Cut! – The Duchess – Purple gown

A bit of a tease....

As promised, here are the photos of the purple gown I had a bit of a ‘sneak peak’ of in my Underthings post.  Warning – this is a  really image-heavy post!  I originally called this the “pink gown” when I was downloading the photos – because up close the fabric really does look more pink than purple.  However overall, it has more of a purple effect…

Ultimately, I’m going with calling it the Purple ball gown because that’s what The Costumer’s Guide  is calling it.  If you don’t know about the Costumer’s Guide – they have a number of costume movies that they feature, and then they go in-depth through the resources of a massive number of people who are set on researching each costume, documenting it, and ultimately – recreating it.  I used to be on their mailing list (a yahoo group) years ago, and found that it was very useful – but ultimately just took too much time to stay on top of for me at the time.

Costume poster.

The poster (click to enlarge) says:

Keira Knightly as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
The Duchess wore this purple silk court ‘robe a l’anglaise’ to the theatre. The fabric has a floral pattern edged at the bodice and sleeves with lace and small arrangements of silk flowers and velvet ribbons. The panniered underskirt is quilted. The overskirt is drawn up into the shape of petals, ins a style called ‘polonaise’.”

Screen cap from Fash-eccentric - click for full version, lots of photos, and the article.

Something I found fascinating about this costume as well as others from this movie is the strange mix of heavy embellishment, and corner-cutting techniques.

For starters, let’s look at the fabric itself.  The main body fabric of the gown (versus the skirt) is pink with purple, black and green florals.  Right? Wrong. It’s black.  What we are seeing is actually the WRONG side of the black fabric that is used on the sleeves and to make the gathered trim.  The black fabric has pink, purple, and green florals, and they’ve taken the fabric and reversed it – which is why the florals aren’t as crisp and clean on the main gown fabric.  This is a bit more visible in some of the fabric close up photos below.

Another interesting technique is the use of raw edges.  On the gathered black fabric that creates the trim, the edges are left raw (or at least looks like that – I’ll get into more detail further down) which is not something I’d expect.

Full shot of the costume

Below are the “silk” flowers adorning the bodice that the poster description mentioned.  Frankly these looked more like lacquered paper to me than silk.  I also didn’t really think that these flowers (the colours, the texture, the size) really fit the costume overall.  I like the concept of the large arrangement of flowers at the bodice, but the actual version just doesn’t work for me.  Mind you, perhaps the lighting in the scene itself helped these work better?  In the screen cap above it definitely looks better than in person.

Bodice front

The poster description also says that the fabric edges the bodice and sleeves with lace, silk flowers and velvet ribbons.  Actually, I dont’ see any velvet ribbon in this costume at all.  Instead they’ve used the frayed self fabric, reversed.

Trim on the dress

Above is the trim on the skirt.  You can see the black background with pink, purple, and green flowers.  The wavy trim in the middle is a braid with iridescent clear small sequins.

Close up of embellishment

Here’s the top of the sleeve ’embellishment’  above.  Essentially it’s a strip of the self fabric, reversed from the body fabric (so the trim is right side out) which is larger than the width of the sleeve.  The strip is then gathered and stitched to the sleeve to create this sweet “puff” of fabric.  The trim is left with raw edges exposed and frayed.  I don’t see a stay-stitch to keep the fabric from fraying further, though it’s entirely possible that I just couldn’t get close enough.

Sleeve embellishment

There’s the touch of lace at the sleeve hem that the poster described.   I wouldn’t really say that the edges are trimmed with lace and velvet ribbon with silk flowers though!  The ribbon looks more like watermark moire taffeta to me, though I don’t remember specifically from seeing them in person, so it’s entirely possible that it’s a very low pile velvet that has been crushed in a somewhat random way.

Sleeve and skirt at hip/waist

Above really looks like moire taffeta to me… what do you think?

Skirt hem

Above is the quilted underskirt – I LOVE the arches in the quilting, and really love how they’ve used the stripes to make the box pleats for the hem.

Another close up of the skirt hem.

Looking at this skirt gave me a little happy… I actually HAVE this fabric!  It might not be the exact same colour (though I remember when I bought it that the fabric came in many colour ways), I’m pretty sure that the fabric that I have is more pink than purple.

Side/back of gown

Above shows the beautiful gathering creating the puffy back of the skirt.

Close up of skirt back/side

Here’s a better view of the fabric, and showing that at the tops of the gathers are more black bows.

Side view

Another back view – because of the way the garments were displayed it’s difficult to get a better view of the back – but here you can see the bows a bit better, and get a sense of the shaping in the bodice back.

To finish off this incredibly long and image-heavy post… I’ll leave you with a featurette I found on YouTube about the costumes from The Duchess. The Purple gown is show in the movie clips, as well as some of the other costumes in the Cut! exhibit. Additionally there is a short interview with two of the costumers and two of the actors.  Hmm.. watching all of this and looking at the photos – I want to watch the movie again just to see the costumes in action once more!

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