Emma (2020)


Yes, there’s yet another adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, originally published in 1815, and it’s in the theaters now. Trystan and I duly marched to the theaters to watch it, and overall, we were entertained! Spoilers abound here, so if you haven’t seen the film yet and you’re worried about knowing how THIS film approaches the story and costumes, you may want to wait to read this review.

The film did a good job of capturing Austen’s arch tone, even if some of the details had to be skipped, merged, or abandoned in order to fit the time limit. I’ve never loved Emma’s character (of course, she’s not meant to be loved), and I do think I still prefer Kate Beckinsale’s characterization. Nonetheless, this film is beautiful and has some strong performances. Lead Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, The Miniaturist) ably captures Emma’s gifts and flaws; Johnny Flynn (Vanity Fair, Les Miserables) is too young to play Mr. Knightley, but he got me emotionally involved in Knightley’s character arc; and the rest of the cast is solid, with a special shout out to Miranda Hart, my spirit guide, as Miss Bates (if you haven’t seen her modern-set TV comedy series Miranda, go check it out, stat!). The main off note to me was Emma’s nosebleed during the proposal scene — what, was she about to have a stroke?? It was so weird and random and completely broke my emotional involvement.

miranda hart

Who gets me?

This was director Autumn de Wilde’s first feature film; until now, she’s mostly directed music videos. It sounds like de Wilde was pretty involved in determining the overall look of the costumes, which were designed by Alexandra Byrne, whose designs for films like ElizabethElizabeth: the Golden Age, and Mary Queen of Scots often evokes scoffing from historical purists (myself included!). Nonetheless, she’s also designed the fabulously accurate and subtle Persuasion, as well as the well-reviewed Hamlet, Finding Neverland, and Murder on the Orient Express.

Let’s take a look at the costumes in-depth, focusing on various themes:


According to production designer Kave Quinn, director de Wilde wanted pastel colors to be central to the production, drawing on Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne told Vanity Fair that “she used mint green and pale pink, as well as yellow and burnt orange to illustrate Emma’s cool and breezy attitude… She leaned on white muslin for her designs, but she stresses the costumes were never meant to be just white; the sheerness of the fabric allowed her to layer other items on top to create a depth and richness that contrasted with the lightness and buoyancy” (Opulence and Frugality Inform the Look of the Latest Take on Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’).

In a another interview, Byrne talked about how the film’s over-the-top aesthetic was different from her usual aesthetic:

“Autumn really wanted the world of pastels and macaroons and that’s not my comfort zone at all, but again you look at the paintings and the fashion plates and it’s all there, it’s about the exact tone. If you say put pink and yellow together, I kind of go, ‘Whoa, really?’ … I wanted to use colour in such a strong way there would be moments where Emma belonged to her environment and times she was at odds with it” (Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne dissects her latest work for Emma)

2020 Emma

Sometimes Emma is in very strong colors, like this yellow pelisse (long coat).

2020 Emma

Mrs. Elton, the overbearing snob, is also frequently in bold colors.

2020 Emma

There’s also a LOT of the traditional Regency white, like on Harriet (left); plus colors that are softened by having a sheer white overlayer, like Emma’s yellow dress (right).

2020 Emma

Emma wears another white gown over a darker colored dress (orange?) to the Box Hill picnic.

2020 Emma

This pale yellow net on Harriet was lovely.

Character Differentiation


Emma is supposed to be the wealthiest woman in town, and her wardrobe needs to show it through opulence, variety, and taste. According to Byrne,

“My criticism of a lot of period dramas is that they’re over-costumed, but I thought this is where I have to join that train and make her [Emma] look indulgent… I wanted her always to be dressing for the moment” (The New Adaptation Of ‘Emma’ May Be The Most Stylish Jane Austen Film Yet)

2020 Emma

Emma’s go-to look is white, or sheer white over a pale color, with tons of subtle detail like lace ruffs and embroidery.

2020 Emma

The white-on-white embroideries are sumptuous!

2020 Emma

For the ball scene, Emma’s dress is made of a sheer layer over a solid undergown. Note the padded hem.

2020 Emma

Her gown has pretty leaf and flower appliques.

2020 Emma

And here you can see that sheer layer has a subtle gold stripe. Note how luxe all this layering is.

2020 Emma

This pale pink spencer is again subtly luxurious. It’s got all that soutache braid on it, plus the detailed cap sleeves and the center front buckle. I love that long, over-half-the-hand, fluted Regency cuff! It had great tails in back, which I sadly can’t find an image of.

2020 Emma

The whole tone of the film is arch, and Emma is possibly the most arch, so she’s frequently into slightly-weird neckwear — this standalone ruff was the weirdest, but it works.

2020 Emma

Here’s one time I just couldn’t get into the layering. The egg yolk yellow is just weird with the lavender, and while I generally thought the laces were beautiful, that white lace reads clunky to me.

2020 Emma

For the Coles’ party, Emma wears a recreation of a red net dress at the Victoria & Albert museum.

1810 red net dress Victoria Albert museum

And the source: Evening dress, machine made silk net, embroidered with chenille thread, with silk ribbon, hand-sewn, c. 1810, Victoria & Albert Museum

2020 Emma

Here’s the back, along with some town gossips.

2020 Emma

And a posed photo, where you can see the embroidered hem. Fabulous ladies’ shoes throughout, btw.

Byrne noted that in the scene where Emma is painting Harriet’s portrait,

“She’s wearing this insane collar with her chest exposed. She makes sure she’s the most beautiful girl in the room, even though she’s trying to get him to pay attention to Harriet” (The New Adaptation Of ‘Emma’ May Be The Most Stylish Jane Austen Film Yet)

This is one where I don’t think the intention read; yes, I see sheer, but I see no cleavage, I just see covered up. It’s pretty! But weird pretty.

2020 Emma

That said, I do like the weird pretty! It captures the crazy yet subtle of Regency dress.

Harriet Smith

Harriet starts off in nice but clunky outfits, like this comparatively chunky knitted sweater. According to Variety,

“A privileged woman like Emma would have a dressmaker, says Byrne, while Harriet might have a limited number of pieces in her wardrobe — outfits that also weren’t as elegantly embroidered” (Opulence and Frugality Inform the Look of the Latest Take on Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’)

2020 Emma

Note I said COMPARATIVELY clunky.

2020 Emma

Early on, Harriet looks nice but dowdy compared to Emma.

Over time, Harriet’s style improves, with the implication being that’s due to Emma. Byrne said,

“She’s [Emma] treating her [Harriet] like her toy doll in how she dresses her… She’s making sure she’s one step better by granting her the favour of giving her a bonnet, but actually it’s last season’s bonnet so it doesn’t matter to Emma any more anyway” (The New Adaptation Of ‘Emma’ May Be The Most Stylish Jane Austen Film Yet)

2020 Emma

Sometimes Emma and Harriet are almost twins.

