Sep 1, 2017

Costume Spotlight | Jane Eyre (2011)

I'm starting a new blog series dedicated to reviewing costumes from films and stage shows, sometimes focusing on a single costume or, like today, reviewing costumes from a whole movie or production. At the moment I'm only planning on posting this segment once a month, but that could increase in the future.

At the end of each post I'll be rating between 1 and 10. Please join me in the comments and let me know your own thoughts and rating!

To kick things off I thought I'd start with one of my favorite costume films, Jane Eyre (2011). This is the latest movie version of the classic book written by Charlotte Bronte. The story is about a girl (Jane Eyre) that was orphaned and abused as a child but now is governess to a young girl and falls in love with her employer, the mysterious Mr. Rochester.

Please note, this post does have minor spoilers in it, though I don't mention any of the big spoilers.

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

The film follows the original story of the book very well for a 2 hour film and depicts the Gothic genre of the book very well. It stars Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester.

The costumes were designed by Michael O'Connor, who was very specific in making sure everything was as authentic as possible to the era the story was set in.

While the book is originally set in the 1830's, film adaptations are rarely set in that time because of how wacky the fashions were. That's why this, and most adaptations are set in the 1840's instead.

The following is from Michael O'Connor. “The lining, the buttons, the stitching, everything was totally researched. I always say, ‘Is there a reference for that, is that something they did?’ And if people say [they] don’t know, then I say we can’t do it—there’s so much information from that time that there’s no excuse not to have it.”

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features
When asked if he was ever tempted to vary from authenticity, he replied “It’s tempting, but there’s no need. The truth is interesting enough. Jane is a sort of plain character, but that doesn’t mean she’s unstylish. She’s wearing shades of gray with white collars, and she can still look quite smart or quite nice and serviceable—not overly fussy.”

I think it's worth noting that over all, the costumes in this film are historically accurate for the 1840's, however as it is with all costumes, there were some elements that aren't perfectly accurate. Some of the costumes are tailored slightly different to be a little more modern (i.e. sleeves being cut tighter than they would have been in the era), and one bonnet (bellow) in particular is designed more for decoration than any useful need.

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features
O'Connor on Jane's wedding dress: “The thing was to make it simple. Rochester is always trying to buy her things, which she rejects because that’s her character. So [the aim] was to make it a simple dress, and shorten the length. Jane’s a country girl, it’s a country dress, and it’s fitted and tight-sleeved, rather like her day dresses, like her character.” via

Below is a photo of the dress made for the film compared to a fashion plate from 1844, around the time the story is set. You can see just how similar the two are and just how accurate for the era the design is.

Fashion Plate c. 1844 Le Moniteur de la Mode
Wedding Dress (Jane Eyre 20011) Designed by Michael O'Connor

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Blanche Ingram
Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Rochester and Jane
Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Mrs. Reed
Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features 

The use of color and texture is so beautiful in this film. You can practically feel the fabric just by watching. There's such a variety of different fabric textures between dresses made of silk, cotton, and lace, and the crocheted gloves, knit shawls, straw and lace bonnets, the frilly fichu's and wool jackets.

While there's so much variety in types of materials, they all help keep the gloomy atmosphere that comes with the Gothic setting and really helps build the visual feeling of the film.

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

What I love about this adaptation is how well it represents this particular era of fashion, which often gets overlooked. It's an elegant era and still slightly silly with the amount of petticoats women wore to achieve a voluminous silhouette and the slightly crazy hairstyles.

Overall, I give the costumes in this film a 9 out of 10.

Rate between 1-10 in the comments and let me know your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. 10/10 for me!

    That dress of Blanche Ingram's looks like an original!

    One thing I appreciated, was the variety of clothing they gave each character. Sometimes, when the costumes are accurate....the character's are lucky to get even two dresses, let alone what feels like a complete wardrobe. BONUS: the scene where you get to see her in her corset, and it's actually a real corset, not some awful polyester underbust thing.