If you were female and born between the years of the late 1960s and early 1980s, you probably remember the film, Lady Jane. Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes star in the screen adaptation of the last year or so of the life of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen of England. And if you were teenage me, in particular, you probably identified heavily with the highly ideological teenage protagonist and her stubborn feminism as she tried to exert Agency(TM) over her life while being forced into marriage with a totally hot blond who enjoys all the trappings of The Patriarchy(TM) and yet, somehow, the two fall in love and come to deeply respect one another before both die tragic deaths. You know, the kind of love story a budding intellectual feminist teenager dreams of.
Anyway, on to the costumes.
I think the costuming holds up, almost 30 years later. Surprising for this era, since a lot of film costuming from the 80s looks dated now (Amadeus, anyone?). There are a few incongruous costumes for the era, particularly with regards to the wedding outfits (which I discuss below), and some WTF headgear on some of the supporting actresses, but overall, Lady Jane is a solid 7 or 8 out of 10 on the film costume accuracy scale. The costumers are Sue Blane, who is best known for her work on Rocky Horror Picture Show, and David Perry, whose major screen achievement seems to be Alien 3 (he appears to have died young, in 1995). The IMDB credits don’t distinguish between who designed what, or if one was an assistant to the other, so I’ll just treat them as a single unit.
Frances Grey, Jane’s mother
Jane’s mother, Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, is TOTALLY the Evil Queen in this fairytale. Played by Sara Kestleman, Frances is seethingly ambitious and absolutely willing to throw her daughter under the bus in order to get ahead. The sad thing, of course, is that in real life, Frances actually did wash her hands of her daughter after Jane was overthrown by Mary’s forces and was very quick to throw herself on the new Queen’s mercy the moment her husband and child are hauled off to the Tower for treason. Frances goes on to live a comfortable life, enjoying the favor of Mary I. Someone should really write a biography of Frances and Mary, because they are such an interesting duo. One can only speculate that Mary spared Frances out of sentimentalism, something Mary was known for, since they were first cousins and Mary had a soft spot for charity cases.
This particular outfit of the Marchioness’ is notable because in the beating scene, she removes her doublet to show a pair of stays underneath.
Those of you who are familiar with 16th century patterns will likely recognize the entire ensemble is straight out of Janet Arnold and, by extension, Alcega. The stays are similar in shape to the Dorothea bodies, and the skirt and farthingale underneath are definitely the shape you get when you enlarge Alcega’s patterns for both.
OMG, I love love love the costume worn by Jane Lapotaire as Princess Mary. I wish there were better screencaps of her costumes out there, because my crappy screencaps off YouTube don’t do this outfit justice.
The costumers are clearly adept at interpreting the correct silhouette on the actress, adapted from this famous portrait of Antonis Mor of Mary I:
Jane’s Blue Dress
Most of the movie has Jane in various black or dark gray outfits (because she’s goth! Er, serious!) but when she starts to open up to Guilford, she is shown wearing a slate blue gown. Overall, it’s a good fit and cut, but the sleeves are either Italian from a generation earlier, or German, from a generation later. I can’t figure out which, but it’s a cute dress, so I’m not going to freak out about it. Here’s a run down of most of Jane’s looks in the movie:
The Wedding Outfits
Jane’s wedding dress actually comes across on screen as a pretty spectacular piece of clothing, but you can see in the stills that it is almost entirely made of gold lamé. Dudley’s wedding suit, on the other hand, is made of silk damask and lined in silk satin, with fanciful beaded appliqués on the revers of the coat.
And finally, I wish I had a clearer shot of the wedding party, because all this lamé is fabulous:
So, now that you’ve been reacquainted with the costumes in Lady Jane, what do you think?
Heh, I never noticed all the lamé. Now I want to rewatch the flick, bec. *of course* this was significant for me!
We should podcast it! Maybe for November? A good dreary film for a dreary winter month…
Not too dreary — cute lil’ baby Cary Elwes & manly Patrick Stewart (Dad! good cop!) liven things up a bit.
Been a very long time since I have watch this. Like 20 years ago. Might have to watch it for the costumes.
PLEASE podcast this one!
Re the photo of Jane of the Aristocracy about to be beheaded. At first I thought the dude in the background was Jeremy Corbyn. Coincidence?
Sue Blane and David Perry were senior wardrobe staff at the RSC when I worked there – David mainly supervised the men’s department, Sue was over all. They worked with Trevor Nunn when he was in charge there. Sara Kestelman and many of the rest of the cast were also at the RSC when I was – weren’t they lucky!
LOVED this movie passionately. Watched it a few years ago and it struck me as….melodramatic? Just a tad. Probably all the swelling choruses of angels during certain moments. I’d love for you to podcast this – I always thought poor baby Helena looked like she was playing dress up in her mother’s clothes.
Oh yeah, JUST a tad!
I like the opening hunting scene the best. And Patrick Stewart gets to be a real ass- based a Ren Faire character around it. :-)
The movie had me at the scene where Patrick Stewart is interacting with his two gorgeous Irish Wolfhounds in the presence of Lady Frances and Northumberland, right before they spring the marriage proposal on Jane. But the rest of the movie is quite compelling, and so sad.
I fell in love with Lady Jane Grey because of this film and proceeded to devour every book about her I could find. Thank you for recapping.