film fashion

The Costumes of Jane Eyre (2011): Film Fashion Inspiration

jane eyre wearing a hooded cloak

I am back today with a Part Two in this series of my favourite film fashion inspiration: this time with the costumes of Jane Eyre (2011)! You can find Part One about Miss Potter, here.

One of my favourite books of all time is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I first read it in Grade Nine, for a book study, and fell in love with the heroine of the book’s title, Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre was published in 1847, although the time period in which the story itself takes place is a bit unclear. Most film adaptations place the story either in the same decade the book was published, the 1840’s, or slightly farther back in the 1830’s. The only film version of Jane Eyre that I have watched is the 2011 one directed by Cary Fukunaga starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. The costume designer for this film was Michael O’Connor and I absolutely love what he designed for this film: the attention to detail in each character’s wardrobe means you never run out of interesting elements to look at.

The director and costume designer chose to go with an 1840’s time period for this film, because they liked the styles from that decade more than those of the 1830’s, and I am inclined to agree with them. I am not enamoured with the large sleeves and shorter hems of the 30’s, so I’m happy they gave Jane the much more elegant looks of the 40’s.

1833 and 1848 illustrated fashion plates

I am not an authority on early Victorian fashion by any means, but I appreciate the, seemingly, quite historically accurate costumes of this film. Some historical dramas try to modernize the characters’ dress, which can sometimes be jarring, as well as becoming easy to spot as time goes on. (For example, the animated Snow White and Cinderella by Disney are easily recognizable as being from the 1930’s and 1950’s respectively.) In this version of Jane Eyre, they chose to keep the garments and even hairstyles accurate to the time period the story was set in, even if some of those fashions are decidedly unpopular today. Why do historical films always skip the bonnets, right? While most of us won’t be sporting 1840’s dresses for daywear anytime soon, there is still so much inspiration to be found in the costumes of Jane Eyre.

Ps. This interview from Vanity Fair gives a bit more insight into the choices of the director and costume designer.

One key feature of Jane’s wardrobe is her subdued and dark colour palette. She wears several shades of grey, black, brown, deep plum, and dark blue. She also later wears an earthy tan/pink. While these dark colours are specifically used to create a moody feel for the film, I think they also reflect an aspect of Jane’s character: her practicality. Dark colours are a sensible choice for clothing, since they don’t require as much washing or stain removal in the same way light colours do.

Queen Victoria was married in 1840 and was the first to bring popularity to the idea of a white wedding dress: the light colour of the dress made her easier to see, and was a dress fit for royalty (or at least someone who had an army of laundresses at their disposal). While Victoria’s dress caused a stir in the fashion world (that remains to this day), for most people, dark coloured clothes were a much wiser choice. Even today, many work clothes and outerwear are made of darker coloured cloth. While grey and black might not be good colours for everyone, I still take inspiration from Jane’s costumes in choosing more practicable colours for items of clothing that aren’t easily laundered. For example, instead of choosing a cream coloured dry-clean-only, wool winter coat, perhaps navy would be a smarter choice.

jane eyre wearing the same dress 3 times

I also appreciate that Jane has a sort of “capsule” wardrobe; which is really what a standard wardrobe for any time period, before the modern era of fast fashion, would have been. She is consistently seen repeating the same small selection of dresses throughout the film. One nice thing about wearing dresses, is that they are such a quick and easy outfit. You don’t have to worry about finding a matching blouse or skirt, because a dress is a one step outfit, all ready to go!

Another very clever idea from the past that Jane utilizes in her outfits, is wearing separate collars and cuffs. Having one dress, but several separate collar and cuff sets to pair with that dress results in many different looks. While it might not be a dramatic change, it still adds variety to your wardrobe. Accessories really are the best tools for stretching your “capsule” wardrobe. And, on the topic of laundry again, cuffs and collars tend to get dirty before the rest of the garment, so this makes them easy to clean. Also, if the cuffs wear out, it’s easy to make new ones without having to make an entirely new dress!

Jane’s costumes are all very pared back versions of the 1840’s fashions. When you compare her black evening dress to Blanche Ingram’s, you can see how subdued Jane’s dress is. While her dresses are not as frilly and fancy as the wealthy women’s dresses, her clothing choices are still far from boring and there are so many subtle details in her clothes.

jane eyres plaid grey dresses

For example, the patterns in Jane’s dresses are classic prints such as plaids and dots which have been pieced to form interesting designs. In her plaid gowns, the diagonal piecing on the bodice is gorgeous. There are also lots of visually interesting bows, ruched sections and elegant V shaped bodices. There’s so much inspiration for future sewing projects!

