Regency Dress: Costume Dramas

April 6, 2021
Regency Dress: Costume Dramas
I love a good costume drama. There's something quite magical about stepping back in time and seeing what an era from the past was like. That's not just to say about the costumes, but also the architecture and also how people lived; the accepted etiquette, technological advancements and scientific understandings.

Looking back at the long list of period dramas I have watched, I must confess to being a bit of a junky for them. My first love for film came when I was nine years old and I had chicken pox and so a family friend looked after me and I exhausted her Doris Day film collection. I loved the clothes with weirdly shaped hats and matching heels and handbags, the big clunky cars and the men dressed smartly, wearing their hair like my grandad. There was something comforting and familiar, seeing the characters go through life similar to how we do now.

Going back further in time to the Regency era, a small window of history (1811-1820) but had a huge effect on fashion, architecture and art for many years to come. Do you have a favourite period drama? Why is your favourite?

Jane Austen's Emma has been done several times; Gwynneth Paltrow played bored Emma Woodhouse in 1996 with a sickeningly sweet Toni Colette as Miss Smith and a scarily-haired Ewan McGregor as the flirtacious Frank Churchill.   The costumes were designed by the talented Ruth Myers, a two time Academy Award nominee (Emma and the Addams Family). They were light yet structured. 

The costumes of the Emma TV drama (2009) starring Ramola Garai were designed by Rosalind Ebbutt who you may know from her costumes in the ITV TV series Victoria (2016 - 2019). She also worked on Downton Abbey in 2011. I love the coral necklace and coral dress combo Ramola wears here - understated and elegant. 

But it is the latest adaption of Emma (2020) which turned heads. Bold use of colours and shapes by Alexandra Byrne.

I was lucky enough to talk with dress historian Hilary Davidson about why she thinks the Regency era costumes in the period comedy-drama Emma are sublime. This is what she said:

Overall for my money, the costumes by Alexandra Byrne, who's an incredibly skilled and experienced costume designer that she made for the 2020 adaptation of Emma. I think they are the best versions of Regency costume I have ever seen on screen. They are just. Immaculate and not just immaculate in historically accurate ways, but  the clothing is used in the way that they did.

So you'll see Emma wearing the same muslin gown, but one day she's got a pink silk slip underneath it or the slip, you know, like we still call it now as a kind of a petticoat or an underdress. And then the next day she's got a blue one underneath. So the actual gown changes into a pastel pink or a pastel blue because of what she's got underneath and the way that they use the possibilities of fashion to make Mrs Elton exaggerated and completely period, but also over the top and vulgar, but in really exact ways, I just thought it was delicious. So for me, the whole costumes are just fabulous. And they've been nominated for an Oscar, rightly so.

You can listen to the fell episode here

Radical Mural Tucked Away in Battersea

March 30, 2021

Hidden away in Battersea is an amazing piece of street art, showcasing not only the delights

of the local Thames river front, but also the area’s radical political history. On a former pub

on Dagnell Street is the wonderful “Battersea in Perspective” mural, done by local artist

Brian Barnes. Centre stage is Battersea Park and the Peace Pagoda, with the Thames and

the Albert and Chelsea Bridges either side.

The golden circles in the sky represent the Battersea Shield. This Celtic shield dates...

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Hats off to Bankside Fashion Icon

March 23, 2021

Did you know Bankside’s role in the invention of one of Britain’s most iconic fashion items?

The Earl of Leicester had a problem: his gamekeepers hats kept on being knocked off as they went about their work, because in the mid-19th century gamekeepers wore impractical tall hats. He dispatched his younger brother Edward Coke to posh St James’s hat-maker Lock and Co to find a solution.

Lock and Co got in touch with a certain hat-maker’s on Bankside to design a solution.  Bankside has a lo...

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Dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park - a Virtual Tour

March 16, 2021
In episode 47 of our London History podcast we discuss the wonderful dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. I was going to pop along and do a bit of filming but the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs have beaten us to it. They have included dinosaur names and sound effects too - something we just couldn't even compete with. 


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Buckingham Virtual Tour

March 15, 2021

Situated in the heart of the West End of London and surrounded by two royal parks; Green Park and St James's Park, Buckingham Palace is considered to be the most recognizable building in Great Britain. 

It is the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II who also uses it for important events, meetings and receptions and is a place where over the years the masses gravitate towards. 

It didn't start its life out as a royal palace. It was originally called Buckingham House and started as a ...

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The Text on the Monument

March 11, 2021

The Monument was built between 1671-1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London of 1666 which ended up destroying four-fifths of the city. It is a column standing on a very large pedestal, some 20 feet high, much of which is covered in dense Latin writing.

This goes unremarked today, partly because so few of us read Latin. Then as now only a minority of people would be able to read it, even if in the 17th century Latin was a more important language and in theory if you were a gentleman it was...

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