Costume designer Jane Petrie took a multi-faceted approach to creating the costumes for Apple TV+’s Victorian-era drama “The Essex Serpent” – both referencing the wider period and using wardrobes of the series to help drive the emotional journeys of the characters.
Based on Sarah Perry’s 2016 novel of the same name, “The Essex Serpent” tells the story of new widow Cora (played by Claire Danes), who moves from London to a small village in Essex in 1893 after having been intrigued by the city. plot that a mythical serpent was terrorizing the area. The series follows Cora on her journey of self-discovery after the death of her abusive husband and through her newfound romantic relationship with the town’s vicar, played by Tom Hiddleston. The series airs its finale on Apple TV+ on Friday.
Petrie began his approach to the show’s costumes by looking broadly at the Victorian era and figuring out where the characters fit in given the London and Essex locations. She explained that the two cities have their own style, with London featuring more modern, couture fashion, while Essex has a warmer, more relaxed vibe.
“There’s a bit of a push with some of the style, especially when Cora goes fossil hunting and she has this really good hat and pants,” Petrie said. “They’re not precise, but I think maybe it’s a push for this look so close to London. It was nothing that I hadn’t found when I looked at pioneering women or women getting into the gold rush.
For Cora, Petrie wanted to convey the character’s emotional journey through her costumes. The series begins by focusing on Cora immediately following the death of her husband Michael. Viewers see the character dressed in black or dark-colored clothing with high necklines, stiff shoulders, and intricate embellishments.
As the series progresses and Cora spends more time in Essex getting together, Petrie moves on to dressing the character in more casual and less restricted clothing.
“In the beginning, his style is really Michael’s style,” she said. “The first time we meet her she’s wearing a black and gold shirt which looks like a Japanese vibe. And then when she goes to Essex her costumes open up and soften. She starts to relax for the first time in years.
Petrie explained that the change in Cora’s costumes is meant to reflect how she goes from a life where her abusive husband controlled her to now being alone and making her own choices.
Besides Cora, the priest’s wife Stella (played by Clémence Poésy) also has her character conveyed through her costumes. Unlike Cora’s London outfit, Petrie explained that Stella’s wardrobe was meant to look homemade to reflect the character’s warm and heartwarming nature.
Petrie explained that she was inspired by Gustav Klimt’s wife, fashion designer Emilie Louise Flöge for the character of Stella, mimicking the figure’s loose patterned dresses. The costume designer also chose to dress Stella primarily in blue, which was meant to reflect the character’s gentle nature.
“You can tell a lot of her clothes are handmade, where Cora looked like — although they’re handmade — they’re definitely haute couture,” Petrie said. “Stella has a friendliness that doesn’t exist in Cora’s wardrobe, and then they reflect her emotional journey in the blue and the colors become more and more intense.”
Despite the differences between the characters, Petrie hopes their respective travels and friendships were furthered by the costume choices.
“The message in the costumes is that the relationship between each of them is so clear – the relationship they have with each other and with the characters around them, who they are and where they come from,” he said. she declared. “It’s on the page and it’s a very well-written script, so I know they’re not going to cross paths. They’re very well-defined characters.
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