I personally prefer Jane’s understated elegance over the frilly fashions of the early Victorian period. My favourite styles from the past are ones that are more classic than trendy- which it is still true for my wardrobe today.

jane eyre wearing a lace bonnet

I also like how Jane’s character and style stays consistent throughout. Even when she buys new dresses and bonnets and spends more on her clothing, she doesn’t slavishly follow the trends. Her more expensive clothing doesn’t clash with what we know of Jane from before.

jane eyre 1840's style wedding dress and bonnet

Her wedding dress is a good look at the consistency of her style. Despite Rochester’s wish to lavish her with jewels and rich fabrics, this dress is still rather restrained compared to wedding dresses of the time. Queen Victoria’s aforementioned wedding dress is much more opulent than Jane’s, and we can’t imagine Jane feeling comfortable in something like that. Even this wedding dress is a little too fine for Jane’s taste.

jane eyre light grey plaid dress

Throughout the film, Jane remains true to her personal style, and wears garments that are flattering to her particular body type and style, which is a great reminder for us all to choose to wear what we like and what we look good in, despite what the trends may be at the time.

Another iconic element of Jane’s look is her signature hairstyle. I’m not a big fan of hairstyles from the 1840’s: they were really into the centre part (which is apparently coming back in?).

While lots of upper class women wore their hair in ringlets (see Blanche Ingram again), Jane wears hers in an easier to keep style- a low bun with loops over her ears. She wears variations on this look- sometimes more elaborate like for her wedding, and sometimes simpler, like when she is living in the cottage. I like that Jane has a signature look, and one that she can easily maintain and execute herself. This is a lesson that I have learned over time: find a hairstyle that works for you! This is why I usually wear my hair in a chin length bob with bangs- it just works for me. I don’t have to fight with it, or set it every night (only to find that the curls fall out by midday) etc. While it’s sometimes fun to change it up, find your signature hairstyle and run with it!

jane eyre wearing a hooded cloak

One final element of Jane’s wardrobe that I absolutely love are her capes and shawls. While capes have been mostly replaced by coats nowadays, there is just something so elegant and dramatic about a cape, isn’t there? (Especially if it has a hood!) They are perfect to wear over dresses if you have a full skirt and your coat isn’t wide enough to accommodate it. Oh, and they are cosy too. A shawl is also the perfect thing to wear on a chilly day (even indoors); they are easy to put on and take off as needed, and are nicer to wear than trying to bundle up on the sofa in a blanket!

jane eyre wearing different shawls

Well, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the costumes of Jane Eyre, but these are some of my favourites from this film. Have you seen this version or Jane Eyre and what did you think of it? What parts of her wardrobe do you like? And which version of Jane Eyre is your favourite?

jane eyre wearing her evening dress

The Costumes of Miss Potter: Film Fashion Inspiration

miss potter standing by the lake

When I published this post about personal style a few months ago, one of the inspirations I listed was Beatrix Potter from the 2006 film Miss Potter. Not only are the costumes of Miss Potter some of my favourites, but the movie itself is also high on my list of favourite period films. Starring Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson and others, with costumes by Anthony Powell, this movie tells the story of Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit and other children’s books. I shan’t spoil the story it if you don’t know it, but definitely recommend that you watch it yourself, not only for the story, but also for the cinematography, the beautiful English scenery and of course the costumes!

When I watch historical films, I don’t usually mind if things aren’t “100% historically accurate” down to the very last buttonhole, as long as the costumes fit the story, are well researched and they don’t jolt you out of the timeline. If the costume designer displays expertise of the era that the film was set in, I’m not too picky if they have chosen to interpret and tweak history in a creative way for the purpose of story telling- please just don’t use any zippers or incorrect underpinnings! Thus, today, I’m not going to go over whether this film is historically accurate, or even accurate to Beatrix Potter’s real life, but rather, I’m sharing what some of my favourite inspirations are from the costumes in this film and how I have integrated those into my own personal wardrobe.

