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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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?