When it comes to wet shirts from the Regency era, there is no contest.
In the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice, a sex symbol was indelibly etched in the minds of romantics, when Colin Firth, playing the lead role of Mr. Darcy, emerged wet, but fully clothed, from a swim in a lake. As he unexpectedly met Elizabeth Bennet (played by Jennifer Ehle), the dynamic between the misunderstanding-prone but soon-to-be-substantially transformed couple. The star of the scene was, undoubtedly, neither Firth nor Ehle, but Mr. Darcy’s semi-transparent, soaked white shirt.
Now Janeites have the opportunity to see the exhibit’s iconic costume item”Jane Austen undressed» opening on Saturday March 26. The show, at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire, England, examines the role of clothing in the author’s works and their continuing legacy.
The white shirt, which will be displayed dry, should be a major draw. “I think people will be delighted to see it in the flesh and I hope no one comes up and kisses it,” said Sophie Reynolds, curator of the exhibition. Guardian. “As a 30-something I’m excited, I have to say. Most women of my generation seem to be Pride and Prejudice Fans. The BBC version really converted a whole generation, especially young women, to Jane Austen. » The shirt has certainly inspired fervor over the years: in 2013, a mysterious and monumental statue of Mr. Darcy in his white shirt appeared right in the middle of the Serpentine in Hyde Park.
Today, the famous Regency men’s dipped shirt is a new moment of cultural appreciation; in the just-released second season of Bridgerton by Shonda Rhimes, Lord Anthony Bridgerton (Johnathan Bailey) recreates what can only be an homage to the original Pride and Prejudice lake scene.
However, Austen purists might consider snubbing the shirt. The romantic encounter after swimming was not part of Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice text, but was a cinematic invention of screenwriter Andrew Davies, who adapted the novel for the home screen. The scene can be read as significant character development for Mr. Darcy, sometimes suffocating, as he sheds social conventions to embrace a truer self.
Even so, Darcy’s shirt is the main draw of the Austen House exhibit, which will also feature a wider range of Austen-related historical and cinematic clothing. A section of the exhibit will delve into the intricacies of Regency-era women’s undergarments, with chemises, chemises, underwires and petticoats aplenty. Another will feature costumes from the big screen, including a stay – a boned, laced bodice worn under dresses – worn by Anya Taylor-Joy in the 2020 film adaptation of Emma.
To follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive breaking news, revealing interviews and incisive reviews that move the conversation forward.