When tackling the costumes for Netflix’s “Persuasion,” costume designer Marianne Agertoft turned to “contemporary heroines” to create the wardrobe for Jane Austen’s protagonist, Anne Elliot, played by Dakota Johnson.
“I looked to more contemporary heroines that I felt could express the different feelings and looks I envisioned for Anne Elliot,” she said of her design process. “Patty Smith, Debbie Harry and Audrey Hepburn were on my moodboards. It was the attitude and poise of these amazing women that stood out to me. I think it’s a lot how they would wear something rather than exactly what they wore, although that naturally counts.
“Persuasion,” which tells the story of Elliot, a young woman still reeling from her breakup eight years earlier, is set in the early 1800s in Regency-era England. Agertoft approached tailoring by incorporating period fashion – particularly for the aristocratic Elliot family – and married it with contemporary style icons to create costumes that would be perceived as timeless. The film begins streaming on Netflix on Friday.
The film is just the latest project to fit into this year’s Regencycore fashion trend, which was inspired by other period dramas like “Bridgerton,” “The Gilded Age” and more. Unlike those period dramas — which relied on a regal, lavish aesthetic — “Persuasion” offers a more subdued take on Regencycore, focusing primarily on Empire-waisted dresses and lace embellishments for the costumes.
Agertoft explained that her research process for the film was cut short due to a fast production time, but that she referenced historical clothing and museum pieces from the period for the wardrobes of the filmmakers. characters. She also had a wide range of other Jane Austen film adaptations to work from.
“Director Carrie Cracknell and I were on the same page,” she said. “We wanted to strike a visual balance with an identifiable period feel and look without having to pay too much attention to historical costume detail and etiquette. We decided early on that we could loosen up the period accuracy if and when we felt it necessary. For example, we were going to use beanies and hats to some degree, but not strictly as etiquette at the time would have dictated.
While Johnson regularly breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience through monologues, Agertoft wanted to keep her wardrobe uniform and minimal so as not to detract from her narrative.
“A timeless feel was key when approaching Anne’s looks,” Agertoft said. “It’s her story from her point of view, and the directionality with the camera meant we had to be aware that the costume didn’t get in the way of those interactions with the viewer.”
Elliot’s minimal wardrobe was also meant as a way to reflect his differences from his sisters. While Elliot was more down to earth and reclusive and wore darker colored dresses, his sisters welcomed social engagements and attention, and used it as an opportunity to bring out their embellished and bright dresses.
“The general idea was that Anne would have favorite clothes that she would cherish, compared to her sisters who would enjoy as much change and bustle as possible,” she continued. “The minimal approach was challenged by the flow of the story and a few more hero clothes were needed, but hopefully we managed to get some idea of the preferred clothes.”
As Jane Austen’s latest film adaptation, Agertoft believes the late author’s work resonated with audiences for so long because of the relatability of her novels.
“Jane Austen’s books have a timeless quality about them, which makes them ideal for adaptations,” Agertoft concluded. “I think Jane Austen strikes a chord with most of us. Oddly enough, sometimes it can be easier to appreciate that in a period drama. Maybe it’s because we’re more accepting when it’s there is a distance from our own reality.