28 thoughts on “Costumes in Jane Eyre Movie & TV Adaptions

  1. At least it can be seen that there has been a steady progress in the costuming. I was trapped any years ago on an Atlantic sea crossing with a woman who was an expert on the Brontes, so I’m a bit gunshy to Bronte stories. But somebody out there really seems to love Jane.
    I note that most of the commentors on this thread are ladies. Be assured, that there are plenty of men who grotch and growl about sartorial misrepresentation, and especially so in regard to weapons and armour, but as much to clothing. “Vikings” has gotten some real heat for various infractions, but most for the Wessex soldiers wearing 15th century helmets! And, since I am a member of the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) community, I hear some choice barbs from the women who fight with steel weapons in real armour about the fantasy stuff that –C movies come up with.

  2. I will start with the caveat that I have seen very few of the other productions, but Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books, and my preferred version is the 2011 one. Fassbender was kindof unremarkable, but I like him so he gets a pass. I share Fukunaga’s prejudice against 30’s clothes as I ABHOR that period of dress, but I think they did it justice all the same and the early stuff looks well on screen. I adore the 40s clothes, the prints and the way they arranged them on the dresses, everything. I even really liked the flashback stucture!

    1. If you love the book, definitely dig around for the 1983 version — sure, it’s got the 1830s gowns, but it’s SO true to the book, it’s unbelievable :) I do like the costumes in the 2011 version, they’re quite lovely 1840s (which I agree, are generally more attractive than ’30s).

  3. 2011 version is the best by far, wasikowska’s delivery the truest to the book. one of the most gorgeously filmed movies of the last few years.

  4. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books ever. I know it technically has a Regency setting, but it’s impossible for me to picture that, since everyone acts in such an early Victorian way. Jane (to me, at least) wouldn’t be Jane without her 1840s poke bonnet and center-parted hair, straight out of a Ford Madox Brown drawing.

    1. Interesting, bec. the novel harkens back more to the 18th century & works like Pamela, in the genre of servant girl marrying the master of the house. Funny that more productions don’t use late 1700s costumes :)

      1. Well, I think it takes some 18th century themes and puts a unique early Victorian feminist filter on them, which is one reason why the book is so fascinating.

  5. I don’t know if we can take the timing to be the 1810s…Jane clearly says that the only dresses she owns are in grey and black, and that would be just plain absurd for the 1810s.

    1. Not at all. They might not be the height of fashion, but neither was Jane. Grey and black material and gowns were widely available and in existence.

  6. I have a major soft spot for the Timothy Dalton version. I didn’t expect it to work for me but I really loved it.

    I really liked the 2011 one though too. The costumes were lovely, Mia was a good Jane and I think Fassbender is the only Rochester I ever got hot and bothered over.

  7. I enjoyed a lot the 2011 movie, I found it so beautiful I wanted to watch again every moment. I loved the actors chemistry and found Jane and Rochester much more interesting, realistic and human than in the book although I may not remember it well as I read it many years ago. I remember the book gave me the feeling of some kind of an almost parodic drama. Everything seemed too much even absurd sometime (Jane’s suffering and bad luck, the wife locked in the castle, Rochester’s bad temper, St-John etc.). In this movie, the story and the characters seemed more subtle and I immediately bought the love story.

    I loved the costume as well. But I didn’t know the story shouldn’t take place neither in the 1840s nor in the 1830s. Should it take place in the 1810s or have I misunderstood? :s

    1. Yep, the novel’s text is set in 1810 or thereabouts, & no adaption has really noticed that. Odd, since Wuthering Heights has been set in most every year from the 1780s (correct) to the 1840s (incorrect), with no rhyme nor reason (watch for a post next week about that!). But Jane Eyre is so often in the 1830s-40s. Funny how movie/TV producers think.

      1. I see! Thank you! I definitely should read it again, I didn’t notice or remember this early time setting. As others said, maybe it’s because the atmosphere of the book, its story, plot, and the way of thinking of Jane feel more like early victorian than georgian… I don’t know. On the other hand, there was gothic novels in the 18th and early 19th century hum… I’d like to see a Jane Eyre adaptation set in the1810s to get a better idea (and to see if it feels awkward or not).

        I’m looking forward for the next post about Wuthering Heights :)

        1. Jane Eyre is definitely inspired by the gothic novels that started in the late 18th century :) I wrote my college thesis about the fairy & mythological references in the novel — Jane is always called “fae” & such, she’s labeled otherworldly throughout the book. That, plus the plot coincidences, Rochester’s temper, the ‘madwoman in the attic,’ all are very gothic tropes!

      2. It’s amazing that none of the adaptions have realised when the book was supposed to be set, considering that it is narrated from the perspective of someone speaking of a few decades earlier in their past, with several references to “in those days” customs! I personally think the descriptions of Adele’s clothes match what was fashionable for little girls starting in the late 1810s or early 20s, so that’s when I think of the story as taking place.

  8. My library has the Dalton version available on vhs, and it is well worth the time to watch it. It is my #1fav with Toby Stephens a close second.

  9. I never saw the point in complaining about all of the actresses who have portrayed Jane Eyre. All of them were very attractive looking women. And with the exception of George C. Scott, who had a memorable looking face, all of the actors who portrayed Rochester were pretty good looking guys.

