Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on October 8, 2013
~The Sound of Music Wedding Dress Rediscovered ~
This is a day in Sound of Music costume history that I’ve been anticipating for a very long time! Earlier this spring, during the sale of many famous Sound of Music costumes, I noted that nearly every significant outfit from the film had come up for auction in recent years, save Maria’s Wedding Dress and a few Baroness Schraeder ensembles. But today we watch history being made, as what is arguably the most iconic movie wedding dress of all time reappears into the public eye.
Fashioned of silk shantung and fitted to perfection, this hourglass creation was once pristinely beautiful for the on-screen wedding of Captain von Trapp and Maria. But as is often the case with film costumes, the present-day state of the wedding gown shows signs of alterations, adjustments, and years of wear and tear. As hard as it is to believe, nearly all the Sound of Music costumes were returned to the general rental section of Western Costume after production ended in 1965. The producers of the movie had no idea that their newest picture was going to be such a smash hit, so they would have had no reason to suppose that the costumes would go down in history. Because of this, the outfits shown in the Sound of Music continued to be “in circulation” so to speak for years afterwards, and this wedding gown itself was reportedly reused for subsequent productions or possibly even real weddings. (I don’t believe Western Costume rents out their stock to the general public for real-life events such as weddings, but an article I read brought that up as a possibility.) I should dearly like to know what in the world it was used for, as I’d love to see another scene with Maria’s wedding dress in it! (This gown is currently going up for auction at Julien’s Auctions and is estimated to bring around $50,000. My guess is that it will bring much more than that!)
~ There are unfortunate water stains on the lower front of the gown, but the bodice remains as perfectly white as ever.
Until recently, this movie costume has been in the private collection of Jane Withers, who was once a famous actress herself. I find it interesting that both Debbie Reynolds and Jane Withers, both film stars in their own right, have invested so much time, effort, and funding into collecting film memorabilia from movies that they weren’t even connected with! But I’m grateful that these two ladies have preserved the costumes to the best of their ability and have recently auctioned off their Sound of Music collections so the public can once again see these treasures up close, if only on a computer screen.
Below are pictures of Maria’s wedding gown as it appears today. I will add some final thoughts below the last picture.
So there you have it! Maria’s once-glorious wedding gown may be a bit fragile, but it still serves as a reminder of one of the most beloved family stories of all time.
I believe that one of the alterations alluded to by Julien’s Auctions might have been to separate the back bustle pieces (which cascade into the train) from the skirt side seams and finish them separately. If this was the case, additional pieces would have been added underneath the bustle to the skirt front in order to close off the underneath skirt part.
It is difficult to tell because of the way the skirt is arranged – in the movie it was draped in wide folds in back as is shown in the side shot above, but the photo which shows the back view has the train arranged with all the lower skirt flat in order to demonstrate the full width of the skirt back.
Whatever the case, this gown is a treasured piece of film costume history which will be preserved for years to come.
So long, farewell!
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on September 29, 2013
A Visit to the Interior Used in the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice
Since I was a young girl, I have often watched Pride & Prejudice with my mother and wished that I could be transported to the place where Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy lived myself. Jane Austen’s consummate writings, coupled with the brilliant adaptation of the 1995 BBC miniseries, just made the English countryside come alive and seem as if “Pemberly” and “Longbourn” were real places, and the Bennet sisters were real people. Well, lo and behold, along came this marvelous Pride & Prejuce tour that made me feel as if I had stepped back in time to the land of Jane Austen’s characters! This, then, is the story of my day inside “Pemberly”.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that period drama filming crews are often required to use two separate locations for their on-screen houses – one for the exterior and a separate one for the interior. This was precisely the case when the Pride & Prejudice location scouting team was hunting for a proper “Pemberly” location back in 1994. When they saw the splendid interior of Sudbury Hall, they knew they had found their ideal Pemberly. The outside of the house, however, left much to be desired. An almost gnarly-looking brick structure when viewed up close, it was not a sight fit for the screen and certainly wasn’t grand enough to meet up to viewers’ expectations of Mr. Darcy’s magnificent home. Consequently, the exterior was filmed at Lyme Park, which I visited while in England and which I will blog about soon!
Remember this famous staircase from when Lizzie is touring Pemberly with her aunt & uncle?
And here’s the very same place used in the film!
I must say that when I saw this staircase from the room next door, it really felt as if I was stepping straight into the point of the film where Lizzie was visiting with her aunt and uncle! I love this scene from Pride & Prejudice so much, as it is the turning point of the story where Elizabeth starts to change her mind. (“I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberly.” – Elizabeth Bennet to Jane Bennet). And the fact that I was wearing a Regency gown that day was very much in keeping with the time period!
The Portrait Gallery
Then we climbed up a set of winding stairs to the upper level where Elizabeth Bennet supposedly saw the portrait of Mr. Darcy in the portrait gallery. Today the painting used in the film is replaced by an original portrait from the 1600s which is not at all (best read in a British accent, “Not a – tall!”) like the oil painting of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Nevertheless, this hall of framed artwork is just as magnificent as it appeared in Pride & Prejudice! I did so want to wear my reproduction of the costume Jennifer Ehle wore in this scene, but I had to save it for the next day at the exterior of Pemberly and therefore wore my Georgiana Darcy gown instead.