Costumes are such an important part of a movie, as clothing gives insight into how people present themselves and interact with the world and what message they are sending. Even in fictional movies, costumes can still demonstrate how people wear and move in their clothing and can give more understanding than a static photograph can.

miss potter reviewing her book in London

The film is set in the early years of the Edwardian era, from 1902- 1906, and is full of high collared blouses, peplum jackets with puffed sleeves and elegant walking skirts, but one thing I love is how wearable the costumes look.

miss potter sketching in the woods wearing a blue shirtwaist and brown skirt

One key feature of Beatrix’s wardrobe is her subdued, earthy colour palette. My own wardrobe consists of these colours- shades of brown and tan, earthy greens, smoky blues and creams. I think that these colours are specifically used to show Beatrix’s love of the countryside and connection to nature, especially the Lake District, which is reflected in her oft repeated colour blue. These colours all blend together extremely well too.

miss potter wearing a striped shirtwaist blouse

Beatrix’s costumes in this film are tiny bit Victorian, (mainly her small London hats) which I think reflects that her character doesn’t chase the latest trends, but is instead absorbed with her work. She also wears a very plain style of clothing, which is used to juxtapose her style against her mother’s which is a much fussier, ornate style. Other ladies are also shown wearing much more glamorous pieces, yet Beatrix is always bit pared back. Her clothing choices are far from boring though! There are so many subtle details that you miss upon first glance, but stand out with a second look.

miss potter in london wearing a jacket with contrast cuffs and collar and a bowler hat

I have realized, over time, that my favourite looks from the past are ones that are more traditional and classic, rather than the opulent, “fashionable” ones and I often find myself wanting to pare things back in my own wardrobe too. I am always drawn to classic styles over trends. Beatrix’s costumes are a great example of a character whose clothing has intricacy and detail, but is still rather minimal in ornamentation compared to the popular fashions of the time period.

cuff and sleeve details

Her clothing choices display many details; from extra long shirt cuffs, to contrast collars, to shaped waistbands, to unique buttons- there’s so much to take note of when you take a closer look. There’s so much inspiration for future sewing projects too! Using details like this adds interest and depth to your wardrobe.

I also appreciate that Beatrix has what would today be considered a “capsule wardrobe”; which is what a standard wardrobe for any time period before the modern era would have been. She is consistently seen repeating key pieces and mixing and matching them to create new looks. Her blue shirtwaist is a common repeat, as well as her brown blazer and walking skirt. Because each of her pieces coordinate with each other, she is able to create an infinite amount of combinations. This is such a useful way to curate your own wardrobe- one I am still perfecting myself!

miss potter wearing a pleated white blouse

Almost every outfit she wears consists of the tried and true skirt + shirt combination. She has a couple beautiful wool A-line skirts that coordinate well with her blouses. While I probably wouldn’t personally wear a floor length wool skirt like this, shortening this style to knee length suddenly modernizes the look, while retaining that classic look.

miss potter wearing a cream embroidered blouse

She also proves the value and versatility of a good white or cream basic blouse. She has several that she rotates through- each slightly different- featuring lace insertion, embroidery or pleating. While each individual blouse is different, they all coordinate well with the other pieces in her wardrobe, as well as providing a background for brooches and jewelry.

miss potter movie film stills

Speaking of jewelry, I absolutely love this long necklace she wears. Is it a watch? A key? A locket? I can’t tell and haven’t found any answers…what do you think it is?

miss potter reviewing her book

I really like how it clasps to her waist almost like a chatelaine or something. Long pendant necklaces are one item that I absolutely love to wear in my own wardrobe.

movie long necklace detail

There is just something so elegant about them, and I think they work quite well to add some jewelry without the flashiness of a statement necklace. Brooches are also an under utilized piece of jewelry today, I think. I have several vintage brooches, but don’t wear them nearly as often as I should!

miss potter in the lake district wearing her blue shirtwaist

Another wonderful part of Beatrix’s wardrobe are the straw hats that she wears while visiting the Lake District! This is the epitome of the cottagecore look- and I love it! I’m not a big fan of the tiny Victorian hats she wears in London, and I interpret the large informal sun hats that she wears while in the country as shedding the stuffy London rules and expectations and becoming her true self.

miss potter in london wearing a fitted wool jacket with a peplum

Her clothing evolves when she leaves London, becoming softer and more rugged. For example, she eschews her fitted, structured jackets for casual knitwear. I think this reflects her love of nature as a key component of her character, and shows that she has fully adopted the country as her own. She takes advantage of layering to create visual interest, as well as warmth!

miss potter in the country wearing knitted vests and sweaters

One final detail that I love from her costumes, are her aprons. You just can’t go wrong with a good apron when you’re doing some messy work around the house. I love historical aprons, because not only were they were designed to protect your clothing, but they look pretty at the same time!

miss potter wearing aprons over her daywear

Well, these are some of my favourite details from the costumes of Miss Potter. Have you seen Miss Potter? What are your favourite parts of her wardrobe? Are there any films that you draw fashion inspiration from?

miss potter unpacking her art supplies