2020 Emma

A rare dark dress on Emma (I think because she’s so off-kilter at this party?), while Harriet is perfect in her sheer dotted overdress.

2020 Emma

The one misstep on Harriet for me. I liked this cardigan a lot! It just was so different from anything else in the film, and seemed too casually modern. I would, however, totally wear it for modern purposes.

Mrs. Elton

Mrs. Elton is supposed to be overdressed to match her overbearing personality. Byrne set out to make Mrs. Elton’s style “more ridiculous, it’s more fun that way” (The New Adaptation Of ‘Emma’ May Be The Most Stylish Jane Austen Film Yet), and “used gaudy bows and necklaces to enhance comedy and economic discrepancy” (Opulence and Frugality Inform the Look of the Latest Take on Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’).

2020 Emma Mrs Elton

Mrs. Elton is beautiful but overdone.

2020 Emma Mrs Elton

Here her colors are more subtle, but she’s still got a LOT going on in her outfit compared to Jane Fairfax’s (left) simplicity. Just compare the bonnet shapes, for example!

Miss Bates

Miss Bates is a middle-class spinster who is kind but annoyingly chatty. In the film, she’s dressed quite well, if in comparatively darker colors with more biddy-type accessories.

2020 Emma

Covered up and in a dark color.

2020 Emma

Brown and dark reds make her look comparatively down-home.

2020 Emma

Surprisingly chic with that metallic trim, although she’s wearing a high neck and long sleeves at a formal ball, while the young ladies are in low necks and short sleeves.

Busy neckwear seems to be her theme, although note it is FABULOUS neckwear:

2020 Emma

This pleated/frilled circle thing!!

2020 Emma


2020 Emma

And I even went out of my way to screencap this daycap — Miss Bates and Mrs. Weston may be the only women in daycaps, by the way, showing their age and/or status — because I thought it was so pretty. Note another great frilled neck piece.

Jane Fairfax

Jane Fairfax is good, kind, sophisticated, and poor. She dresses well because her friends/employers ensure that she is, but she has a sophisticated, subtle taste and no money for a varied wardrobe.

2020 Emma

When we first see her, she’s wearing an outfit not TOO unlike Emma’s, with a detailed spencer, neck ruff, and chain and locket.

2020 Emma

At Donwell Abbey, she’s the only young woman to be in a high neck and long sleeves.

Mrs. Weston

Sadly, it was near impossible to find photos of Mrs. Weston, Emma’s former governess, or as you and I know her, Yara Greyjoy from Game of Thrones (HELLO role change!).

2020 Emma

Mrs. Weston (right) is a middle-aged married lady, hence the day cap.

2020 Emma

She always looks nice and respectable.

Mr. Knightley

Director de Wilde talked about wanting to emphasize how much Emma and Mr. Knightley were the same, and to play with period understandings of gender:

“It was interesting to me that men and women basically wore the same thing underneath. They both wore stockings over their knees and these slip dresses. Mr. Knightley’s shirt is twisted and wrapped through his legs because they didn’t wear underwear yet. His shirt was his underwear … Really he and Emma have the same outfit on, dressed or undressed. We are reminding people that our definitions of masculinity and femininity are sort of ridiculous and change with every era in fashion” (AUTUMN DE WILDE ON THE DREAMY, COLORFUL AND PERIOD-AUTHENTIC STYLE IN ‘EMMA’)

2020 Emma Knightley

Here Knightley’s yellow coat is supposed to call to Emma’s yellow pelisse, I think.

Trystan saw someone on Instagram complaining that the men are basically wearing Dockers khakis in the film. I didn’t quite get that, but I did think the pants were NOWHERE TIGHT ENOUGH, and Knightley at one point wore what I swear were a pair of ponte-knit pajamas. According to the AV Club, Bill Nighy (Mr. Woodhouse) finds historical trousers “stifling,” and designer Byrne “was able to make some pants for him that weren’t quite so stifling” (Bill Nighy on Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. and his favorite unsung movies); I’m not sure if that influenced the rest of the men’s pants, but there was very little package or thigh to be seen.

2020 Emma Knightley

Ok, so they’re kind of Dockers-esque.

2020 Emma Knightley

This film EMBRACED the high, starched, Regency collar, which I generally am 100% behind, except sometimes Knightley’s crumpled in a where-is-his-valet sort of way.

2020 Emma Knightley

AND SOMEONE TAKE A WEED-WHACKER TO KNIGHTLEY’S SIDEBURNS, STAT. Also, give the man a haircut. I do not normally complain about tousled hair or sideburns, so this is saying something.

Frank Churchill

Or, as you and I know him, Douchebag from War and Peace. He’s supposed to be a bit nouveau riche, and a bit disruptive, so I think that accounts for how busy his fabrics were?

2020 Emma

Again, those pants are TOO LOOSE.

2020 Emma

While all the other guys had white cravats, Frank often wore a black and white plaid, which I guess was for character reasons? To make him look buzzy and disruptive? Because I don’t think that’s historically accurate, with all caveats that I’m no expert in Regency menswear. The printed cotton looks very Indian, which would be very fashionable in this period.

2020 Emma

Another series of layered colors, with that same patterned cravat. I was not down with the obviously machine-embroidered, curtain-fabric waistcoat here.

Daywear vs. Eveningwear

There was a lot to like about the film’s costumes, and only a few nitpicks. One that I have, that I often have for Regency films, is the lack of distinction between daywear and eveningwear — specifically, necklines and sleeve length. I’d like to do more research on this topic, because it’s a constant theme for me as I’m watching Regency-era movies, but it’s my general understanding that short sleeves and low necklines were for evening (dinner, balls, etc.) — MAYBE they would work for a very afternoon occasion? But 99% of what I’ve seen, daywear-wise, in historical sources (granted, I’m no Regency fan) is high necks and long sleeves.

So I always notice when I get a bunch of this:

2020 Emma

Okay, it’s summer? And frequently Emma would wear a sheer, high-necked chemisette with dresses like this for day.

2020 Emma

But otherwise, they did a lot of “stick a [great, mind you] spencer or pelisse over a short-sleeved, low-necked gown and call it daywear.” Which seems like a very theatrical approach.

2020 Emma

I’m talking specifically about Emma and Harriet here. Other characters, like Miss Bates, are properly covered. And I get it, this can be a harsh/biddy-ifying look for a young actress to pull off.

2020 Emma

Although Jane Fairfax carried it off quite well… I think making the point that her character is much more reserved than Emma’s, of course.

2020 Emma

That being said, most of the outerwear was fabulous. I didn’t LOVE this gingham pattern, but the lines are great.

2020 Emma

I think this one split up the center back, which was fabulous when she sat down.

