Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A good dress gone WRONG

 
My favourite parts in books are the parts where the clothing is described. Well, one of my favourite parts, anyway. I also like the romantic bits and the action bits and chatty bits and the whatnot bits, but having said that, one can, I suppose, go back to the subject, so, as I already said, one of my very favourite bits are the clothing-description bits.
 
That last paragraph probably did not make any sense, but anyway, let's bash on.
 
I'm now reading 'The Grand Sophy' by Georgette Heyer (vastly entertaining, highly recommendable) and it has the most delicious dress-descriptions which I reread numerously. Things like: "an evening gown of pale-green crêpe, festooned at the bottom with rich silk trimming, and confined at the waist with a cord and tassels" and "a sprigged muslin with a blue sash" and - my favourite - "A gown of palest blue satin, embroidered all over with silken rosebuds, and knots of silver twist." Georgette Heyer has become a new favourite of mine ever since I read those descriptions!
 
In movies, however, we do not have this delight. There, we stare at the screen (do not mistake me, I like doing it:), look at the dress and there you go. That's the dress. There's no time for imagining how it would look like because it's right before you. It's only the person who designed the dress who has a say.
 
Really(!), movies are bad for our imaginations.

 
 
Anyhow - back to the subject-, if I could write a letter to the person who designed the dress of a character in a book who should be wearing the dress beautifully described in the book but wears - because of the person who designed the dress - a totally different one that doesn't look at all like the description in the book, my letter would probably be something like this:
 
Dear person who designed the dress,
I think, that the next time someone asks you to design a dress of a character who originally comes from a book, you should actually read the book before you even start thinking of dress-ideas, because you always get it wrong. I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but you do. It's simple - just read the book and follow the description in there and you'll make ever so much more viewers happy! The book probably has quite a few descriptions of how the writer wanted the dresses to be! I mean, it's not that I'm suggesting something silly, is it?! It's called book-accuracy!
Now, I understand why you want to design your own dresses. I mean, after all, no-one likes following instructions. Of course it's nicer to invent your own, new dresses, but PLEASE. Please, please, please. For the sake of all the bookworms in the world and all the viewers who have read the book, try to imitate the one in the book. Please.
Thank you (if you'll listen, because you probably won't.)
Love (if you listen), Naomi
 
It's so sad. I've never seen a movie where the dress looks like the description in book. Well, there might be a few - the barbecue dress in 'Gone with the Wind' was pretty well done, I must say. But it's very rare. Very rare indeed.
 
The worst case is Anne Shirley's first puffed-sleeved one. This is the description Lucy Montgomery spent ages writing (Well, she might not have spent ages writing it - I just said that to add emotion to my post. I didn't mean to lie.):

"Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was—a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves—they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon. "
 
And this, dear readers, is how the dress got designed in the movie:

Just look at her disappointed face. *Lydia-snort*
Where's the 'lovely, soft, brown Gloria'? Where's the 'gloss of silk'? Where's the skirt with dainty frills and shirrings'? Where are the elbow cuffs? Where are the two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon'? Have some compassion upon my poor nerves! Why, the only thing they listened to is 'a little riffle of filmy lace at the neck'!

 
 I drew this picture... trying to draw the dress how I imagine it to be and trying to stay as faithful as possible to Montgomery's description of it.
I say. The person who designed Anne's first puffed sleeves dress really, really, REALLY could have done a much better job. But this isn't the only dress which isn't faithful to the description in the book! There are others, sad as that fact may sound to you. Let's go on.

Even as a child I loved descriptions of dresses - especially if they were pink and had lots of ribbons. As some of you may know, I devoured the 'Little House on the Prairie' books when I was younger- and still do. (I love those books so much. Laura is amazing.) Laura was good enough to spend some time describing a lot of dresses!
 
The movie is nothing like the books - nothing - so it wouldn't really be fair to go pointing fingers about the dresses. But seriously, I love doing this, so I shall. After all, who takes the decisions here?
Laura's wedding dress, in the book is described as:
 
"They made a tight-fitting basque, pointed at the bottom back and front, lined with black cambric lining and boned with whalebones on every seam. It had a high collar of the cashmere. The sleeves were lined too. They were long and plain and beautifully fitted, with a little fullness at the top but tight at the wrist. A shirring around each armhole, in front, made a graceful fullness over the breast, that was taken up by darts below. Small round black buttons buttoned the basque straight down the front. The skirt just touched the floor all around. It fitted smoothly at the top, but was gored to fullness at the bottom. It was lined throughout with the cambric dress lining, and interlined with the crinoline from the bottom to as high as Laura's shoes. The bottom of the skirt and the linings were turned under and the raw edges covered with dress braid, which Laura hemmed down by hand on both edges, so that no stitches showed on the right side."
 
