Redesigning the Bethany Loring dress in The Tailor at Loring’s End

I’ve been resisting it for some time, but I think I really do need to redesign the dress in The Tailor at Loring’s End.

As I’ve mentioned, my big inspiration for the look of it was the green dress Keira Knightley wore in Atonement, specifically the long, straight silhouette and the hip swag. They don’t often these days design really iconic dresses for movies anymore—not like they did for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly —and I thought that was the only such example to come out of the movies in years. If this movie got made, I would want this dress to be iconic in that way, so that people remembered it and saw it as a tribute to that classic sort of costume design tradition. “The Bethany Loring dress, in cornflower blue, with lily shapes beaded on the bodice.” I was even pleased when I realized that what I was imagining was roughly appropriate for the 1930s, given that most of Tailor takes place in 1934.

imageWhat I hadn’t taken into account, however, was the fact that the other part of Tailor takes place back in 1917— and the dress was actually designed back then. Which made my mental image of it totally wrong for the era in which it was made. This frustrated me, as I was actually pretty attached to my mental image, but it was just too far off even for artistic license. I ignored it for a long time, as I didn’t want to deal. But now that I’m writing a treatment for Tailor, the problem jumps out at me again.

Fortunately, since writing it I’ve become a fan of things like Downton Abbey, which as given me more of an eye for the look and design style of 1910s gowns. I think I can reasonably translate my vision of the dress into something that wouldn’t look totally, utterly inconceivable for the time. Especially since the major design elements I’m imagining— a cowled overlay on the neckline, a beaded bodice, and the Atonement-inspired hip swag —all could be reasonably included on a 1910s evening dress.

Of course this is all a pretty minor thing. If the movie ever got made, even in my wildest dreams, an actual costume designer would be making those decisions instead of me. Still, the design elements are referenced in the script, and some of them are even plot-relevant. To a certain extent, there would be a need to interpret my vision. So I’m glad I’ve finally come around to the changes it would be necessary to make.

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