2020 Emma

The backs of Emma’s pelisses/spencers often had interesting pleats or tucks, like this, while Harriet’s were simpler, again emphasizing the class difference.

2020 Emma

I’m not a fan of grey, but the soutache and matching cap sleeve are beautiful.

2020 Emma



Any Jane Austen movie had better have its hat/bonnet game ON POINT, and this one did not disappoint. Sophie Lambe is credited as the milliner; she’s also worked on The AeronautsPhantom ThreadVictoria & AbdulAlliedand Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

2020 Emma

There were a lot of GREAT feathers and trims.

2020 Emma

Beautiful, interestingly-woven bonnets; I particularly liked the high quality lace that lined many of them.

2020 Emma


2020 Emma

LOVED this one, along with Emma’s wedding bonnet — I’m a sucker for a wire-frame hat.

2020 Emma

Great trims and feathers!


Of course, I have thoughts about the hair, which was designed by Marese Langan (My Cousin RachelBelleAngelTristram Shandy). I had a hard time with the super tight ringlets, which just looked like ramen to me, and how they were so clearly tacked on and not part of the actresses’ hair (I am Team Fake Hair! But I am also Team Make It Look Like Your Hair).

2020 Emma

It doesn’t help that Anya Taylor-Joy has a very small face, so I felt like the silhouette wasn’t very flattering.

2020 Emma

However, reading hair designer Langan’s thoughts on the hair design has changed my mind, mostly, because she was TRYING TO AVOID BEACHY WAVES, which, HALLELUJAH!

“Throughout the film, Taylor-Joy’s Emma is seen with a mass of curls tied back into an updo with a soft center part, whisper-light corkscrew wisps grazing her cheekbones to deliberately laissez-faire effect. ‘For a historically accurate look with a fresh take, I wanted to accentuate the tiny, delicate curls that frame the face,’ explained Langan, who said she used small marcel tongs heated in a miniature oven to create the tightly wound spirals, letting them taper toward the ends for a more structured and defined look before setting them into place… ‘I wanted to remain accurate to historical references, while also recalibrating the beauty aesthetic toward something new,’ she explains. ‘The silhouette from the original fashion plates and drawings is petite, refined, and delicate, emphasizing hairstyles that visually extend the length of the neck.’ To give the dos a ‘natural, fresh, and youthful look,’ [director Autumn] De Wilde was keen on using fresh flowers in the hair, which were accurate for the place and period of the time, says Langan. When a handmade bonnet came into play, the hairstyling had to be very precise. ‘In advance of the shoot day, [costume designer] Alex Byrne would show me the correct positioning, and I would devise a hairstyle to complement the bonnet shape and neckline of the costume'” (How Anya Taylor-Joy Transformed for the New Adaptation of Emma)

Also, Emma’s hair does get more flattering over the course of the film. Director de Wilde said,

“Emma’s curls have a story. Marese is so brilliant and I wanted the really tight curls that were period-accurate — not the sort of curls that are loose, ’90s-style wedding-type curls. Her curls are like a little doll: tightly wound and perfectly in place. As the story evolves, Emma comes unwound, so her curls are a bit fuzzier. Maybe she didn’t get as many on that morning, so they’re pulled back. Her hair gets messier and she becomes a little more womanly and a little more sensual” (AUTUMN DE WILDE ON THE DREAMY, COLORFUL AND PERIOD-AUTHENTIC STYLE IN ‘EMMA’)

2020 Emma

Note that Harriet starts without ringlets…

2020 Emma

…but then adds them as she starts dressing more like Emma. I didn’t dislike the curls on other actresses, which makes me think my reaction is a silhouette issue.

And, of course, we have to talk about Mrs. Elton’s crazy, Over-The-Top hair, which is there to further make points about her personality. This style — the actual bow made of hair — really dates from the 1830s, although you do start to see glimmerings of it in the high styles of the 1820s.

2020 Emma

Mrs. Elton going full Cindy Lou Who.

Joseph Karl Stieler, Eugénie of Leuchtenberg, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, 1826; Charles Rauch, Portrait of Caroline de Bourbon (1798–1870), Duchess of Berry, 1827, Chateau de Chambord; Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder, Portrait einer vornehmen jungen Frau vor abendlichem Landschaftshintergrund, 1830; Joseph Karl Stieler, Princess Sophie of Bavaria (Sophie Fürstin von Bayern), with her child son, Franz Joseph, later Emperor of Austria, 1830s, Wien Museum.

Joseph Karl Stieler, Eugénie of Leuchtenberg, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, 1826; Charles Rauch, Portrait of Caroline de Bourbon (1798–1870), Duchess of Berry, 1827, Chateau de Chambord; Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder, Portrait einer vornehmen jungen Frau vor abendlichem Landschaftshintergrund, 1830; Joseph Karl Stieler, Princess Sophie of Bavaria (Sophie Fürstin von Bayern), with her child son, Franz Joseph, later Emperor of Austria, 1830s, Wien Museum.

Jewelry & Accessories

And finally, a few thoughts about jewelry and accessories:

2020 Emma

There were SO MANY beautiful combs in the evening hairstyles!

Emma frequently had a sticky-uppy hair doodad; the gold bead one that was supposed to move around was SO distracting, but in a good way.

These coral earrings are spot-on to the period.

2020 Emma

These beaded? earrings looked like eyeballs.

2020 Emma

Lots of great chains, watches, etc.

2020 Emma

Lots of amber earrings; Mrs. Elton has one of the most ornate necklaces in the film.

2020 Emma

Lovely collet-style necklaces and earrings; did any come from Damesalamode, I wonder?

2020 Emma

There were tons of “misers” purses, and I was here for them!



What did you think of the costumes in the new Emma?


About the author



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.

96 Responses

  1. Roxana

    The costumes are lovely, very lovely, but I am irrationally bothered by a blond Emma, and Harriet is supposed to be a stunning beauty, and also very well provided for by her unknown parent so she should be as expensively, if not as tastefully, dressed as Emma.
    Knightley is indeed too young and too overtly sexy. And where’s the gravitas?

    • M.E. Lawrence

      I second these comments, and I wasn’t even going to see “Emma,” because how many versions does the world need? But as others have noted, Miranda Hart is in it, and therefore I can watch her and the costumes–the latter look so fab, I worry they’ll overwhelm the actors.

    • Aleko

      I don’t think ‘stunning beauty’ is in any way a legit description of Harriet. It takes some force, some oomph, to be stunning, and that’s what Harriet totally lacks. Austen says she’s ‘a very pretty girl…She was short, plump and fair, with a fine bloom, light blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness’. Also mentioned are her ‘soft blue eyes’. But notice: none of the men in the novel are ‘stunned’ by her beauty, and only Mr Martin is seriously attracted to her. (And can anyone imagine Emma Woodhouse taking anyone under her wing who she thought for a moment would outshine her?)

