The book describes the dress as something that “stepped out of an [Jane] Austen movie,” meaning very Victorian; lots of lace, mounds of tulle and slightly overworked.
NO, IT BLOODY WELL DOES NOT MEAN THAT! Could you go learn some effing history, already? Jane Austen was NOT NOT NOT a Victorian! How many times do I have to tell you?! I may be slightly overworked at this time, but Austen’s clothes were not.
Whew. OK, calming down now. But clothes are important, my friends, really they are. Jane Austen and her beautifully warm and rational heroines wore simple, rational clothes. Victorian thought and Victorian clothes were lots more about emotion and repressions. It’s just a totally different world. Maybe we don’t think Regency clothes were simple and rational, but they did. We think a) They look good wet; and/or b) Boobs! but then so did they. No really. At least these days filmmakers can get the look of the clothes right, even if they miss on when those clothes would come off. (The pond scene . . . not so much. Sorry, everyone!)
Jane Austen said a lot about her characters through their clothes. Think of Lady Catherine, who “will not think less of you for being simply dressed. She likes to see the distinction of rank preserved.” Or think of Mrs. Elton, going on about her fancy new gown, but, oh, she has such a horror of being “fine!” (OK, maybe Bella will wear Mrs. Elton’s wedding dress. Poor girl.) We don’t think Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney are silly for talking about muslin, though maybe Henry talking about it is meant to show that Catherine and Mrs. Allen are silly. And I entirely sympathize with Catherine for thinking Henry looks so handsome in his greatcoat! But Isabella Thorpe reveals her scheming mind by plotting what she and Catherine will wear, and dear Mrs. Bennet shows her silliness when she’s crying to Mrs. Gardiner about all their troubles one minute and being cheered up by the news of “long sleeves” the next. And let’s not even get started about Miss Bingley’s rants about certain people’s muddy petticoats!
The moral of all these stories seems to be: you should look good, but not look like you thought about it much. Not like you tried too hard. And is that not the very essence of cool?
Image credit: Dolley Madison, c. 1804, by Gilbert Stuart.
Welcome to the seventh night of the Jane Austen Winter Olympics. These Games have already seen some tremendous moments. Who could forget the Short Track Speed Ice Contradancing, with Mr. Elton cutting off Miss Smith in the semifinals, and Mr. Knightley dramatic rescue bringing them both into the finals, before his triumphant gold-medal skate with Miss Woodhouse? Or Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s death-defying tricks and precise execution bringing home the gold in Women’s Conversational Half-Pipe? But I think it’s fair to say that NO event at these Games has received as much as attention as the Mothers’ Snowboard Cross. Four strong contenders on a course that’s already claimed a lot of matchmakers. Here’s Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Dick Button with the call. Mrs. Fitzpatick?
Thanks, Bob. Yes, we do have a very strong field in these finals. In the red jersey you see Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park. She’s a strong competitor, known for letting her temper get the better of her. Look for her to take the early lead in this race. Next to her in the blue jersey is Mrs. Bennet of Longbourne. I think it’s fair to say she wants this race as much as anyone here, and has trained so hard for it ever since her daughter Jane turned 15. She may want it too much, though. She just needs to lay down a nice smooth run, and keep her mouth shut. Bit of a tall order for her, eh Dick?
Indeed, Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Now a bit of a dark horse here is Lady Lucas of Lucas Lodge in the black jersey. We don’t know much about this competitor, except that she’s bold and may make a sudden move on the turns, so keep an eye out for her. And rounding out the field in the yellow jersey is Mrs. Gardiner of Longbourne. Now correct me if I’m wrong here, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, but isn’t Mrs. Gardiner originally from Gracechurch Street? Yet she’s competing here for Longbourne?
Yes, that’s right, Dick. Mrs. Gardiner’s own daughters are too young for her to compete for them, so she took Longbourne citizenship recently. A bit of luck for the Bennet girls: Mrs. Gardiner is a strong and wily competitor. She runs a very strategic race. And look for her to capitalize on the others’ mistakes. Bob?
Well, there you have it. Four mothers, all racing for the ultimate prize, an Olympic gold medal of a husband. We’ll be back after this.
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And now we’re back with the Mothers’ Snowboard Cross . . . and they’re on-course! This is for the gold!
Mrs. Bennet faltering in the rhythm section right of the bat, Dick, yet she manages to hold on. Will nothing shut that woman up? And . . . yes, Lady Catherine settles into an early lead with a nice line around the first turn. Her daughter’s weak and unattractive, so she needs to stay out front to avoid any sudden passes by the others. So it’s Lady Catherine in front, followed by Lady Lucas, then Mrs. Gardiner, and Mrs. Bennet bringing up the rear. I think she may have taken herself out of it, Dick!
Longbourne will have to rely on Mrs. Gardiner for now . . . Oh! Sudden burst of speed out of Lady Lucas on that jump—she almost collides with Lady Catherine, but they both stay on the course. And, yes, Mrs. Bennet’s having real trouble in the back—she caught an edge on that turn and went over. It’s all down to Mrs. Gardiner now . . . And, yes, she passes Lady Lucas easily on that turn, nice inside pass there, looks like Lady Lucas lost the pace a bit in her near collision . . . And now the racers can see the bottom of the course! Just a few big jumps and they’re through . . . Lady Catherine still holding her lead. . . OH, and a stunning upset! Lady Catherine flips off Miss Elizabeth in mid-air and misses her landing! Mrs. Gardiner sails in for a smooth gold medal! Here comes Lady Lucas for the silver, and LOOK, HERE COMES MRS. BENNET over the final jump! WHAT an unbelievable comeback!!! Will Lady Catherine get up in time? . . . NO, and it’s a photo finish between Lady Lucas and Mrs. Bennet for the silver! We’ll have to wait for the replay on that. And Lady Catherine is still down—looks like she may really be hurt, we’ll hear from the doctors later, but WHAT an amazing race! So it’s Mrs. Gardiner with the gold, and, yes, she’s choosing Mr. Darcy for Miss Elizabeth, and Mrs. Bennet sneaks past Lady Lucas for the silver . . . looks like she’ll pick up Mr. Bingley for Miss Bennet, no surprise there, and Lady Lucas with the bronze takes Mr. Collins for Miss Lucas. Lady Catherine took herself out of it, so no husband for Miss de Bourgh. Mrs. Fitzpatrick, your final thoughts on the race?
Well, Dick, I’m really impressed with the way Mrs. Bennet recovered from her early mistakes to snag a silver medal for her daughter. And Mrs. Gardiner’s handling of the course was superb overall. It can be so easy to let the other racers push you around, and she really avoided all that. She’s a class act, through and through. Overall an excellent day for the Longbourne family. And I think we’ll see both Longbourne ladies back on the circuit—there are plenty of Bennet daughters to go around! As for Lady Catherine, what can I say? She just did not respect the course and the other racers, and she’s paid for that. We’ll have to wait another four years to see whether Miss de Bourgh will ever get a husband. Bob?