Emma (2020 film) the real red dress

Learn about the red dress that Emma’s character wears in the film

No spoilers, this is all about the costumes!

I have to say more about this wonderful film… Emma wears the dress that Thalia wears in The Thread of Destiny!!! Oh my gosh. That is my favourite dress which is why I clothed a character in this dress in my book. ๐Ÿ˜€



I feel complemented, for absolutely no valid reason, that the makers of this film used the same dress that I have previously used in a book. Ha Ha. (I am laughing at myself). And now you can see what the red dress would have looked like in real life. Just imagine Thalia with her short, tightly sculpted auburn hairstyle in the fashion of Caroline Lamb’s in THAT red dress. No wonder my hero was smitten, hey? ๐Ÿ˜‰

You can tell how tickled I am by this fact, because I am gushing.

Earlier in the film I had noticed another brief fashion of that period, the coral jewellery that the characters wore which is something I had spotted in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London too, and then came the dress, which is also on display in the V&A Museum. ๐Ÿ˜€ That, of course, is where I discovered it.

I have never used coral jewellery, but I have used another brief fashion of that era, for pewter jewellery. In the latest of The Wickedly Romantic Poets’ books, Treacle Moon, Polly wears her aunt’s pewter jewellery. if you ever visit the V&A, the pewter jewellery is displayed in the same area of the museum as the coral jewellery.

Many of the women in Emma also wear the sheer white muslin with small embroidered patterns of the kind that I dressed Ellen in, in my first regency novel. Ellen wore a dress like that the night she went to her first ball with Edward, and if you read my blogs at that time, you will know that that dress was also a real one that I had seen in The Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms in Bath ๐Ÿ˜€

I imagine for the film they must have worked with fashion historians. It always amazes me, though, just how carefully made and how intricate the work of fashion was in these times. Just look at the detail on the back, over the shoulders and across the front in all the designs of the long ‘pelisses’ and the short ‘spencer’ coats that the women wear in the film. When you then remember that all of those items were made by hand… It is all very awe inspiring when you see the items recreated so beautifully in a film.

And the bonnets! Just a couple of days before I watched the film I read my favourite scene from The Illicit Love of a Courtesan, to practice for a public reading, (when Ellen meets Edward by agreement for the first time in the park). In that scene I describe her bonnet and the outfit I had seen on a contemporary fashion plate, again, to see that level of detail in a film was beautiful. I loved all of it, including the bonnet acting; displaying how to hide behind and peer around the brim of a bonnet, and how a man might lean in to kiss a woman beneath the brim. Bonnet teasing is something I use a lot in books. ๐Ÿ˜€

Oh, but one last gush, then I will stop. I also enjoyed watching Knightley walk through his hall of statues ๐Ÿ˜€ and the landings lined with broken statues; a reality that I have captured in John’s home, my scandalous duke.

Oh no that was not the last, another funny little quirk of the film, that shows the lack of underwear in the womenโ€™s costume when Emma simply lifts up her skirt and warms her bottom. Tee hee.

There is only one thing that was not quite right. They had a very beautiful horse-chestnut tree framing Emma in a scene that was addressed as the summer. Horse-chesnut trees flower in the spring; I also use them in scenes in my books. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Gush over.

I give the film a glimmering 5 Stars, I will probably go back to watch it again and it is definitely one to buy on DVD so I can keep it.

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Emma (2020 film)


Emma (2020 Film)

‘This adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel is so well researched… they have made it look like real country life at that time.’

Following the antics of a young woman, Emma Woodhouse, who lives in Georgian- and Regency-era England and occupies herself with matchmaking – in a sometimes misguided, often meddlesome fashion- in the lives of her friends and family.

Watch the trailer on You Tube

‘I write about country life,’ Jane Austen said once in a letter. Much of women’s lives were taken up with finding a match at that time. Something Jane Austen was never successful at, but I know she considered. She certainly appreciated a man’s ‘fine eyes,’ at least once in a letter to her sister, which she funnily enough then used as Darcy’s description for Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know who the real Emma was, but knowing so many of her characters were inspired by the people she met Iย  imagine she had a friend, or a combined set of friends, who wanted to help and brought the concept of Emma to her mind.

I particularly love this adaption of Jane Austen’s novel because it is so well researched it absolutely expresses that country way of life that Jane loved to capture. I remember reading an interview with a writer once who said, ‘Jane Austen did not put a date to her books, and I want to follow that.’ Well for Jane Austen these novels were contemporary, inspired by the life she lived and the lives she observed, of course she did not record a date it was today’s date for her – and so we know that the setting was in her lifetime in Georgian- and Regency-era England . A fantastically brilliant time for a life of fashion and flourish. But Jane does not describe the fashions in her books (apart from the price of muslins) in great detail because people knew the fashions. She was a follower of fashion, though, she often wrote to her sister about fashions, for instance commenting on the use of fruit to decorate hats rather than flowers and the change from short sleeves to long sleeves.

A few years ago when I was researching that era I learned not only about the men’s fashions, like those pointed, stand-up shirt collars (which are commonly known about), but the sudden flares of fashion at the time, and one of those was the scarlet red cloaks. They were a fashion for young women. Everyone, everywhere, with money enough to buy them, wore white dresses (a well known fashion) but with vivid red cloaks.

Years ago when I was researching my own books set in that era I came across these paintings made by a young woman, Diana Sperling, who drew country life as impressively as Jane Austen wrote about it. It was brilliant to see through the eyes of someone living in the time, and it has helped me capture a more real sense of the time in my books. This is why I can see the team researching the sets and costumes for Emma have been carefully considering the details. Most people would not know the details, so they did not have to do more complex research to enhance the film, but I am very impressed that they have made it look so like real country life at that time. It’s wonderful, and I think Jane Austen would have loved it.

What a brilliant adaptation, it is definitely one to watch.

You can also see in Diana’s pictures, the introduction of Wellington Boots ๐Ÿ™‚ . A fashion for boots started by the Duke of Wellington, of course. These were boots that could more easily be pulled on and off, and they were worn by men and women. Of course they are a fashion that has lasted.

Read the novel that is a story about Jane Austen’s life as she discovers the final inspirations that made Pride and Prejudice the book we know and love.

More information hereย  on the print book here


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