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Dressing with Distinction: Unveiling the Artistry Behind Pride and Prejudice

The upcoming production of Pride and Prejudice at the Talisman Theatre & Arts Centre has seen an exceptional display of dedication and craftsmanship behind the scenes. A group of remarkable women worked tirelessly to bring the wardrobe of Jane Austen’s time to life. It is worth noting that the script for this production was adapted for the stage by the renowned writer, Andrew Davies, from his much-loved 1995 BBC adaptation.

Led by Dee Francis, Head of Wardrobe, the team, consisting of Margaret Clifton and Barbara Port, boasts a wealth of experience as long-standing members of the Talisman wardrobe family.

A special addition to the team this year was Elizabeth Rowntree, a budding talent from Kenilworth Sixth Form College. Eager to pursue a career in stage costuming, Elizabeth joined forces with the wardrobe team and proved to be an invaluable asset in bringing the costumes of Pride and Prejudice to life.

The journey began in January when the team embarked on the intricate task of planning the costumes for this new stage adaptation. To capture the essence of Jane Austen’s era, careful consideration was given to the selection of fabrics and patterns. It was a puzzle to solve as the script presented limited time for costume changes, especially for the young ladies who needed to transition from day dresses to exquisite ball gowns.

Pride and Prejudice portrait 4

Ingeniously, the team devised a solution. The young ladies’ dresses were designed with different coloured bodices for easy identification.  White skirts were swiftly swapped to facilitate the transition from day to evening attire. Delicate overdresses, crafted from sheer fabrics, could be effortlessly slipped on and fastened over the day dresses, evoking the elegance and grace of the Georgian period.

With the cast finalized, Margaret and Barbara set to work measuring, sorting patterns, and diligently sewing. Their meticulous efforts resulted in the creation of seven day dresses, six ball gowns, and six capes, all meticulously handcrafted from scratch. Additional costumes were sourced from the Talisman’s existing wardrobe stock or rented, ensuring a cohesive and visually stunning ensemble. The scope of new articles of clothing required for this production far outstrips recent productions.

Materials for these bespoke costumes were acquired from various sources. Some fabrics were discovered within the wardrobe stock, others generously donated by supporters or found in local charity shops and markets. Specialist fabric suppliers provided the finishing touches, allowing the team to truly capture the spirit of the era. For example, Charlotte’s striped dress, brought new life to an old duvet cover, showcasing the team’s resourcefulness and creativity.

Pride and Prejudice portrait 5

The sheer magnitude of their undertaking demanded unwavering commitment and many long hours. Barbara and Margaret dedicated at least 40 hours per week to the project, approaching their work as a full-time job. Meanwhile, Dee undertook the monumental task of sourcing the men’s outfits and the remaining ladies’ costumes, accessories, and wigs. Her extensive research, delving into the intricacies of the period’s clothing, proved invaluable in finding the perfect pieces to complement the production.

The process of creating and sourcing costumes was not without its challenges, yet the team persevered, fueled by their passion for theatre and the joy of collaborating with the cast. Their meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail ensured that the visual splendour of Pride and Prejudice would transport audiences back in time, immersing them in an enchanting world of romance and societal intrigue. Their artistry and dedication bring depth and authenticity to the characters, adding an extra layer of enchantment to the production.

Already fully sold out, Pride and Prejudice is a testament to the remarkable talent of the cast and the hard work of the entire production team. Don’t miss out on future productions at the Talisman by reserving your tickets early for upcoming productions, such as Blackadder Goes Forth, Sweet Charity, Murder by Misadventure, and the traditional Talisman Pantomime, Beauty & The Beast. These shows promise to be evenings of laughter, nostalgia, and entertainment, showcasing the exceptional creativity of the Talisman Theatre & Arts Centre.

Drawing inspiration from Jane Austen’s iconic character Elizabeth Bennet, “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” This spirit of resilience and determination resonates in the work of these talented seamstresses, whose dedication has breathed life into the timeless characters of Pride and Prejudice and beyond.


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