Literature buffs and BBC addicts alike are already quite familiar with Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited – a tortured ale of class, religion and romance set amidst the finery of pre-war English aristocracy. The story has been retold on more than one occasion but the latest version to hit theaters is especially interesting to look at from a costume perspective. In Julian Jarrold’s adaptation whole plot points are amplified by clothing.
The contrast between Charles’ natty beige suits and Sebastian’s array of vividly rakish ensembles outlines everything about the dynamics of their complex relationship. Even on a purely visual level Sebastian is a compelling respite from Charles’ bourgeois upbringing. The tailored jackets and crimson silk pajamas Sebastian flaunts with ease are part of the charisma that draws Charles in. Their fascination with one another lies in their differences.
Costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, does wonderful job of illustrating the personalities of the boys without letting other characters fall by the wayside. The dowager gowns Emma Thompson wears as Lady Marchmain are dazzling, as are the creations for Haley Atwell’s immaculately bobbed Julia. Mhaoldomhnaigh’s comprehensive notes on each costume (housed on the film’s official site) also offer unique behind the scenes tidbits. For instance, an unforgettable brocade jacket worn by Whishaw in a pivotal scene was actually made from the remnants of a 1920s throw.