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.
Greg Wise and Kate Winslet in Sense &
Columbia Pictures 1995
Costumes worn by Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet
as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood
Greatcoat worn by Greg Wise as