Farewell Janet Patterson, Costume Designer (1956-2016)

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Hat tip to reader Sarah B., who alerted us to the passing of amazingly talented costume designer Janet Patterson. An Australian who was known for her collaborations with strong female directors Jane Campion and Gillian Armstrong, Patterson didn’t do a ton of films, but the ones she did are totally memorable:

The Piano (1993)

Janet Patterson’s first period work (after Australian TV miniseries Palace of Dreams) is a pivotal one for historical costume on film. The story of a mute woman who goes to New Zealand as a mail-order bride and finds herself is an intense one, but it’s only augmented through Patterson’s genius costume designs. Who can forget Ada turning her crinoline into a tent for her daughter when they’re left on the beach? Ada’s somber black wardrobe is beautifully made and shows the contrast between the world she’s left behind, and the prison in which she’s bound herself.

The Piano (1993)

Perfect Victorian lady, on the New Zealand beach.

The Piano (1993)

Shirred bonnets FTW!

The Piano (1993)

Such a memorable costume moment!

 

The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

This is one of the best depictions of natural form (very late 1870s, when women stopped wearing the bustle but still wore all the back draperies) that I’ve seen on film. Patterson shows Isabel’s transition from spunky, independent American to emotionally abused and repressed wife through costume, and the repeated shots of Isabel’s long, intricate trains dragging as she walks beautifully demonstrates all that tries to hold her back.

The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer, longing to break out…

The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

Isabel bound by a misguided marriage.

The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

Step-daughter Pansy, who lives her life under her father’s thumb.

 

Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

Two misfits (Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes) meet in 1880s Australia and find common ground and a connection. Janet Patterson incorporated elements of reform dress, including pantaloons, into Blanchett’s wardrobe in order to demonstrate her iconoclasm.

Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

Lucinda, a rich heiress with a gambling problem…

Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

 

Peter Pan (2003)

Most of this film is set in the fantasy world of Neverland, but Patterson’s designs for turn-of-the-century London (at the beginning and end of the film) are just gorgeous, especially on Olivia Williams as Mrs. Darling:

Peter Pan (2003)

Such drama!

Peter Pan (2003)

A beautiful take on a turn-of-the-century evening gown.

 

Bright Star (2009)

The 1820s story of Fanny Brawne, fiancée of poet John Keats, is only improved by the fact that Brawne made her own, artistic and fashion-forward, clothing. Sewing places a key role in the movie, and Fanny’s creations are beautifully contrasted with the very normie clothes worn by the other characters.

Bright Star (2009)

Such a gorgeous shot.

Bright Star (2009)

The typical female of the film…

Bright Star (2009)

Now contrast that with Fanny’s amazing fabric choice and stunning collar!

Bright Star (2009)

Great hats, too!

 

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)

Maybe not our favorite, given how the timeframe was moved up and main character Bathsheba is given an awfully tomboy-ish wardrobe (including leather pants!), but Janet Patterson acquit herself well in this Thomas Hardy adaptation.

Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)

Perfectly period accessories like the leather waist purse.

Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)

Precise tailoring shows Bathsheba can afford nice things.

Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)

As the wealthiest woman in the area, she has the best gown at this party, but it’s not too showy for the countryside.

Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)
What’s your favorite Janet Patterson design/film?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

8 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    I’m in a quandary, I loved Bright Star & Portrait of a Lady, and I can’t choose between. Ergo, I’m stating they both are followed by The Piano and Oscar & Lucinda. I need to see Peter Pan and Madding Crowd to make comments on them. But I wasn’t too impressed by the original if memory serves me.

    Reply
  2. Mr Elton

    Sad news. I’m partial to Bright Star (the entire production is a gem!) and the costumes in The Piano are a feast for the eyes.

    Reply
  3. Maria D.

    I’ve only seen The Piano and Peter Pan – of those 2, I would pick Peter Pan. I need to watch the other movies.

    Reply
  4. ladylavinia1932

    There have been different timelines for each version of “Far From the Madding Crowd”. The 1967 version is set one hundred years earlier during the mid 1860s. The 1998 version was set between the late 1850s and early 1860s. And this new version is set between the late 1870s and early 1880s. Aside from the leather jacket, I had no problems with Carey Mulligan’s wardrobe in the 2015 film.

    Reply
  5. brocadegoddess

    Hmm, I haven’t seen all of these yet but I think I’m going to go with Bright Star for wonderful costume + presence of sewing. I think I bought the DVD almost just for the opening credits of sewing.

    Reply

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