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.
This is going to be a catch-up post so we can get to some more key costumes — specifically, next will be the ball scene with the huge Marge Simpson hair.
Georgiana was pregnant, and now she’s had her first baby — nine years after marrying the duke. It’s 1783, and it’s a girl! Mom arrives to meet the new baby, wearing a hooded cloak:
She’s got a “pouf” or “bonnet” cap, with lappets of lace (the hanging bits), in back. The pouf or bonnet — ok, those are the French terms — was a puffy cap, usually made in a white sheer silk gauze fabric (what today we would call silk organza), that was meant to suggest a turban effect.
Underneath, she’s wearing what might be a rewear of her marriage ain’t all it’s cracked up to be dress — either a robe à la française or anglaise. We really don’t see enough of it to be certain, but I’m pretty sure it’s a rewear. It’s definitely in her warm, brown, maternal color story:
Georgiana is wearing a pet-en-l’air or short sack, the knee-length, jacket version of the robe à la française:
It’s made of a beautiful striped and floral brocaded fabric — this style is SO spot-on for the period, and I can vouch that it’s incredibly hard to find nowadays.
Here’s two very similar fabric closeups of period gowns:
Her hair is in a low arrangement, with some curls on the back of the head and hanging ringlets.
The maid is dressed relatively simply, although she has some height to her hair. She’s got a frilled cap and a pinner or bib apron:
The maid looks relatively similar to these two servants from the French Gallerie des Modes:
This apron style is called “bib” because it has a bodice covering, and “pinner” because the two top corners of that bib are pinned to the gown or jacket:
We jump forward in time to a few years after 1785, when Georgiana has had ANOTHER daughter (the Duke is, of course, crankily waiting on a son) — that’s three along with her adopted daughter. We only get a quick glimpse:
The reason I include this (besides general cuteness) is the “bonnet” cap of the girl on the left (Harriet?). It’s such a GREAT version of the style of day cap worn in the period, which you hardly ever see on screen. Compare its square shape, cut, and trim to these:
Side note, I feel it is important for you to know there was a Marmot Hairstyle:
And a quick glimpse of Georgiana, in which I mostly notice the fabulous trimmings on the hat:
I THINK this may be this nightgown or robe à l’anglaise worn retroussé, which was displayed in one of the many exhibitions of the film’s costumes. I’m wondering if we may see it again? If so, I’ll get more in-depth when we do:
Stay tuned for some BIG hair next time!