19 thoughts on “TBT: The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

  1. Love the costumes. But I fell that most of Henry James’ novels are propaganda for the patriarchy and/or depressing. I missed this one and might watch it for the gorgeous costumes.

  2. I have not suffered through Portrait of a Lady for the costumes, but now I think I want to!

  3. I haven’t seen this since I was … fifteen? Sixteen? I have only two memories about it — the costumes were beautiful, and isn’t there this weird modern scene just randomly shoved into the film? Or was I hallucinating?

    1. Yes – the film starts with a bunch of modern girls ruminating on their first kiss in a woodsy area! It screams ‘Lilith Fair’ to me. I’m sure it was meant to be relatable, & y’all know how we feel about that LOL.

  4. Is it just me, or does Isabel look like a vampire in the dark post-marriage outfits?

  5. I thought the costumes were lovely but I hated the film with a passion. The only Jane Campion film I’ve liked has been Bright Star with Ben Whishaw as Keats.

    1. “Bright Star” was lovely. This looks thoroughly morose, but lordy, lordy, those dresses–that beading and embroidery! Why didn’t Nicole contrive to push him off a bridge, so she and Pansy could live in peace with their wardrobes? (And why didn’t she stop tinkering with her physical self? She looks air-brushed these days; it’s creepy.)

  6. Agreed, OMG AMAZING COSTUMES and such a depressing film. I imprinted on the scene of Isabel and Madame Merle walking in the rain, and someday NEED TO RECREATE THAT MOMENT in a bustle gown and in an English garden.

  7. Henry James, ugh. I have had multiple arguments with a male friend re Henry James — my friend thought James was so insightful about women (why yes, he never had a female partner). My opinion is that James knew nothing about women — they are all suffering dolls with which James plays. I stay away from all books, films, etc. involving James (except snarky articles like this one).

  8. Could Suffragette (2015) be considered for the Beautiful but Depressing Column?

    1. I have a little terminology question thays been confusing me for a little while. Earlier in this post and also in the “age of innocence” review you refer to Natural Form bustle dresses and all the research I’ve done has lead me to understand that the focal point of the natural form era was that fashion eschewed the bustle for a few years. I’m not an expert so maybe someone can help clear this up?

      1. It’s a shorthand – anything that brings focus to the rear of a gown with draperies, trims, etc. tends to get called “bustle” whether or not there’s a foundation garment underneath.

        Fashion terms are not precise! This is one thing that 20th/21st c. folks get more hung-up on than ppl in the past did. It’s not like science where there are a genus & species & such for every single item ;)

        1. Like how the terms corset and stays were essentially interchangeable, but today they’re used separately to distinguish what silhouette the garment in question produces?

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