  10. Oh dear, I didn’t like the 2011 version at all, and I actually really like Mia Wasikowska, or at least want to like her. I think she has such a unique look. She’s so undeniably pretty without being your regular Hollywood hottie. She somehow looks so mysterious, so far away and different despite her regular features. And yet, I often find her acting so insipid. I’ve seen her in four roles (as Alice, as Jane, in Crimson Peak and in that artsy vampire film) and the only one where she seemed to attempt at some distinct facial expressions seemed to be the last one. And Fassbender seemed to pass over all of Rochester’s charm and put all the emphasis on his bitter and overbearing side, making you wonder why Jane likes him at all. And Jane herself came across as irritable and snappish. Perhaps the script writing was to blame for most of this, since it seems that for some reason they chose to omit most of the couple’s early positive interaction. The costumes and settings were indeed gorgeous, but most of this particular story’s charm comes from the relationship between Jane and Rochester, I think, so when their chemistry is off everything seems off. Sorry about the rant. This is my personal opinion, obviously, I don’t mean to give any offense.

    I find the 2006 version much better. Ruth Wilson is a brilliant actress, and Toby Stephens is truly charming (though perhaps a bit too goofy for Rochester).

    1. Agreed. The 2011 was a close, but no cigar, version (not terrible, just not quite as good as it could have been), while the 2006 hewed closer to the novel with the acting and the costumes.

    2. Not a costume expert, so not going to comment on that. 1983 was my favorite version (and I have every mini-series or movie length version), but 1973 (Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston) is my favorite for the acting. It’s a shade less complete than the 1983 version, but nothing important left out except for Rosamond Oliver and the dialogue is lifted straight from the novel. Michael Jayston is not your dark-eyed Rochester, but he conveys a huge amount of feeling with a mere glance and is not a conventionally handsome man. A signature moment is his glance and inflection when he is reviewing Jane’s portfolio and asks as much to himself as to Jane, “Where did you see — Latmos?” At that moment you realize that this man has just registered the hidden passions in Jane’s subconscious and recognized a kindred spirit. Some Janes have been too stiff. Sorcha Cusack plays Jane with appropriate propriety, but as a Jane who is thoroughly engaged in her conversations with Rochester. She is far from conventionally pretty, but has huge otherworldly expressive eyes. Unlike some versions, the chemistry between the two is obvious from the beginning. Stephanie Beacham makes a great Blanche as well. This is out-of -print after being out on DVD from Acorn Media for a couple years, but there are some copies floating around on Ebay and other sites.

  11. My problems with the 2011 adaptation was Michael Fassbender. I think he is a great actor, but for some reason, I found his portrayal of Edward Rochester to be rather mixed. I was more impressed with Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Jane.

    I would have ranked the 1973 version with 3 out of 5 governesses. Jane’s voice over was a pain in my ass.

  12. i had no idea there were so many adaptations, thanks for this post:)
    Ad Fukunaga’s statement, i think it’s more of an opinion rather than prejudice – i mean we all have certain period fashions that we hate/love, and since you yourself wrote that the costumes under his lead weren’t the worst, i’d say he’s pretty much redeemed

  13. Sorry, but the first thing I saw in the 1973 version screenshot was that awful avocado-green chair! Costumes look great, but how 1970s!

  14. I can never understand the fascination for ’06. Toby Stephens is not brooding or Byronic at all. He smiles constantly and annoyingly, and they throw all the gorgeous dialogue out the window to give us Mr. Eshton’s theories on twins, ouija boards, and beetle catching. I know why people like it–that bedroom scene–but it’s a fanfic version of Jane Eyre. The second she gets into bed with Rochester, she’s no longer Jane Eyre.

    My favorite filmed version is ’11, I think Fassbender is near perfect and Mia is luminous in all that candlelight. It’s always difficult to capture the story in a film, but all the right notes are hit here and even though they leave out a large part of the ending, I still think it incredibly romantic.

    As for the miniseries, ’83 is by far the best, with Timothy Dalton being the perfect Rochester. Zelah Clarke is tiny next to him, so her age isn’t as much of a concern for me. I also love the ’73 version with Michael Jayston, I think he does a very different take on Rochester that, while perhaps a bit less broody, still shows him to be a man with a terrible secret who is barely managing to keep it all together. And we get to see him singing! I love them both for different reasons.

    The Colin Clive version is so reprehensibly awful that it beggars belief and therefore should be seen by everyone.

  15. My reaction is rather late, but your dating of Jane Eyre is mistaken, and the movies showing later fashions are right.

    The new edition of Marmion given to Jane is not the large and very expensive (1 guinea) first edition from 1808. It’s the re-edited Magnum Opus edition from 1834, the first affordable and widely read version of Marmion.

    This is further confirmed by Adela’s crossing of the Channel. She came by steamboat: “a great ship with a chimney that smoked”.
    Steamboats weren’t used for the Channel crossing until the mid 1820’s (earlier versions simply weren’t seaworthy enough), so Adela’s steamboat crossing simply cannot have happened around 1810.

    Orson Welles was right when he dated Jane Eyre to the second half of the 1830’s. John Sutherland has a very good argument for this dating in “Can Jane Eyre be happy?”

    I hope this helps you enjoy the movies more!

    1. I agree with you about the dating: a few more important points to consider — Britain and France were at war until Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo — so no Englishmen sampling the dubious delights of Paris until after that. Also, Rochester sees Celine with her lover by gaslight — something that happens about seven years before Jane enters his life. 1830s sounds about right when you think about this.

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