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Lady Chatterley's Lover: A new way of designing period pieces

by Susan Moore

Lady Chatterley’s Lover follows Connie Chatterley, a young woman married to a lord suffering from war injuries. Though she does love her husband, his condition pushes them apart and she begins to pursue relations with the attractive groundskeeper. 

Originally published in 1928 by D. H. Laurence. It proved itself to be an especially groundbreaking story; from the unabashed sexuality to the unshameful way that sexuality is portrayed. From this angle, it makes sense that the 2022 film would similarly brave new terrains. One of the areas it does so is in its ingenious and thoughtful costuming.

The norm for an erotic film is to let the content blatantly dictate the clothes the actors wear. White, light fabrics are for purity, while sultry, silky materials may indicate a fall from grace. 

However, in the Netflix adaption, the clothes not only seem fresh and modern, but contain more depth. Done by The Great costume designer, Emma Fryer, the garments worn by Connie feel less informed by her sexual acts and more so by her emotional journey.

In the beginning, a beaming Lady Chatterley wears white for her wedding. This dress feels natural to her, flattering and rather sweet. However, for her wedding reception, she donnes a dark-coloured evening gown with elaborate lace accents. 

Throughout the movie, we see two sides to Connie reflected in her many garments. There is the side of her that is restricted and caught up in obligation, and the side of her that is honest and emotional. 

For the Lady Chatterley side, there are lots of velvety, dark, heavy fabrics, often in evening gowns and traveling outfits. However, for the Connie side, there are brightly colored, lighter, simpler day dresses.

One of the most interesting ways this manifests itself is when she goes on a walk on the estate with her husband. Though she is happiest while in nature and comfortable with Lord Chatterley, Connie also feels a sense of obligation to her husband and his requests that holds her back. 

For this scene, she wears a heavy velvet covering and a matching blouse, both in brilliant shades of green. Underneath, however, she layers a white lacy nightgown and white stockings.

Overall, the film is a fashion triumph that does not settle for the cliches of erotic films or let the personalities of the characters be overlooked in favor of what is period appropriate. While the plot itself is exactly what one would expect, the costumes alone make it worth the watch.


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