Not far from the tiny little dress worn by petite Renee (Beatrix Potter), was a dress worn by tall, statuesque Nicole Kidman in the Cut! exhibit. It was kind of interesting to see the contrast between the two costumes, since on-screen I can’t say I’ve ever really noticed the difference. (Mind you, I’ve only watched about 10 minutes of Cold Mountain, (a movie they were both in) and wasn’t watching for that either…)
So, next up in my photo-spread of costumes from the Cut! exhibit is from The Portrait of a Lady (1996). I feel that I should have seen this movie, but, looking at the trailer, it doesn’t look a bit familiar, so I guess I haven’t! Not surprizing; if you have noticed from my previous posts about costumes from the Cut! exhibit, there are a LOT of movies – even costume dramas- that I haven’t seen!
The poster describes the movie and the costume as (click the poster above for a larger photo):
“The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
A dramatic Victorian tale of betrayal based on the novel by Henry James
Set in Europe, 1880s
Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer
In this film the costume designer shows us many beautiful an evocative outfits that follow Isabel Archer’s Journey of self discovery. This white gown with its pinkish hue and pearl bead embroidery is a fine example of the layers of detail and the fine fabrics that reflect Isabel’s inheritance and new-found wealth. The beaded front panel of this skirt is an original piece from a time when such an elaborate panel would have been made up and sold separately to have a dress created around it. This panel was four inches too short for Nicole Kidman, so it was lengthened with fabric inserted at the waist which is covered by the jacket.”
A beautiful shot of the back of the ‘jacket’, showing the seaming to go from shoulders to an amazingly narrow waist. While the lace works on the back collar because of the front of the bodice, I have to say I don’t care for the bow at all! I imagine that the designer saw Nicole with her hair up for this gown, because it would be a huge fuss to have her hair down with this silly bow at the back!
In this photo I can also see the shoulder seam shifted far back – this could just be a design/fit solution for a curved shoulder blade, or it could actually be a shifted shoulder seam. Without seeing the top of the shoulder, it’s hard to say.
I’d also point out the horizontal waist seam in the side panel of the jacket as well. All of the other panels are long without the horizontal interruption, which makes me wonder why this line is here. It could simply be a matter of piecing fabric… since there doesn’t seem to be a design reason for it.
Lastly, I’d like to point out the gathering on the sleeve, above the cuff. Very pretty….
The lower part of the back of the outfit, lots of lace, trim, ribbons, flowers.. etc.. wow.
Aaother shot heading down the back of the dress.
So finally the front… the false waistcoat in what looked a lot like wide-wale peach corduroy, false buttons, lace and ribbon collar, ruched trim… etc etc etc. I have the sneaking suspicion that the closure is hooks and eyes under the false buttons. There don’t appear to be any button holes, so that’s what would make the most sense to me. In this photo you can also see the top of that pearl beaded panel for the skirt.
Here’s a close up on those false buttons, the peach corduroy (or maybe it’s a figured velvet in stripes? Up close it looks more like velvet than corduroy…), the lack of buttonholes, and the pearl beading. No real conclusive proof of a hook and eye front closure though. However that ever-so-slight gap at the very top of the photo makes it look as though this certainly is where the opening is.
The ruching from the ‘jacket’ front continues down the length of the dress to the floor, where it meets more trim. Here you can see the full length of that pearl beaded panel.
Closer shot of the elaborate trim, pleating and ribbons on the hem of the dress.
Finally a close up of the sleeve that I pointed out earlier. What confuses me is that little hint of silver glittery ribbon/elastic at the wrist. It really did look like wide elastic (like from elastic belts from the 1980s) and colour and fabric-wise it didn’t really seem to suit the rest of the outfit. However, I do love that gathering!
The Costumer’s Guide doesn’t have a write up for this costume itself, nor any photos that I could see when I went to look – other than this movie still. However there are a number of other costumes from the movie that have many photos – and many of them look incredible! This looks like it might be a great movie to watch on DVD, pause button at the ready! For more screen captures check out Period Movie Caps.
So… is this dress inspiring? More so than the Beatrix Potter dress for me, certainly!