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BECOMING JANE

About The Costumes
As with the photography and production design, Julian Jarrold hoped to take a different view of Austen-era costumes in BECOMING JANE. For this, he worked with Emmy-nominated Irish costume designer Eimear Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh ("David Copperfield,” THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY).

"Like most people I studied Jane Austen at school so I was familiar with her world,” says Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh. "But I deliberately moved away from recent film adaptations of Jane Austen's work and my priority was to try to do something different. 1790s Regency England was a very transitional era in terms of fashion so it was a real challenge to make it work."

Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh read up on the fashion of the day, visited museums for inspiration, consulted Austen's letters for clues and reread the novels for context and color. In particular she investigated the influence of continental fashions and also the likely differences not only between town (London) and country (Hampshire) but between the social classes. She discovered that Jane and her family were quite fashion conscious - but the family's financial circumstances dictated that they make their own clothes. While practical clothes were required for the farm yards, there was also the opportunity to dress up and show off at the occasional local ball.

By the mid-1790s, Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh also learned, fashion was becoming simpler, moving away from the huge dresses of the French Revolution and towards a more modern look. "Things were heading towards the Empire line which is a very basic style influenced by the Roman and Greek civilizations,” she says. "1795 marked the beginning of that trend. But because Jane Austen was from the country which is slower to adapt to fashion changes we are showing just the introduction of that. The look in London of course is very different from the look in the countryside."

Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh sourced authentic fabric in India and scoured the costume houses of London as well as the BBC costume department. "We kept away from very ornate fabrics and were very careful to pare back the look," she says.

When it came to dressing Jane, Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh made Anne Hathaway's wardrobe entirely from scratch, using a combination of research and intuition. "I wanted to get her youthfulness and innocence across through her dress,” she states. "But crucially there was also her strength of character. So we kept away from frills and flounces. I wanted a look that was quite strong but also pretty. Jane was living on a working farm so her dress had to be practical as well. We were definitely trying to steer away from the chocolate box image that we associate with Jane Austen.”

Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh sifted through Austen's own correspondence to get a better picture of the writer's fashion sense and sensibility. "In her letters to Cassandra, Jane talks about going into town and buying new ribbon for her hat,” she says. "She would not, at that time, have been able to afford a new hat so she buys ribbons and flowers to trim the bonnet. People would also visit from London and Jane and her friends would ask them about the latest fashion in London. She would write in her letters of new fabric that she had bought and she would describe it in detail."

It didn't hurt that Ní Mhaoldhomhnaigh was dressing the preternaturally lovely Anne Hathaway, who became a close collaborator in the creation of her character's costumes. "It was great to dress Annie,” the designer says. "She had just come from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, in which she wore all this amazing couture fashion – and now I had to talk to her about wearing simple cotton dresses! But she was very keen to get the details right. Sometimes I would suggest a little extra piece of lace but she would say that it might be too much. She really grasped what we were trying to do. Of course Annie looks so wonderful on c

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