Cut! – The Duchess – Military inspired

Oops!  I thought that I had shared all of the costumes from the Cut! exhibit from The Duchess, but when I was looking through page two of my drafts – I found the last (I hope!) one that I had overlooked!

The military-inspired dress from The Duchess

This is the military-inspired dress from The Duchess, worn when she was campaigning for Charles James Fox.  The movie is set in England in 1774-1784, and the poster reads as follows:

Poster, click for the full version

The Duchess is based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duches of Devonshire.  Whiel the duchess’ beauty and charisma made her famous, her extravgant tastes and appetite for gambling and love made her infamous.  Married young to the older, distant Duke of Devonshire who was platently unfaithful, Georgiana became a fashion icon, a doting mother, a shrewd political operative, an intamite of ministers and princes and the darling of the common people.  Cosume designer Michael O’Connor described his process for creating the right look for the film:

‘Eighteenth century clothes were really quite extraordinary, but in the film the characters are speaking dialogue that needs to be paid attention to.  You can take inspiration from the past, but you have to play down large patterns and bright colours.  You don’t want the clothes to distract, though in reality they were probably extremely distracting.’

Dark blue silk chenille is used for this military-style day ensemble.  The jacket has leather trim with gold braid ‘frogging’ and brass buttons.  To show her support for the Whig party at a political rally Georgiana wore this suit lined in orange with a buff leather waistcoat since blue, buff, and orange were the colours of the Whig party.  Fox fur was used for her muff and hat to illustrate that she was campaigning for Charles James Fox.”

Sleeve cuff

Fabulous cuff detail.  There appears to be several layers of white lace at the sleeve edge, a similar fabric to the jacket/skirt body used for the cuff turn-back (the description suggests it’s leather, but it doesn’t look like leather to me…), with layers of gold braid highlighting a white bound buttonhole and large non-functional brass domed buttons.  More trim on the cuff edge as well.  The sleeve also appears to have been cut on the bias, since the welts of the chenille are on an angle.  (Bias cut sleeves also fit better and have more movement in them… though take a lot of fabric!)

Waistcoat and jacket hem

The waistcoat is in the buff leather with brass buttons, navy blue piping and blue bound buttonholes.  The jacket has a drastic cut away, with the same contrast blue fabric reverse facing, and the elaborately braid-trimmed white bound buttonholes and non-functional brass buttons as the sleeve cuff.  You can just barely see the bust dart from the jacket edge to the bust point, to shape the jacket.  There is also the top of what I’m calling the ‘garter’ – of course in 18th century England, stockings would have been held up by a ribbon tied around the leg, not by things hanging from the waist like a modern garter… but I don’t know what else to call these!  Not to mention, I have no idea what they are ‘for’ – other than to look pretty!  (Can anyone fill me in by leaving a comment?)

Jacket and waistcoat

Another shot of the waistcoat, jacket, ‘garters’ and the top of the skirt.  I didn’t really get any specific shots of the skirt, since it seemed generally unremarkable.

Another shot of the 'garter' (?)

Here’s a full-length shot of the ‘garter’.  Although it looks elaborate, it’s really a black grosgrain ribbon, with a number of brass filigree elements added on.

Close up of 'garter' (?)

I should have gotten a better photo of this – sorry!  But, here’s the ending to the ‘garter’ – with the cameo hanging from the end.  You can also just barely see some of the hand stitching holding the brass filigree elements to the black ribbon.

'garter' (?) and jacket lining

Although the garter is out of focus, this shot is mostly to show the orange lining of the suit.


A shot of the impressive wig and hat.  I really would have liked to get a better photo of this, but the display was on a stand and impressively tall, too tall to get a closer look or a better photo.  Here too is a closer view of the jabot, with a big white bow and loads of white lace (like the sleeve cuff).

Photo from the Jane Austen Film Club, click for original

And finally… a publicity photo from the movie – this one found on the Jane Austen Film Club blog, showing the costume in action.

9 comments on “Cut! – The Duchess – Military inspired

  1. MaryMagpie says:

    Thank you for the up close and personals on that costume – so beautiful!
    The “garters” at the waist appear to be “necessaires” – 18th century predecessors to the chatelaine. A necessaire was often used as what we would now think of as a watch fob, or a method of suspending an “etui” that might carry grooming and/or sewing tools.

    • Dawn says:

      That sounds really interesting – I have heard of chatelaines, but never ‘necessaires’ – I’ll definitely have to look into that more! Thank you for your post!

      • MaryMagpie says:

        Drat! Sorry, I looked at my source and it turned out I remembered the wrong word – they were in some cases referred to as an “equipage”. The words “fob” and “chatelaine” hadn’t come into use yet and “necessaire” was a contemporary of “chatelaine”. The book where I got this info is called “Chatelaines: Utility to Glorious Extravagance” by Cummins and Taunton. Terrific book.

  2. Dawn says:

    Goodness – thank you very much for the information and follow-up! So much to learn and remember!

  3. Forensicgoth says:

    I love this dress it’s beautiful I’d very much love to wear it!

    • Dawn says:

      I agree it’s beautiful, and I love the details, but I think it would be really fussy and restrictive! Not that that is a bad thing always.. but not something I could imagine wearing for long!

  4. Debbie says:

    Does anyone know of a pattern made for this costume?

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