• Deborah Yaffe

Bonnetfest

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – in other words, in mid-2019 -- I wrote about a traveling exhibition of costumes from Jane Austen screen adaptations that would begin touring in the fall of 2020.


Well, that didn’t happen. But now, it seems, the exhibit will actually arrive on our shores this summer: “Jane Austen: Fashion & Sensibility” is opening June 11 at Cincinnati’s Taft Museum of Art.


For fans of Austen costuming, the exhibit promises to be a golden opportunity to ogle all variety of muslin and silk, wool and velvet -- outfits drawn from the collection of a British costume house. On display will be nearly fifty costumes from eight screen adaptations of four different Austen novels, although a large majority come from just two: the BBC’s iconic 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice and the Oscar-winning 1995 Ang Lee-Emma Thompson film of Sense and Sensibility.


A museum press release (click on the second document in the top row) touts its show as the “North American debut” of “Fashion & Sensibility,” although it’s not clear whether the exhibition has actually been presented elsewhere: a list of tour dates linked through the website of the Exhibits Development Group, a Minnesota-based company that assembles traveling shows on art, science, history, and pop culture, suggests a wide-open schedule, with only one subsequent commitment lined up, for fall 2023.


That could mean the Cincinnati show will provide the best chance for American Janeites to enjoy the Proustian experience of getting close to, say, the wedding gown Jennifer Ehle wore while playing Elizabeth Bennet, or the evening dress in which Marianne Dashwood, aka Kate Winslet, had her heart broken by the faithless Willoughby.


Advance tickets for the show are already on sale, so presumably the museum is expecting the kind of blockbuster hit we all remember from a very long time ago.

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