      And no, although Harriet’s well-off tradesman father can afford to send her to be educated in an unassuming country boarding school alongside the daughters of tenant-farming families (though, interestingly, when the novel opens he has only recently been paying the extra to make her a parlour-boarder – has he only now become rich enough to afford that?), it’s exceptionally unlikely that he can afford to make her an allowance anything like what Emma, with her £30,000 ‘portion’, has to spend on her clothes. And if he could, he almost certainly probably wouldn’t feel he ought to – Harriet isn’t in that financial bracket and it would be most unseemly for her to dress as though she were.

    • Orian Hutton

      I cannot find Harriet described as a ‘stunning’ beauty; only as a ‘very pretty girl…her beauty…of a sort which Emma particularly admired…short, plump and fair…’ And although Harriet’s education has been provided for, there doesn’t seem to be much suggestion that she has much money or even a dowry. Please enlighten me. I obviously need to re-read ‘Emma’ again, as it has been a couple of years since I last did.

      • Roxana

        Hmmm, yes, I may have been misled by Emma’s admiration for Harriet’s style of looks. However Harriet is described by the narrator as always having enjoyed a comfortable maintenance, and we see her shopping with Emma and buying muslin and ribbons with no apparent concern for cost. Mr. Knightley, who is somewhat prejudiced against her is pleasantly surprised on closer acquaintance to discover she much more converseable than he thought. Harriet isn’t hopeless but Emma is a terrible influence on her. .

      • Aleko

        In Jane Austen’s day – and her books – the size of a young lady’s ‘portion’ (the contemporary word for a dowry) was generally common knowledge. It needed to be, because that was by far her most important value in the marriage market; whatever Emma protests, looks, accomplishments and personality just don’t have much market value. As Mr Collins in P&P ungallantly pointed out to Lizzy Bennet, “in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small [£1000 in the four per cents] that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications”.

        Everyone in her social circle knows that Emma has £30,000 (and that’s just her portion; when her father dies, he will presumably leave her half his property as well), which is what makes her the unchallenged queen of Highbury. Mrs Elton has about £10,000 (because she comes from Bristol and nobody in Surrey knows her family, the precise sum isn’t known as it would be for a local lady), and Jane Fairfax’s rich friend has £12,000. Because Mrs Goddard hasn’t discreetly let it be known that Harriet has a portion and how much it is, everybody takes it for granted that she has none (e.g. Mr Knightley says that she has “probably no settled provision at all”) and the last chapter of the book makes clear they are correct.

        In other words, Mystery Papa is paying Harriet’s living expenses to Mrs Goddard, plus, evidently, an allowance to spend as she likes; but has not invested a sum for her in the Regency equivalent of a trust fund or savings account. This means that as soon as he stops paying the bills – which might happen at any time if he were to die without leaving her something in his will, say, or run into financial trouble himself – she would be absolutely penniless. And if she has the good luck to marry a man who can afford to keep her, he might well consider his obligations to her at an end, and not give her anything. (In the event he comes through with a ‘liberal’ sum; but Robert Martin cannot count on this.) This makes her a very undesirable marriage prospect.

        It’s clear also that Mystery Papa has no social aspirations for her. He has sent her to a ‘common school’, where she will certainly not have any posh companions, and when she turns 17 he pays extra to make her a parlour-boarder (i.e. she now has a room of her own and is treated socially as though she were a member of the principal’s family). So from then on she will mix with Mrs Goddard’s acquaintances. (And it’s pure fluke that the richest gentleman in the neighbourhood is a nervous valetudinarian whose daughter needs a team of impoverished gentlewomen who are grateful to drop what they’re doing to come over and amuse him patiently whenever she wants to go out for the evening. Had Mr Woodhouse been any more active or self-sufficient, Mrs Goddard would only have been on the outer fringe of the Hartfield social circle at best.) As Mr Knightley says: “whoever may have had the charge of her, it does not appear to have been any part of their plan to introduce her into what you would call good society. After receiving a very indifferent education she is left in Mrs. Goddard’s hands to shift as she can;—to move, in short, in Mrs. Goddard’s line, to have Mrs. Goddard’s acquaintance. Her friends evidently thought this good enough for her”. And (provided the fees keep coming) he assumes that unless she can find someone to marry her “she may be a parlour-boarder at Mrs. Goddard’s all the rest of her life”.

        Jane Austen could take for granted that her contemporary readers would realise that Emma had done a truly terrible thing in whimsically deciding that Harriet was too good for Robert Martin and talking her into aspiring above her station. 21st-century readers, and see how culpably self-deluding she was for refusing to see this until the very end of the book.

        • Aleko

          Sorry, I thought I had deleted the phrase ’21st-century readers’ in that last sentence!

        • Roxana

          Don’t be too hard on Harriet’s tradesman father. He shows an admirable sense of responsibility towards his little accident, he sees she is educated and maintained in a respectable way and given his own status his aspirations for her are reasonable. In this time and place openly acknowledging Harriet and taking her into his home would hurt him and his legitimate family without doing Harriet any good. Somebody like Robert Martin was probably exactly what he was hoping for in a son in law.

          • Aleko

            I agree with you 100%, and I didn’t mean that to come across as disapproving at all. As you say, he has acted honourably in line with Regency notions of ‘decency’ (Austen’s word), sensibly, and generously. Compare him, for example, with Mrs Jennings in S&S. She, like many of his neighbours, believes that the girl whose upbringing Colonel Brandon has been paying for is his by-blow, and when anticipating his offering marriage to Marianne Dashwood she says breezily ” Two thousand a year
            without debt or drawback — except the little love-child, indeed; aye, I had forgot her; but she may be ‘prenticed out at a small cost, and then what does it signify?” Yeah, right, park her in a millnery shop, that’s the cheap way to wash your hands of your daughter!

            • Roxana

              I am sure that Colonel Brandon and Marianne will do much better than that for Eliza and her baby.

              • Aleko

                I’m sure. But it’s one of the small sudden jabs of cold reality that Austen now and again slips into her books: we’ve got to know Mrs Jennings as a kindly warmhearted busybody, and now we realise that to her an illegitimate daughter is just an encumbrance to be disposed of for as little expense as possible.

                • Roxana

                  In fairness to Mrs. Jennings she’s interested in Elinor and Marianne and so dismissive of anything or anybody who might impede their interests. If she were to become acquainted with Eliza she’d probably become interested in her fate. Which Eliza might well regard as a very mixed blessing!

