You all — especially our Patreon supporters, whose requests we take very seriously! — have been asking for an in-depth review of The Duchess (2008) for a while now, but I’ll admit to being overwhelmed by the prospect. There’s a ton to unpack, both in terms of plot and character, but also in terms of costumes, costumes, costumes — designed by Michael O’Connor. Luckily Trystan came up with a great idea, which is that I discuss the film one costume at a time. So, here’s our series: The Duchess Deep Dive, in which I will go through the movie, one costume at a time, focusing on those worn by the principle female characters. I’ll be talking about the costume itself, as well as hair, makeup, and accessories, both how they work in the film and how they compare to real fashion of the 1770s-80s.
For a quick overview of what I thought of the film, you can check out my short review. At some point in this process, I’ll take some time out to talk about how well they got the history right or not.
Today’s post will be a quick one, since this is a quick scene and we don’t see a ton of the dresses. Georgiana plays cards with her mother and they discuss how marriage ain’t all it’s cracked up to be … Both mother and daughter are dressed very similarly, in gowns of very similar colors, showing how much they’re in tune with each other (for now).
Both Georgiana and Mom are wearing English nightgowns, a more accurate-to-the-period (1774) option than the robe à l’anglaise Georgiana wears in the proposal scene. The nightgown was a fitted-torso gown, and in this era, it had a V front opening for a stomacher and pleats that were sewn down in back:
Georgiana’s is made from a striped and floral fabric, which was super fashionable in this era and surprisingly close to this original:
Her cuffs seem a bit fashion-forward to me. Gathered cuffs like these are more typical of the later 1770s and 1780s.
She’d more likely be wearing elbow ruffles (aka “engageantes” in French) like these English ladies:
But I am excited to see the stitched-down back pleats that make this an English nightgown rather than it’s French successor, the anglaise:
That being said, I’m kind of confused by the pleats themselves, which more generally were in a wide V shape:
Here’s a shot of Georgiana’s dress on display, where you can see that beautiful trim more clearly AND the fact that it definite has a stomacher:
Mom’s dress is made from a subtly woven-patterned silk in a similar style:
She looks somewhat older due to her accessories, which were perfectly fashionable but make her more covered up than Georgiana in this scene. She’s got a lace fichu (neck kerchief):
And her cute little lace cap has hanging “lappets” or vertical lace strips:
Like this original:
Here’s Mom’s dress on display with Georgiana’s:
Stay tuned for more from The Duchess!