Reposting this, now that I’m in Earnest… 🙂


Bob Crowley | designed for “The Importance of Being Earnest” | c. 1993


This costume was designed by Bob Crowley for Maggie Smith as Lady Bracknell in 1993. Stage costumes are not just beautiful in themselves, but give signals, not just about period, but about the character wearing the costume.

The setting is 1895, and this costume at first glance is a simple translation of historical dress, with tailored jacket and leg-of-mutton sleeves balanced by the width of the skirt. The resulting upright posture implies confidence and self-possession – both notable traits of Lady Bracknell. However, the designer touch comes in the exaggerated shoulder-line achieved not just by the width of the sleeves, but the wide lapels; they created a monumental feel, which is not one whit contradicted by the diagonal stripes at the waist, which, in another costume, would emphasise the smallness of the waist and hence fragility and femininity. The costume calls to mind the power-dressing of the 1980s, which became fashionable during Mrs Thatcher’s term as Prime Minister, although it may be fanciful to see the ‘Iron Lady’ also reflected in the dark grey satin. The huge, plumed hat, adds to the upright structure and the impression of iron will and determination that are part of Lady Bracknell’s formidable character. V&A Museum


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