I have wanted to do a deep-dive review of Daniel Deronda (2002) because it’s an interesting story that’s well acted and has AMAZE-BALLS early 1870s costumes. But there are so many of those amaze-balls costumes that I’ve been daunted! I finally decided to get off my butt and do this, but the only way I’m going to be able to do it is to split things up into each of the four episodes, because there are Just That Many Costumes and they are almost all That Fabulous.
First, I’ll refer you to my incredibly short review for my thoughts on the plot:
We love the BBC! An adaptation of George Eliot’s novel, this is a dark story about selfishness (and unselfishness), domestic abuse, Judaism, and REALLY GOOD BUSTLE DRESSES. Set in the early 1870s, Romola Garai as Gwendolen Harleth has SUCH GOOD CLOTHES IT’S OUTSTANDING. Jodhi May is wonderful as Mira, and Hugh Dancy is cute and earnest and sweet.
Romola Garai plays the intelligent, beautiful, spoiled-yet-wanting-something-more Gwendolen. In this episode, she briefly meets Daniel Deronda (Hugh Dancy), the illegitimate son of a nobleman, while casino-ing somewhere on the continent. Back in England, she uses her wiles to get what she wants from her family, but it’s never good enough. She meets super rich, super ominous Henleigh Grandcourt (amazingly played by Hugh Bonneville) and has to make some tough decisions.
And now, onwards to the costumes, because that’s the thing to love here! The original novel was published in 1876, but I feel like the costumes are a bit earlier — 1872-74ish? — since they still have a bit of hoop going on. They were designed by Mike O’Neill (Love in a Cold Climate, The Last King, North & South, Elizabeth I, and Mansfield Park), who passed away last year.
Romola Garai said of working with O’Neill on this production,
“Mike’s artistry, ambition, use of colour and attention to detail” helped her find her character. “The intense weight, stifling tightness of the dresses, the feeling of being strangled by the most beautiful flowering shrub, taught me more about that character and her impossible prison than hours of rehearsals could have achieved. The extraordinary beauty and complexity of his vision for Gwendolen left a powerful impression on me: young and a bit lost in the industry and in need of inspiring and kind teachers” (Mike O’Neill: 1945-2018).
And now, let’s get into those costumes!
Gwendolen’s green afternoon dress worn for gambling. The hat is TOO chic!
Later we see a closeup in which you can see it’s intricately beaded in that weird wiggly pattern the Victorians loved.
I won’t be recapping the boys’ costumes, because zzzz, but let us pause to admire how super cute Hugh Dancy is, and how the starched collar only elevates him.
Moving in to a new house and wearing a loose traveling jacket.
I like all the angles.
At an evening party. We don’t see any more of this dress, which reads as too little-girl for her character.
Her Boring Redhead Friend wears a similar dress with fabulously big hair, although it’s hard to see against the backdrop.
A dress for laughing at proposals. Love the subtle contrasting colors and pleated bits.
The hair throughout is BIG and FABULOUS. Also lots of nice earrings!
The most we see of the back of that dress.
A simple, white, summery dress, and one of many cute little hats.
Boring Redhead Friend gets a polonaise (an 1870s tunic-y style). Her dress neckline is kind of frumpy.
But her hair! With silver swallow accent! Also note subtle stripes.
The scene that everyone dies over: the ladies competing at archery.
Gwendolen’s dress is a jacket-y number, with a wide sleeve. Note her little notebook and other accessories!
Note the lovely stripe layout.
We don’t see it much from the back, but note the buttons on the back skirting. Also, HER HAIR <3
The best I could do.
SUCH cute hats!
In which we meet Hugh Bonneville’s evil character. Never trust a guy with perfectly waved hair.
So many gorgeous gowns!
The ruching on the front dress is very Victorian Lampshade.
Boring Redhead Friend gets a gold stripey dress.
The fit is slightly wrinkly, but her friend is supposed to be awkward.
There’s a lot going on in this pink number!
Loose jackets for these two.
At the ball that evening, we discover Gwendolen’s jacket is removable and underneath she has an evening bodice. However, it also shows how Gwendolen’s family doesn’t have much money, because she’s having to do double duty.
Mom is always more late-1860s, but that fits her character. The two-colored fringe! Matching the piping on the parasol!
Henleigh has a mistress (Greta Scacchi) and some children, who will suffer if Gwendolen marries him. Again, love the subtle two-tone, and the collar on that bodice! This dress originally was made for Lady Audley’s Secret.
Flashback to gambling on the continent — Gwendolen pawns a necklace in a dumpy-colored dress.
Present day, she’s got a blue dress and lace collar/cuffs that was hard to get a good look at.
Mom is FULL HEAD DOILY.
Despondent about her life choices in a cream blouse and subtly-striped blue/purple skirt. This production does blouse/skirt combos really well.
This flashes by from far away, really can’t see much.
Another blouse/skirt combo, this time green. Love the black belt and neck ribbon.
Do you love Daniel Deronda‘s 1870s costumes as much as I do? Discuss!
I love the dresses in this series! I watched this so long ago that I admit to forgetting most of the plot, but I’m a fan of both Romola Garai and bustle dresses, so I remember enjoying the viewing.
I lurve this show so much, it’s sheer perfection. From Gwendolyn’s selfishness to her becoming a better caring person, to the subtle beauty of Mira (Jodhi May) and her quest for fame and homeland)and Hugh’s Daniel and Lord Granville’s (oops) villain. It’s got all: fashion with museum quality clothes (think Charles Frederick Worth 1872 Green ball gown at Met) designed by Mike O’Neill, Opera, A mother giving up her child (melodrama) and amazeballs costumes.
And the poignantly plight of the Jews.
I know this show best from when Kendra made a couple of striped outfits inspired by this show. I’m guessing that striped dress shows up in a later episode.
Yep! There will be pics galore!
Ok, need to watch this! grabby hands at all the dresses
I love, love, LOVE this miniseries. Gwendolyn is such a brat, she’s a delight to watch. Also, it handled the darker themes of the book (prejudice, abuse, etc) really well. AND IT’S GORGEOUS.
OMG, thank you! These costumes are gorgeous!
I’m POSITIVE that the archery scene costumes are closely based on/inspired by a reasonably famous 1872 painting by William Powell Frith called “The Fair Toxophilites” one of whom is wearing a similar red skirt/cream bodice/jacket combo….
I feel the need to watch this now – the costumes look amazing, and I’ve just realized that mum is played by Amanda Root, aka Anne Elliot in the 1995 Persuasion
Hooray! I’ve been hanging out for you to do a more detailed review of the dresses, as this has always been one of my top pics for most beautiful clothes. There are so so many amazing dresses and some gorgeous ones in the next few episodes!
This costuming is amazing. I love the red dress during the archery competition, and the small details like the notebook at her waist are spot-on. I missed the series when it was on, but I can see I’ll have to hunt it down.