
3. Wear proper undergarments. I wore a cotton chemise, regency half-stays, and a white petticoat under the dress, but by all means you don’t HAVE to. (After all it’s not even a historically accurate dress). Putting on any ankle length skirt underneath should be good enough to fill out the dress properly and help with the flow of the fabric. But you definitely need something to help with the fullness of the skirt.
4. If you don’t feel comfortable drafting the pattern yourself or just hand draping it as you go, find some paper patterns that are similar to this design. Maybe you can find a separate one for the skirt, one for the bodice, and one for the blouse. Having a dress form really helped with draping; it’s nearly impossible to make a fitted garment without one.
Which did you experience first: the book or the movie (or the 90s series in which I do not find favor)?
Who’s your favorite P & P character?
When was the last time you ran around in a field? If it wasn’t yesterday, my sincere condolences.