27 thoughts on “Wives & Daughters Week pt. 3: Molly’s Costumes

  1. I enjoyed seeing Molly mature into a grown and intelligent woman. I feel the designer, Ms Clancy, used Molly’s costumes to reveal this journey. My favourite is the one at the Towers ball gown & the day dress. But most of all ***spoiler alert**** was what she wore with Roger in…

  2. The jumper question is very interesting. I can kind of see how such a design might carry on beyond the early 1800s/1810s particularly as it was such a practical style. Nancy Bradfield did draw a girl’s stockingette overdress which is almost a jumper, but more of a pinafore really, from the late 1820s. I remember she also showed a study from a painting of a girl wearing a similar garment but can’t remember which painting, it was from a family group portrait….

        1. I ended up having to take a photo of Nancy Bradfield’s drawing as I couldn’t track down an image of the actual painting online. She was a very accurate draughtswoman who I’ve found to be VERY meticulous, but I would of course prefer to see the original painting…. and clearly it is a young girl/teenager, but you do see the long sleeved habit shirt under the “jumper”


          1. Definitely a strong possibility (and yes, bradford’s drawings are very reliable). I think the main difference is that none of these show the “blouse” other than the sleeves. The W&D jumpers are lower cut in front to show the blouse. Everything we’ve both found seems like a sleeveless dress (with, presumably, sheer sleeves or under sleeves).

  3. I loved Molly in the simple but elegant white dress she wore at the charity ball. Her natural honesty and practicality are best shown in her simpler gowns.

  4. I always took the Hamleys reaction to Molly’s plaid dress as a particularly well done demonstration of the nuances in the relationship(s) between fashion(ability) and class in England. That relationship was not a straightforward, linear one from one end of the social spectrum to the other. There was a long tradition of the gentry deliberately eschewing the fashionability of the “ton” – part of the philosophy being that fashion does not always equal taste. High fashion was often viewed with suspicion by the gentry. They gently mocked the upper aristocracy for it, treating them like a spectator sport – just as the aristos mocked country gentry as being bumpkins. High-fashion was additionally often viewed as being too French for the English gentry. English aristos were closely intertwined with French ones, being related and visiting each other – much less the case with the English gentry, particularly those of “Saxon stock” such as the Hamleys. The gentry viewed themselves as the arbiters of decent, respectable, genuine taste and generally as a class left the fripperies of high fashion to the whims of their social “betters” and the follies of their social inferiors (namely those in the wealthier trades who were also often more fashion forward, being at the initial point of contact for novelties). I always admired this little detail of characterization of the Hamleys. They inhabit a complex place and position within English society – and I’ve always loved that they used such an atmospheric Jacobean pile for their house in the series!

      1. Good points and interesting background however the dress was supposedly awful, a reflection of Molly’s youth and inexperience in worldly matters. Rodger sees her as badly dressed and socially inept. Also the dress is not “fashionable”. Miss Rose’s is the classic provincial dress shop, at least a year behind in the fashions hence Cynthia’s sneer when Molly points the shop out to her. Molly’s poor choice of dress is a reflection also of her lack of female guidance. She had grown up in a male world dominated by her father and his medical students.

  5. These walking dresses from 1828 seem to be jumpers, but the collars hide he neck and shoulder area, so no way of knowing what’s going on there: http://shewhoworshipscarlin.tumblr.com/post/138440257954/walking-and-fancy-dress-fashion-plate-1828

    There is this fashion plate from the late 1820’s, but it might just be a pelerine-ish thingy over a blouse and skirt: http://collections.lacma.org/node/247745

    This lady from 1831 wars what looks like a jumper dress – but the lower sleeves that seem to match does cast some doubt on it: http://poeraven82.tumblr.com/post/93894439041/oldrags-portrait-of-zinaida-volkonskaya-by

    Then there are quite a few portraits and fashion plates with dresses that give the look of low cut jumpers worn over blouses, but with white sleeves and possibly fronts that are probably attached to the dress, like these:



    Maybe that’s where the costume designer got it from, misinterpreting these images?

    Either way, pictures of real jumpers (if they are jumpers) are few and far between, so they don’t seem to have been common.

    1. Thanks for these! Some of them are maaaaaaybe’s, but yeah, I keep feeling like we’re looking at regular gowns with sheer sleeves/oversleeves rather than a sleeveless, low-cut-bodice-front overdress designed to show a “blouse” (chemisette). The fact that we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel tells me that these jumpers are a reach!

  6. I agree. But i feel that these quasi-jumpers that Molly wears achieves their goal: Showing how young and unsophisticated Molly is. The same way the sailor outfits in Sound of Music made the twenty something Charmaine Carr as Liesel look like a 16 going on 17.

  7. Molly’s tartan gown! You do love me! The reactions to it, and her father’s snarking about the tartan, are (naturally) one of my favourite parts of the series/book. Though you’re absolutely right — the one in the series is not nearly as garish or hideous as some of the surviving examples.

  8. This is Melanie from The Dashwood Sisters blog– thank you for the shout out! This post series is wonderful– I love all the work you’ve put into analyzing the costumes, both in the historical context and in the context of the character’s personalities and growth.

      1. In the book Molly’s wardrobe starts to change thanks to her new stepmother:

        Molly was better dressed than formerly; her stepmother saw after that. She disliked anything old or shabby, or out of taste about her; it hurt her eye; and she had already fidgeted Molly into a new amount of care about the manner in which she put on her clothes, arranged her hair, and was gloved and shod. Mrs. Gibson had tried to put her through a course of rosemary washes and creams in order to improve her tanned complexion; but about that Molly was either forgetful or rebellious, and Mrs. Gibson could not well come up to the girl’s bedroom every night and see that she daubed her face and neck over with the cosmetics so carefully provided for her. Still her appearance was extremely improved, even to Osborne’s critical eye.

        (Chapter 16. The Bride at Home)

        Later Cynthia cares for Molly’s dresses:

        She was restless too, till she had attacked Molly’s dress, after she had remodelled her mother’s.
        “Now for you, sweet one,” said she as she began upon one of Molly’s gowns. “I’ve been working as connoisseur until now; now I begin as amateur.”

        (Chapter 19. Cynthia’s Arrival)

  9. My favourite look of Molly’s is the grey wool pelisse coat with velvet collar – underrated but incredibly smart.

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