Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen began writing Sense and Sensibility in 1795, and, although it wasn’t published until later, the novel is firmly set in the last decade of the 18th century.  The latest gowns were designed to be put on over the head – rather like a dress today. But many people were still wearing gowns that were put on more like a coat, and worn open over layers of petticoats designed to be seen.  This more old-fashioned style is the one that the designers chose for Elinor and Marianne.


Jenny Beavan and John Bright designed the costumes for the 1995 Columbia feature film of Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Greg Wise and Alan Rickman.


For his first appearance as the dashing Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, Greg Wise wore a dark green greatcoat.  Greatcoats were commonly used for travelling and the cape over the shoulders gave added protection from bad weather.


The male suit, consisting of coat, waistcoat and knee breeches, was pretty much standard male dress throughout the eighteenth century. At the period that Sense and Sensibility is set, two styles existed in parallel: the more formal ‘coat’, and the easy-fitting ‘frock’. The frock coat, originally used for comfort or sport, gradually became the more fashionable garment for ordinary wear. The romantic – and stylish – Willoughby would no doubt have opted for this newer look, while his rival, Colonel Brandon, might have favoured the more formal coat.

Image: photograph from Sense and Sensibility film showing Kate Winslet and Greg Wise in costume

Greg Wise and Kate Winslet in Sense & Sensibility,
Columbia Pictures 1995


Image: photograph of Sense and Sensibility display case with dresses and bonnets worn by Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson

Costumes worn by Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood


Image: photograph of Sense and Sensibility display case with outfits worn by Greg Wise

Greatcoat worn by Greg Wise as Willoughby