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Plain Jane Eyre

Sweeping romances and period films tend to dominate the Best Costume Design category, and this year is no different.  Jane Eyre was a novel published by Charlotte Brontë in 1847, and tells the tale of a strong-willed plain Jane (hmm… is that where the phrase comes from?) struggling through the 19th century.  Like most gothic tales of its day, this poor girl can’t catch a damn break.  Jane Eyre is an orphan who lives with her aunt (Sally Hawkins, pictured, above) and extended family that all seem to enjoy physically and emotionally abusing the little girl.  She finally escapes those sick freaks by attending an all-girls boarding school, only to get abused all over again by a clergyman.  (Seriously, what was wrong with people?  Why do they take such pleasure in beating up a little kid?!)  Jane’s only solace in the world is her best and only friend, Helen, who dies in her arms from consumption.  Man, this kid can’t catch a break.  And it doesn’t end there!  Jane grows up to become a teacher with a strong spirit, and goes to work for a man named Mr. Rochester (played by the very sexy half-Irish, half-German Michael Fassbender, pictured above, with actress Imogen Poots).  Jane doesn’t have looks or money, but she’s got opinions and independence that seem to drive the brooding Rochester wild!  Enough to leave his spoiled fiance (played by Poots).  Ah, a perfect match – finally!  Oh wait, on Jane’s wedding day (SPOILER ALERT!) she discovers her fiance has been keeping his crazy first wife stashed in the attic.  Oy vey.  This book should have been called Jane Eyre and the Curious Case of her Bad Luck.  In this 2011 version, Jane is portrayed by the very big up-and-comer Mia Wasikowska.  You may have seen her starring in last year’s Best Costume winner, Alice in Wonderland.  Costume designer Michael O’Connor has been nominated for his beautiful work on Jane Eyre.  He received his first Oscar for The Duchess three years ago, and has done lovely work on Harry Potter and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  The Brit told Stylelist where his inspiration came from, “The inspiration is her character, the challenge is making a woman from that time look stylish today, while still looking simple.  She’s sort of a ‘thinking’ Jane, so it was about looking and finding paintings of women in simple costumes at the time.  And notes from Emily Dickinson, things like that.  I just thought, ‘How would we make something exciting in all black?’  So, instead of black, she could be in dark grey, and it could show more of the style, or detail.  The original costumes were a great inspiration.”  The other women in Jane’s life, like her aunt and Rochester’s fiancee, get to wear more elaborate outfits than she sports, but that doesn’t matter in the end, because Miss Eyre eventually gets her happy ending.  The film’s costumes are currently on display (pictured, bottom) at the FIDM Museum & Galleries.

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