In the movie, Laura wears a grey-green dress with purple trimmings!
 
I hate it how Laura wears purple make-up under her eyes in the later series. Where is my Laura?
In this picture, Laura is wearing her real wedding dress - it's about five years after her wedding, but it's that dress (or so I've been told). Laura is the one standing behind Pa, with her hand on his shoulder.
 
 
(Just in case you want to know, the people in the picture are: Seated from left to right: Ma, Pa and Mary (who probably got a seat because she was blind),  And standing, from left to right, Carrie, Laura and Grace.) One day, I'm going to produce a very faithful-to-the-book 'Little House on the Prairie' TV series. And yes, Pa will have a beard. :) And I will be the dress designer. Naturally. (As if I'd trust anyone else!)
 
We must remain positive, however, and focus on the dresses they did do well. I'm delighted to tell you that I can think of two different movies who did a little 'listening'. In Wives and Daughters, we have Molly's exotic Scottish gown.
 
"Miss Rose persuaded her to order a gay-coloured, flimsy plaid silk, which she assured her was quite the latest fashion in London, and which Molly thought would please her father's Scotch blood. But when he saw the scrap which she had brought home as a pattern, he cried out that the plaid belonged to no clan in existence, and that Molly ought to have known this by instinct. It was too late to change it, however, for Miss Rose had promised to cut the dress out as soon as Molly had left her shop."
 
So pleased that they obeyed the book about Molly's bright flimsy plaid Scottish dress.

Scarlet O'Hara's green barbecue dress, is delightfully copied for the movie! Here you have some description snippits from the book:
 
"Her new green flowered-muslin dress spread its twelve yards of billowing material over her hoops and exactly matched the flat-heeled green morocco slippers her father had recently brought her from Atlanta. The dress set off to perfection the seventeen-inch waist, the smallest in three counties, and the tightly fitting basque..."
 
"It was not suitable for a barbecue, for it had only tiny puffed sleeves and the neck was low enough for a dancing dress.  But there was nothing else to do but wear it.  After all she was not ashamed of her neck and arms and bosom, even if it was not correct to show them in the morning."
 
"I can even tell you just how you were dressed, in a white dress covered with tiny green flowers and a white lace shawl about your shoulders.  You had on little green slippers with black lacings and an enormous leghorn hat with long green streamers."
 
They did it very well!
 
 
In the book, though, Scarlett also wears this dress in the opening scene - in the film she wears the gorgeous white ruffled one. They tried it with the green dress first, though, but they thought that they showed a little too much of it on screen so changed it to the white one for the first scene.
 
I'm delighted that they at least tried it out like it was in the book first, and I don't mind so much that they changed it. The white ruffled dress is too pretty to mind, right?
 
 
But there are other dresses whose description they ignored. They gave Scarlet this ghastly red dress (the picture will not appear on my blog) while the description is like this:
 
He was in her closet, going through her dresses swiftly.  He fumbled and drew out her new jade-green watered-silk dress.  It was cut low over the bosom and the skirt was draped back over an enormous bustle and on the bustle was a huge bunch of pink velvet roses."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter LIII
 
Enormous bustle with a huge bunch of pink velvet roses on it! I'd love to have seen that one on screen! Must have been quite something. Why did they swap it for some spangly red thing with ostrich feathers tumbling all over it?

And of course, the velvet curtain outfit is done very well. But I'm not excessively fond of this rather unflattering dress, so I shan't go into great depth. As I said, this is my blog, and it is I who take the decisions here. Heehee.


Margaret Mitchell has become one of my favourite writers ever since I read chapter five of Gone with the Wind - where she describes Scarlett's whole glorious pre-war wardrobe in voluminous detail. Sheer bliss! I could go on, copying snippets of those lovely descriptions but this post would get meters long. Joking, joking. I just don't want to bore you all. This rant-y post is probably making you a little sleepy already.

Don't worry. I'm stopping.

6 comments:

  1. My.thoughts.EXACTLY!!
    Anyway, I tagged you:) so have a look at my blog!

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  2. I love this blogpost - thanks for visiting to tell me about it. As I think you could tell, it was right up my street. I look forward to exploring your blog more.

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  3. This is epic, darling! Thoroughly enjoyed it. And I LOVE the drawings you made-- you're so good at that. :-)

    ~Em

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  4. Wonderful!!!!! XD I really enjoyed this post SO much (I'm on dad's phone as I am away) :D

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  5. Love it, Naomi dear! Clothes are my passion, and it has always been my dream to make the clothes for films! Your picture of Anne's dress was darling, and inspired me to draw my own (see, we inspire each other! :P). You have also reminded me I must get a move on reading 'Gone With the Wind'! :)

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