        • Orian Hutton

          Phew, that was a long reply. Thank you. I did actually understand all of this as I am a (retired) historian specialising in the Georgian social period and have read Emma many, many times.
          But I find it interesting how others interpret the same words I read in sometimes very different ways. So I wondered how what I had read as a very pretty girl had become a stunning beauty. Also always thought of Harriet’s unknown benefactor as merely being a comfortably well off tradesman who did his duty, but wasn’t going to be providing Harriet with a great deal of ‘pin’ money for expensive clothing or other extras.
          So Harriet was pretty and sweet natured and a suitable match for Robert Martin, but lacked the economic, social or even physical attractions necessary to be a potential wife for any man from the higher echelons of society. Stunning beauty would at least make her some sort of competition for Emma herself, whereas Mr Knightley only compliments Emma on Harriet’s personal manners.
          I don’t believe Georgian society in south-east England in the first part of the 19th century would have seen what Emma did as a ‘truly terrible thing’, but rather as unrealistic and possibly unkind (Mr Knightley) and/or ridiculous (Mr Elton).

          • Roxana

            Definitely unkind.
            Emma herself considers Harriet a considerable beauty and argues that her looks will make a gentleman overlook her antecedents. Mr. Knightley, more realistically insists that men of sense want more than a pretty face, Emma denies this contemptuously.
            Knightley himself values character and intelligence highly. When he gets to know Harriet better he is favorably impressed by her personality and finds her somewhat brighter than he expected. He is in short convinced that Robert Martin has chosen better than he, Knightley, at first believed. He even says that a sensible man would regard Harriet as a better match than Mrs. Elton. Not it must be admitted a high bar!

            • Roxana

              Rereading Emma I see Emma bases her belief that Harriet’s father is a gentleman of fortune on Harriet’s ‘very liberal allowance’.

              • Orian Hutton

                It is really all laid out in Emma and Mr Knightley’s argument in Vol I: Chapter VIII. Emma is playing at dolls and romantic nonsense, while Mr Knightley is practical and has the greater knowledge of what men want which is not ‘silly wives’ or to be involved in ‘inconvenience and disgrace…when the mystery’ of Harriet’s parentage is revealed.
                But away from discussions of the writing and back to costumes. I now want to go back and watch my other film and television versions of Emma to see how Harriet is portrayed and dressed. I also want to look at Miss Bates, as I think she is much too well dressed in this latest version.

                • Aleko

                  I totally agree about Miss Bates. Her clothes all look brand spanking new; distressed to look a bit faded and frayed, perhaps the dye having run just a bit in the wash, they would have been great. Same with her feathers; we all know to our cost that feathers can so easily get knackered by accident, and soon start to look tired even if they don’t. And all that jewellery and a lovely expensive fan? Yes, the Bateses were once prosperous, but they have been strapped for cash for years now; no way would she not have sold such valuable items. And all that lace and gauzy neckwear was not only madly expensive to buy, but required very elaborate laundering and setting by specialist laundresses; so it cost money to wear, too.

                  • Roxana

                    Miss Bates might have kept a few pieces of finery from the old days To be trotted out on very special occasions but she shouldn’t be so dressy.

          • Ann

            The 2020 version of “Emma” depicts Harriet defiantly telling Emma that her father is a tradesman who makes galoshes. The fact that Emma invites Harriet to bring her father along for a visit is meant to show how much more broad-minded “Emma” has become over the course of the story. In the beginning, Emma makes a point of stressing that Harriet’s father must be a “gentleman” and implies that Harriet is too well-bred to marry a farmer. I think it is interesting that Jane Austen is considered prim by many readers. She actually seemed to understand the issues of illegitimacy, infidelity and the seduction of underage girls. For the daughter of a clergyman living in the countryside, she was surprisingly sophisticated.

            • Orian Hutton

              Having Harriet ‘defiantly telling Emma that her father is a tradesman who makes galoshes’ is yet another attempt to modernise Jane Austen and give her our sensibilities. Inviting the father for a visit just would not have happened for, if nothing else, it would have simply embarrassed the man and his family. Emma has more manners than to do something like that.

              Jane Austen didn’t just live in a small rural setting; she had well-to-do relatives and was related to the aristocracy. She often went to stay with her relatives, some quite well off, and lived in both Bath and Southampton. Four of her brothers went out into the world and would have written home about it, even if they could not visit. The family loved to read and talk. Of course, she would have understood the issues of illegitimacy, infidelity and the seduction of underage girls. In one of her letters, she tells her sister that she has actually seen an ‘adulteress’.
              But something people often ignore today is that her religion was very important to her and was at the core of her being. She may have known about these things, but that does not mean she would have approved. In that time, such things undermined the very society she lived in. She was neither rebelling against that society, nor her religion, but rather observing all the quirks in human nature that make people so interesting.
              It saddens me that today we cannot be broad-minded enough ourselves and accept Jane Austen’s world as it was. Modernising it does nothing to help us understand the past.

    • Jessalyn Wise

      Interestingly, since both the article and your comment mention it, the sixteen-year gap in age between Mr Knightley and Emma is never mentioned in the film, yet Johnny Flynn is 37, and Anya Taylor-Joy is (I think) 23. Which puts both of the actors right at the ages of the characters in the book, give or take a year or two for Taylor-Joy.

      • KMS

        Glad someone else mentioned it, because that’s exactly what I was coming to say! Poor Johnny Flynn–everyone saying he’s too young to play Knightley when he’s actually exactly the right age! In fact, he’s older than both Mark Strong (33) and Jeremy Northam (35) were when they played the role. I think casting two actors who are actually the correct ages actually nicely displays how the age gap between Knightley and Emma, while quite large, isn’t necessarily as big as people visualize.

        • Orian Hutton

          Just read this again and what do they mean when they say men didn’t wear underwear then. Male underwear of some form had been around for centuries. Tucking a shirt between your legs may have worked for some or those who couldn’t afford drawers, but it wouldn’t be very comfortable, nor would it be guaranteed to stay in place unless you sat around all day. Might work for Mr. Woodhouse, but not an active man like Mr. Knightley.

          • Aleko

            Yes, that’s way off beam. Drawers were certainly worn by middle and upper-class men; knee-length if wearing breeches and stockings, longer if wearing pantaloons. There’s a footed pair made of stockinette, dated c 1795, in the V&A. Stockinette, being more figure-hugging than linen or flannel, came in as the fashionably tight Regency outline developed, though the older materials continued in use. Underpants cut to fit under breeches were often called ‘breeches linings’; logical as they were the same shape as the breeches and functioned essentially as washable linings.

      • Aleko

        Actually, no. We know she has ‘the true hazle [sic] eye’, because Mrs Weston says so; but nothing else about her colouring does Austen vouchsafe.

  2. Kaite Fink

    Ooooh! I’ll have to go see it. I adore lotsa little details. Some you don’t even see without screenshots, but it really says something about the production that they take the time for the subtle bits any way. Though this time period of fashion would look horrid on me, I find it very interesting. Thanks for such a detailed review!

