Cut! – The Duchess – Blue gown

Poster from the display - click for a larger version.

So the next costume that I’m going to show is from The Duchess, and it’s the Blue Gown.

The description from the poster says, “This beautiful ball gown was influenced by the Duchess of Devonshire’s love of fashion and expensive living.  The dark panels on the front of the skirt were screen printed, the stencils painstakingly created with reference to an original garment of the time.  The embroidery was added to frame the prints with swirls of complimentary colours.  This loving dancing scene was filmed at Kedleston Hall, pictured in the backdrop.”

Duke and Duchess

Here’s an almost-full length shot of the dress, along with the Duke’s costume.

Very, very tall hair...

A shot of the wig.  In an interview, Kiera Knightly commented that she could barely move because of the height (and weight) of the hair, decorated with ostrich feathers and fake flowers.

“Those enormous feathers reminded me of Yorkshire terrier legs. The look was over-the-top because the idea was that she set the fashion and then moved on. You wouldn’t see her wearing feathers again, but the rest of the women would follow her lead. She understood that the public wanted to see her done up. They expected it of her.”L.A. Times 

Full shot (almost... I couldn't back up far enough) of the blue gown

The Costumer’s Guide calls this the Green Gown  instead of Blue – but to me it really did look like a blue rather than a green in person, although there’s definitely some green in that blue!  Click the link to see lots of stills and additional photos of the gown.

sleeve and full skirt

So, to describe some of the details in this costume….

There are two different fabrics here – the first is a brocade (I am going to say white chrysanthemums on blue satin) and the second is a blue taffeta.  The taffeta is blue shot with black, so when the threads from one direction (warp or weft, not sure) are removed, the black is exposed. They’ve used this several times throughout the dress to create a trim that matches the dress perfectly.

close up of sleeve with elbow dart

A close up of the sleeve, showing the elbow dart as well as the use of the shot fabric to create a blue ruffle with black trim. The black is just the blue fabric frayed.  There didn’t seem to be any way of keeping the fabric from unravelling any further, so I can only presume that this dress was never intended to be washed or re-used.

side of gown

I didn’t notice until now, but it doesn’t look like there are any bust darts in this dress!

raw scalloped edge on sleeve

The sleeves had two parts, the fitted top part and then the ‘cuff’ for lack of a better term.  The ‘cuff’ had two fabrics, the brocade and the black and gold lace.  The brocade was cut in a scallop (likely with scalloped ‘pinking’ shears or a scalloped rotary blade) and left raw.  In the photo above you can see how the scallops frayed.

Screen printing and embroidery

The screen printing and embroidery on this dress might have looked impressive on screen, but in person they actually looked kind of strange.  The screen printing is very flat and black, while the embroidery is heavily textured and colourful.  I personally didn’t really like the effect, though it certainly is interesting!

Close up of one of the embroidered and screen printed elements.

I think another reason I don’t care for the screen printing along with the embroidery is the shape… the embroidery is so fluid and organic… and the shapes of the screen printing are so solid in contrast.  Impressive embroidery though!  This close up is from a centre front panel on the underskirt.

pleated and frayed trim

A really good example showing the frayed edge of the blue silk (?) taffeta on the pleated self-fabric trim.

skirt and sleeve

Close up of lace trim on skirt edge (near waist)

Bodice close up

Photo of the bodice along with the gathered skirt and the pin-pricked centre-front opening.

super close up photo of the bodice edge with hook and eye closures.

The Costumer’s Guide has a photo of the back of the gown – showing that the bodice back has side-back seams and possibly a center back seam as well.  It also shows the ‘bustle’ effect of the skirt in the centre back.

Photo of the gown from a screenshot from The Costumer's Guide. Click for original version.

This certainly is not the kind of dress I’d ever want to replicate, but I think that there are a lot of interesting features in this dress worth studying for possible use with other costumes.

Are you researching this gown for a version of your own?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

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