The detail on this ceiling was magnificent!
If this shot doesn’t ring a bell for you, you should probably go watch Episode Four of Pride & Prejudice right away!
Mr. Darcy’s Room
Next is a regal room decorated in rich burgundy which you may remember from the scene where Mr. Darcy tells his servant, “No, no, the green one. Yes, that will do.” It is a famous scene because it occurs right in between Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberly and Mr. Darcy’s visit to the Inn at Lambton.
Mr. Darcy’s mirror stood right in the corner there for filming.
“No, no, the green one.”
This was one of the most magnificent rooms shown in the whole film, I believe, with all the white and gold moldings and larger-than-life size paintings. Sadly, the furniture which was brought in by the BBC production team has since been removed, but you can still envision the Bingleys and Gardiners sitting there on the period sofas, or Mr. Darcy standing by the fireplace.
On the far left was the piano (for the film), with davenports on the right.
This is the fireplace where Mr. Darcy stood after Elizabeth and the Gardiners had visited that evening.
The Entrance Hall & the Georgiana Darcy Dress Reproduction
And then we come to what was my favorite part of the house, if only because it was the very spot where Georgiana Darcy had worn the dress that I had recreated for the occasion. Note that Georgiana’s costume appeared to be an embroidered batiste or voile, whereas mine was a point d’espirit netting lace with a nearly identical pattern. But unless you were really trying to compare the two you probably wouldn’t notice a difference. I sewed my Regency dress with the same design of the rounded square neck, short puffed sleeves with long attached undersleeves, and a simple cotton underdress that looked just like the film version. This gown was made using this pattern from www.sensibility.com. First below are pictures from the film, and then my reproduction dress and the entry hall as it looks today.
This scene occurs in the middle of Mr. Darcy’s letter that he writes to Elizabeth.
This was the same mirror which hung on the wall during filming. (And the same one that Mr. Wickham looks at himself in before he’s called into Mr. Darcy’s office.)
And after a marvelous day of adventure in the land of Jane Austen, my whole group then toured the exterior of Pemberly the very next day! It was simply amazing, and as usual I recreated a film costume for that location as well. I will be sure to share pictures of that soon! But for now, I think I’m going to go sip a cup of tea, cut out a 1940s dress, and remember my marvelous time in England.
Until next time, happy sewing!
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on September 21, 2013
The last time I was in England in 2009, I casually picked up a book in the Victoria & Albert Museum giftshop on Queen Elizabeth’s royal tour gowns from the 1950s. Little did I know that it would become one of my favorite books ever. Filled with images of the most elaborate embroidered evening gowns designed by couturiers Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies, this book showcased all the finest fashions which Queen Elizabeth wore during the first decade of her reign. I’ve spent countless hours poring over the pages, and imagining how wonderful these glittering dresses would look in real life.
So you can imagine how excited I was when earlier this summer Kensington Palace announced the opening of their new exhibit, “Fashion Rules; Dresses from the Collections of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales”. Here are a few of my favorite shots that I took at Kensington yesterday, with some thoughts on how they looked in person down at the end of this post.
Unlike all photos above, the dress in this picture was worn by Princess Margaret.
Here is a gorgeous lace dress worn by Princess Margaret in the early 1950s.
Queen Elizabeth adopted softer fabrics for formal fashions towards the mid-1960s.
Pictures really don’t do the gowns justice, as even when you’re standing still, the crystals and jewels on the dresses just sparkle in the light as if they were moving! I was absolutely flabbergasted when I saw the first gown in the exhibit which was a cream silk number encrusted with thousands of dazzling crystals and beads.
The second thing that impressed me was that all these gowns were absolutely tiny!! I knew that Queen Elizabeth was short (5 foot 3 inches), but I had no idea at all that she was as petite in build as she was. Standing in front of the gowns, I couldn’t believe that a woman who had already given birth to two children had managed to squeeze into these diminutive dresses! I asked a member of the Kensington Palace staff what the measurements were, and she said that while it’s not been reported officially, Queen Elizabeth’s dresses fit onto a 20″ waisted mannequin, and Princess Margaret’s onto an 18″ mannequin. Good grief! I know that Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge is famous for keeping up such a trim figure at 5 ft. 10 inches, but considering the fact that Queen Elizabeth was seven whole inches shorter and had already had two babies, I think she is much more of a hero than our modern day Catherine! My guess is that Elizabeth would have worn an American size 2 dress in off-the-rack clothing (or “off-the-peg”, as I’ve heard it said so frequently here in England).
This exhibition is on display for a while longer at Kensington Palace, so if you are anywhere in the vacinity you simply must visit it in person!
At some point soon I will add more pictures of these glorious dresses and their up-close details, but for now I must get some rest to prepare for tomorrow’s adventures. This exhibit greatly inspired me in many ways!
Until next time, happy sewing!