  3. Manja-Freyja Ingridsdotter

    I’m very excited to see this version, just for Miranda, as Miss Bates. Emma is my favourite Austen story, and character.
    Really like what you had to say about the film, now I’ve just got to find a cinema that’s closer than 200kms away, to see it.
    Thank you.

  4. Shashwat

    That red net dress from V&A was so pretty!The real one.It looked so perfectly modern,but I missed those horizontal bands in the movie.Without them,the skirt looks very cute but a bit plain,still very sleek.To be honest I had earlier scene that dress on Dreamstress and it took me a while to believe that it was really from the regency.As somebody who finds regency fashion unflattering on most people,the said dress looks like haute couture to me.
    Emma really surprised me with its costumes,considering who the designer was.

    • Gill

      It’s a lovely dress – I saw it only a few weeks ago. It’s French and from ~1810, so slightly off-period, arguably, but probably not enough to matter.

      • Roxana

        I’ve never been lucky enough to see the dress in person but I’ve admired photographs.

  5. Susan Pola Staples

    You made me want to actually pay money to see this in the theatre. I was going to wait for the DVD. More later gotta take my mom to md.

  6. Coco

    I saw it yesterday. The fabric shop was an interesting backdrop, but seemed too fancy for the town. I wondered, are Emma’s purchases singlehandedly keeping this place afloat?

    • Gill

      Fords is an important location in the novel, but has a rather broader range of stock – Frank buys gloves there, which you wouldn’t find in a dedicated fabric shop.

  7. Colleen

    I’m not a big fan of this. Typically I love all Austen movies, but this one was a big “no.” I suppose it’s because I find Anya Taylor-Joy extremely aggravating, and her roles seem to absorb her actual personality. Also, Knightley is ugly. He’s supposed to be considerably older than Emma, yet he looks like he is five years older, at the most.

  8. The Clown

    I think Johnny Flynn is old enough to play Mr. Knightley. He might not look it, but the man is 36.

    • Melanie

      Right? Jeremy Northam and Gwyneth Paltrow were 35 and 24 when they played Emma and Knightley. Johnny Flynn and Anya Taylor-Joy are 26 and 23. I don’t see a problem here.

      We’re so used to seeing actors paired with actresses 20 years younger that I think we have skewed perception about what age difference really looks like in a film.

        • Melanie

          Oh my word, Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong were even closer in age! 23 and 33. He has such a mature face, I thought he was in his forties. And Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller were 27 and 37! So ATJ and JF’s pairing is the most accurate in the last 30 years.

  9. Kristina

    The costumes look amazing and very accurate, but I have one question for anyone who has seen this movie: Does Mr. Knightley remark to Mrs. Weston that Emma is NOT “personally vain,” as he does in the book? I hope he doesn’t, because it sounds as though THIS Emma is too obsessed with her appearance for that to be believable.

    The same issue was present with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma, where she had those ridiculously complex hairdos and a new dress for practically every scene. IMO, the costumes in the Kate Beckinsale and Romola Garai versions are much better at getting across the idea that “[Emma’s] vanity lies another way.”

      • Kristina

        That’s strange. Alexandra Byrne’s comments about Emma always needing to make sure that she looks prettier than Harriet imply that Emma is very vain of her person. I don’t expect adaptations to be 100% faithful, but if you’re going to make changes like that, then the dialogue should be changed, too. IMO, in the book, Emma is very secure about her own appearance (which is why she’s able to be so taken with Harriet’s beauty, and is perfectly willing to praise Jane Fairfax’s complexion and Mrs. Elton’s dress), and doesn’t feel the need to compete with other women in that way. She IS jealous of Jane’s accomplishments and general elegance, though.

        That aside, the gowns and hair are truly excellent. I am impressed with the attention to detail. Colored “slips” under sheer white muslins were indeed common in the Regency, and they are hardly ever used in these productions. And, like them or not, the men’s sideburns are accurate to the late 1810s. At least no one has the scruffy stubble that we see in the BBC Sanditon.

        • Gill

          NOT BBC!!!!!!

          ITV, and Andrew Davis going all out to shock. (Can you tell I hated it?)

        • Marina Urazova

          Also, in the very end of the novel, when describing Emma’s wedding Jane Austen mentions that “the parties [Mr. Knightley and Emma] have no taste for finery or parade”, so Emma’s outfits are unlikely to be so very elaborate as they are shown in the movie. Emma’s taste is shown as opposite to that of Mrs. Elton. In this adaptation both women are way “over-trimmed”, Emma more so than Mrs. Elton.

    • Melissa

      A variation of the line was in the movie. Something like she isn’t as vain as she could be given how handsome she is. I can’t remember the actual wording. The way it was reworded made more sense in the film than if they used the original line

  10. susan l eiffert

    I agree with the other comments that the costumes and other historically accurate details are fantastic. I think about the best in a very very long time. It looks like no expense was spared. I didn’t feel there was a need for still another Emma, but there was a need for such lovely, appropriate costumes and hair. Thanks for your post Guys!

  11. Kathryn MacLennan

    Is the patchwork cardigan Harriet wears the same one Abbie Cornish wears in Bright Star?

  12. JO

    I just can’t handle that blonde shade on ATJ. It’s so at odds with her coloring that it grates. And the casting, with the exception of Miranda, just seems completely off. Won’t waste the money at the cinema, and doubt I’ll watch it later. Your great rundown of the costuming details is all I need (and honestly, all I’d watch the movie for anyway).

  13. Charity

    Something about the costumes bugged me and struck me as weird. Too much layering? The awkward-as-hell collars? I just kept staring at her clothes and thinking, “There is something wrong… but I have no idea what.” The tiny ringlets were distracting; Emma was at her most adorable when she had her hair in rag curls! (Which, btw, would not produce the ramin tiny ringlets.)

    This movie… I don’t know how I feel about it and it’s been two days since I’ve seen it. There were good things, bad things, confusing things (WHY the weird, really loud folk music / singing at odd moments / transitions?), and some stuff I just plain hated — like Knightley being made up to be as deeply unattractive (to me, I guess some of your commenters found him sexy?) as possible. I hated the haircut. Hated the styling of it. Hated the awful sideburns.

    Also, why did Knightley and Frank Churchill have the exact same color of coat? Was bright yellow ‘in’ that season or something?

    I thought the Eltons and Miss Bates were great. Frank wasn’t evil enough. Emma grew on me. I liked Knightley fine, but… sorry, been in love with Northam’s far more dashing and flirty Knightley for decades and that ain’t about to change.

    • Kendra

      I feel like Frank wasn’t DEVELOPED enough to be evil, or a real possible option for Emma, now that I think about it…

      • Charity

        Exactly. It took him an hour to show up and then the only ‘nasty’ thing he did was goad Emma on at the picnic; it never showed him leading her on in any way, it never showed him being mean to Jane, etc. He was… almost an afterthought.

