Peckover House in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire is currently hosting Austen Attired, an exhibition of costumes from various Austen TV and Film adaptations, and the exhibition runs until the end of the month. If you can possibly get to it ,then do! I was kindly given permission by the National Trust and CosProp ,the owners of the costumes, to go there and take photographs to share with you and entice you to come to the Fens to see both the costumes, the house and its magnificent gardens.
The costumes are dotted around the building, so let’s begin our virtual tour of them and the house…..Do note that all my photographs were taken at Peckover House and Garden, owned by the National Trust. The Costumes are the property of CosProp Ltd.
The fisst costume is to be found in the magnificent staircase hall. It is the riding habit as worn by Billie Piper in ITV’s production of Mansfield Park (2007)
This riding habit was designed especially for the production by Mike O’Neill, who also designed the costumes for the BBC’s recent adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North And South.
It was decided to reflect Fanny’s lowly status by giving Fanny’s costumes a “hand-me-down” feel and to make her clothes in cotton and wool and in dull colours to contrast with the more fashionably attired Bertram sisters.
This riding habit was based on designs of the 1790s and would have been out of fashion by the time of publication of the novel(1814)
On into the Dining Room,where three costumes from Emma Thompson and Ang Lee’s marvellous adaptation of Sense and Sensibility were on show.
A selection of costumes worn by Elinor, Margaret and Marianne Dashwood…
The first a very simple dress and apron which was worn by Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood: this is worn by her throught-out the film until the point where she is finally assured of Edward Ferrars’ affections.
I adored the way the apron was attached by two tiny fabric covered buttons….
The mourning cape of lace worn by Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood was a sign that the Dashwood ladies would still have been in mourning for Mr Dashwood….
Here it is, together with the silk dress, as worn by Kate Winslet in the film.
The small reticule was beautifully finished…..
Margaret Dashwood’s dress was also simply delicious…
Next to the Library where two of the most magnificent costumes were on show: the wedding attire of Colonel and Mrs Brandon
Colonel Brandon is resplendent in his regimentals…..but it was his wife’s attire that was so wonderful when seen in close-up. The outfit consisted of a one piece cream dress made of mesh fabric with a straw work standing collar and long trained skirt bordered with open work straw braid, and heavy gold and silver beading.
All worn over a cream gauze underskirt studded with tiny silver stars. Exquisite.
The dress was designed to be symbolic of the happy marriage now commencing for both Brandon and Marianne. The dress has the sparkle and joy of someone entering a new life in which she is confident and which is based on love. The use of straw work was to represent fecundity- wheat being a fertility symbol.
A lace bonnet trimmed with tiny white flowers completes her ensemble.
The regimentals were very fine……
And even Colonel Brandon’s fob seal of intaglio carved citrine was included.
Next onto the magnificent drawing room with its very elaborate carved Rococo mirror where we encountered a costume worn by Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
These costumes were designed by Dinah Collin who was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume for a Min-Series for her work on the adaptation.
I have always adored the detailing on this pale duck egg blue spencer….
Dinah Collins made the decision to give each character their own “wardrobe ” of clothes which coud be mixed and matched throughout the scenes in the adaptation
Sadly the blue colour has faded slighty (the adaptation did have problems with colour fastness didn’t it?!)
The delightful straw bonnet was worn by Elizabeth in many scenes but most especially during The Second Proposal.
Upstairs via the magnificent plaster decorations of the staircase hall to the Bedroom: here we encountered a costume from Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow…
It was designed by Ruth Myers, and is made of white patterned voile over pale green silk, with a green silk bow at the centre front …
and a narrow braid at the neckline.
The sleeves were also prettily gathered along the side seam.
And here ended the costume exhbit..but that is not all Peckover House has to offer. The remaining rooms in the house are fascinating many with information/learning aids that are there to be touched and played with.We enjoyed examining in great detail the proddy rug in the servants hall…And then there are the magnificent gardens..
Two acres of them…with rose gardens
Borders designed by Graham Stuart Thomas….
..and magical bowers…..
…and a wonderful cafe in the Old Barn which would not be out of place on the fifth floor of Harvey Nichols(one of my favorite watering spots ever).
The welcome to be found at Peckover House is also execptional. The Room Stewards offer everyone the greatest and most friendliest welcomes I have ever encountered in a National Trust proeprty.Especial mention ought to be made of the gentleman who welcomes you to the house- he was perfect, genial and ttruly welcoming. And Ben Ricketts, the House and Visitor Services Manager, was kindness itself. And it was all such fun. Do go if you can: you will have a wonderful time. With or without the costumes….