  14. Nora

    Emma’s my favorite Austen book, so I knew I was bound to enjoy myself, but I was taken aback at just how beautiful the costumes and visuals were!

    In several scenes, Emma is wearing a pair of white elbow length gloves with scalloped edges. Does anyone know how period appropriate they are? (Accurate or not, I loved them!)

  15. Constance

    I greatly dislike Emma, as a book or movie. Hated her character too much to become invested. Would rather see a new Persuasion if they must keep doing this…

  16. Holley Anthony

    WHAT was going on with the way the men’s coats fastened with two buttons on a cord instead of properly buttoning? That looked very strange. The hats-with just a little more research could have been truly wonderful, I thought there were too many obviously modern trims and the colored straw was annoying. And some of them were awfully busy with too much trimming. And yes, the odd colors peeping out of the necklines were rather jarring. But overall- they did well with the clothing. Nice to see a REAL effort made and not just Halloween costumes.

    • Kendra

      Hmmm… I feel like I’ve seen the cord type closure on WOMEN’S 18th c. riding jackets — wondering if it’s an 18th c. thing? Or am I making this up?

      • Ruth Watkin

        I took note of that closure on the men’s jackets because I didn’t recognise it, then a few days later stumbled across it on a male fashion plate… wish I’d saved a link, because it appears it did exist, even if it wasn’t as common as the film makes out. I suppose it saves them from having to hand stitch a buttonhole.

  17. Gail

    I read – and saw a photo of – a Spencer from which the pink one was copied …. on exhibit in London, private textile collector

    Bear with, bear with
    (Miranda fan as well ….)

  18. Roxana

    My big problem is this Emma is my idea of Harriet, beautiful and blond. And Knightley would imo be a very fine Frank Churchill.

    • Kendra

      Good point, it’s been too long since I’ve read the novel. This Harriet is NO competition for Emma.

      • Roxana

        Knightley and Mrs. Weston have quite a little duet about Emma’s looks, her healthy we’ll set up figure and hazel eyes, but agree that she isn’t at all vain of her looks. Instead she admires her own social intelligence and skills as a manipulater, two points on which she is totally delusional. Emma admires Harriet’s blond ingenue beauty with the wholeheartedness of a woman who is totally secure. She also spins quite a little fantasy about Harriet being a gentleman’s little accident, if not a nobleman’s, a Cinderella who she, Emma the Great, will groom and put in her proper sphere.
        Harriet is not the sharpest knife in the drawer but she is quite bright enough to understand that her illegitimacy is a major social handicap, that she is quite lucky to be so well provided for, and that prying into her origins will bring her only pain. She is perfectly satisfied with her level and has found herself a fine man who loves her – until Emma comes along and turns her, Harriet’s, head with notions about a higher sphere and better match.

    • Gill

      That very old BBC version, with Doran Goodwin, had the perfect Harriet, in terms of looks – bubbly, almost frothy blonde hair, enormous blue eyes.

  19. Wendi

    I loved most of Emma’s costumes, especially the pink spencer. I did think some of the layered looks were off. Her footwear was great, and I liked almost all of her hats. I would have liked to have seen her wear more varied hairstyles. She only wore slight variations of the same style. I feel like someone who took such care with her clothes and accessories would also change up her hairstyle more.

    Miss Bates’s clothes (and home) seemed finer than I picture. When Mr. Knightley scolds Emma for being mean to her, specifically because she’s poor, that didn’t feel like something we had seen. And she kind of steps on his line about how Miss Bates used to be so special to Emma, and she has only greater poverty to look forward to. But I didn’t think her home and clothes portrayed that. I think she should have had fewer accessories and worn the same outfit more than once.

    Mr. Knightley did seem younger and scruffier than I picture him. I guess Jeremy Northam is still my favorite Knightley.

    Storywise, I will have to think over some of the choices that were made, to see if I ultimately agree with them. But I definitely don’t get the nosebleed; it really ruined that scene for me because it was so jarring. They didn’t really make it seem like Emma and Frank might be a couple. Not much Miss Bates compared to other versions, so we don’t see how ridiculous she is. Emma and Knightley are so clearly hot for each other at the ball that it doesn’t seem like she could be truly convinced he’s in love with Harriet. I’m not sure why we needed to see Knightley and Emma’s butts.

  20. Lee Jones

    Director de Wilde talked about wanting to emphasize how much Emma and Mr. Knightley were the same . . .

    The same what? Why did de Wilde have this need to ensure that Emma and Mr. Knightley’s costume choices were a reflection of them being . . . “the same”?

  21. Gill

    I loved many of the costumes – the back of Emma’s gold pelisse was wonderful, in particular. I did feel Harriet needed to be more of a stereotyped blonde, however – much more excessive hero-worship of Emma needed, too. I found it bizarrely hard to tell Knightley and Churchill apart; the latter should have had much more “town bronze” about his clothing, so darker coats, more shiny buttons, perhaps.

    I went expecting to have to restrain my mockery – I’m an Austen buff and there was a ten-year-old with us – but was pleasantly surprised by most of it, though I was sorry the strawberry picking was left out.

    There’s a yellow-gem cross Emma wears which looks to me like a replica of Austen’s own, given to her by a sailor brother, which was a touch I liked.

    • Roxana

      I remember Austen joking in her letters that her brother would never get ahead by spending his prize money on expensive gifts for his sister’s. It was really a very touching thing for him to do. He must have been missing Cassandra and Jane, or at least thinking about them a good deal.

  22. Stella van Ginkel

    I just saw this yesterday! The costumes were great, I feel like this production had a lot of fun with its time period, and that any weirdness resulted from them experimenting with fashionable Regency styles a bit too much rather than trying to make things ‘modern’ or ‘not too weird’. Still a lot of white dresses, but with so much fun embroidery and lace and a bunch of colored overlayers, so that was refreshing! I also liked the styled hair and many bonnets, and although I don’t like tights with ballet flats for men I have to give them props for not having them wear boots at parties :P The movie itself felt a bit too stylized for me, I felt like the 2009 miniseries got me a lot more invested in these characters, while this was more like a comedy where everyone is a bit of a caricature. I’ve never heard as many people laugh at a period piece as I did yesterday, lol! I understand why they did it in this way though, with so many existing adaptations it’s also commendable that they wanted to go in a different direction, I guess?

  23. Colleen Crosby

    The nosebleed was seriously weird. We had to have an immediate whispered conference to discuss how weird it was.

  24. Karen K.

    I did end up loving it, I would have gone to see it for Miranda Hart and Bill Nighy if nothing else (though I did find him a bit too fit and bouncy for Mr. Woodhouse — what was that jump down the stairs? NO.) I was surprised to learn Johnny Flynn is nearly the right age for Mr. Knightley (fun fact: he’s the younger brother of Jerome Flynn, Bronn from Game of Thrones).

    And that nosebleed was a real needle scratch. WTF

    I did not realize until this post that Mrs. Elton’s bow was her ACTUAL HAIR and nearly spit out my drink all over my laptop. Now I’m trying to figure out how they got it to set without hairspray. Glue? Egg whites? (I knew kids in the 80s who used Elmer’s to keep their mohawks in place).

    At any rate, I think I need to see it again and examine the details. Can’t wait for the DVD to come out so I can freeze-frame it.

  25. Roxana

    Johnny Flynn is very pretty and looks younger than he is. I do not picture Mr. Knightley as a pretty, pouting young man. On the other hand that’s exactly how I picture Frank Churchill!

    • Lee Jones

      I wouldn’t call him Johnny Flynn “pretty” or handsome. But he’s not a dog and he does look younger than his age.

  26. Kerry

    I just rented this on Apple TV.

    It looks really beautiful and I do like the costumes. But the tone of it is odd. As if it is going to turn into David Lynch does Jane Austen.

    I think the standouts were Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. A hale Woodhouse isn’t wrong. The character is needy and a hypochondriac. He has everyone catering to his every need and he likes it just fine. I thought Josh O’Connor was very funny as Mr. Elton. He got the smarmy social climber aspect just right.

    The others were ok. I suppose Taylor-Joy is one of the most accurate Emmas, personality wise. She has a different looking face which appears strangely alien at times. It kept distracting me.

    This is one where if I ever purchase it, I will watch it with the sound turned off just so I can admire the set design and the clothing.

  27. Andy

    I definitely picked up on the similarities in design to Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (which is one of my favourite movies, but I think the style was more suited to the Baroque/Rococo styles than to Regency fashion)
    And yes, Miranda Hart was awesome, as she is in everything.
    But aside form that I didn’t like this adaption too much. I have a nostalgic fondness of the numerous Austen adaptions from the early 2000s, so I prefer the 2009 mini-series in design, characterization and story adaption (of course a mini series has a lot more time to develop everything)
    And one thing I really hated was all those weird focus-shots on the servants and their reactions to the antics of the characters as if the director wanted to hit us over the head with some rather obvious statement about how servants didn’t have a very easy life (really? I would have never guessed).
    It’s even weirder since no servant even has a speaking part in the movie or the novel.

  28. Lisa Kilmer

    I agree with many of the comments, that some elements of the costuming were off. The first thing that jarred: Emma’s small, stiff ringlets were just wrong – stylistically they belong to the early Victorian era, as did Mrs. Elton’s big central bow. In addition, the curls were too crunchy. LBCC Historical Apothecary sells authentic hair setting “pomades” on Etsy, with photos of hair styled with them. The results are very firm but still soft-looking curls.

    I thought Emma’s wardrobe was also too elaborate, and the bright yellow outfit seemed anachronistic, but a look at Ackermann’s Repository Fashion Plates (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Ackermann%27s_Repository_of_Arts_-_fashion_plates) put those criticisms to rest. A little more research revealed that the strong yellow was “evening primrose” and it is seen in Ackermann’s mainly as an accessory color. The fashion plates did confirm that ringlets at the back of the head were not worn in the time period. And yes, the ladies should have worn long sleeves as daywear.

    Men, especially dandies, would have indeed worn tighter trousers, even knit ones. Lightweight leather (buckskin) trousers would have been put on wet so as to mold to the leg. Mr. Knightley wouldn’t have cared to be so fashionable, but his character would have had much neater hair.

    Miss Bates wore beautiful costumes but the character is supposed to be impoverished and wouldn’t have had so many ornate lace pieces. Wearing the same one over and over would have been more accurate.

    Here are some additional references:
    Article titled “Hierarchy and Seduction in Regency Fashion”

    Article about colors – https://www.janeausten.co.uk/colours-of-the-regency/

    Article about hair styles – https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/regency-hairstyles-and-their-accessories/

    • Orian Hutton

      I agree with you. The film mainly failed for me because of the characterisation, which the costuming didn’t help. Emma was a pert miss and her clothes more those of a London miss than someone living in a small Surrey village. Miss Bates was made to be ridiculous caricature and her clothing conveyed nothing of her straitened circumstances. But most of all I disliked Jonny Flynn’s portrayal of Mr. Knightley, perhaps simply because I just could not believe that Mr. Knightley would dress as anything other than a gentleman farmer; that extreme collar on a man famous for walking rather than using his carriage. The whole film was played for laughs (that ridiculous nosebleed) and showed only the most superficial understanding of Jane Austen’s writing. Grrrr!

  29. Lisa Kilmer

    The first spencer in this post looks like the inspiration for Emma’s pink spencer – https://stephaniesmart.wixsite.com/thehiddenwardrobe/post/chertsey-museum-fashion-collection-spencer-jackets

    The little ruffs worn in the movie were a late-Regency fashion for Tudor ruffs. All but one fashion plate or portrait (that I could find) show them worn as a collar for a chemisette (underblouse) – but one portrait shows it on bare skin like a choker, above the blouse. So, while it looks weird to us, it’s not inaccurate.

  30. Kitty

    The guy who plays Knightly is like 37 or 36 irl! Compared to a 22 year old Anya Taylor I think he is well old enough, even if he’s not the full 16 years he’s damn close.

  31. Damnitz

    You missed Mr. Martin, who was wearing strange shirts through the whole movie, although he should be a clever men etc. not a Gartenzwerg.

    I didn’t liked the clothes of Mr. Woodhouse eighter, which were looking more 1820s-1830s although he should be the oldest male person in the story. The D.Lawrence-version from 1996 did a very good job with Mr. Woodhouse as he is portrayed old fashioned but not too old fashioned to be belivable. His (very nice 1790s) wig in this film reflects his attempt to always have a warm head.

    The haircut of Mr. Frank Churchill in the 2020 film is just too modern and we would assume that he would have the most laborious hairstyle as everybody think that he is a dandy who went to his hairdresser in London which would make more sense if we would see him with great Attention to his hair. Mr. Darcy in 1995-P&P has the hairdo we would love on Frank Churchill.

    After looking the 1996 Version (naturally D.Lawrence’s film) yesterday I wonder why anybody should praise the 2020-film. Even the cast was great with the perfect Harriet Smith (Samantha Morton) and Miss Bates (Prunela Scales). Mrs. Weston was portrayed more conving too (by Samantha Bond) and Jane Fairfax (Olivia Williams!) too.

    Both films made Mr. Elton looking stupid by the strange neck covering. I would prefer to show him as stupid by his own actions (as David Bamber did it perfectly as Mr. Collins).

    I think that 2020 “Emma” is OK and the costumes are not too bad although there are some led downs. Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn however did a decent job. Lovely performance.

  32. Jonfeld

    The cardigan worn by Harriet is a costume from the film Bright Star designed by Janet Patterson.