Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Wonderful Jane Austen's Miss Bennett

I can never really explain to anyone why I love Jane Austen's books. There's just something about them that always appeals to me.

Every character she writes has been so carefully thought out that even the hardly mentioned have a life that jumps from the page and sticks in your mind. And even though there doesn't seem to be much meaning in her books for our modern lives I always take something away from them with me that lasts much longer than it takes to read them. And I always go back to read them again and again.

Like many my favorite is Pride & Prejudice. And the large family of girls, all different and unique, somehow always draws me back whenever I need a little comfort and gentle entertainment.

The awkward family relationships and courtships, the mistakes made and waiting needed, and the power held by a few over their friends and relations tell a deeper story of life during those times than the romantic tale that sits on the surface. And the very different way in which women then lived thier lives can really be seen in her novels.

I have two dolls put away for a rainy day that I've sculpted but have yet to dress. And one day I will finally finish my Darcy and Elizabeth. But the gentle smile I managed to sculpt into this gentle face reminded me so strongly of the passive, delicate, kind Jane Bennett that I couldn't wait to find the perfect piece of cotton lawn and start work on this Regency lady.

As gentle as she is she still had strong opinions of what she should and would wear, and gave me a few problems along the way.

Of course you can't dress a doll without starting with the underwear, and even though she's a fantasy character I wanted to make sure she was dressed as Miss Austen would have intended. So had to suck it up and do without the one thing I'd never leave the house without - Knickers!

No matter how many times I think about it or look into it it just somehow goes right against the grain not to give a doll a pair of knickers or bloomers. I know very well that people are going to look up her skirts because I do it myself. And I've no idea why we do it even though I've tried to work it out many times. But there it is. Jane Bennett has no pants on!

She does have a long white cotton shift worn under a set of soft stays and a long petticoat that sits just under her bust with straps over the shoulder. Over that she has her soft checked cotton lawn day gown that I made with a gentle rounded V neckline.

The Miss Bennett of the fabulous BBC TV series of Pride & Prejudice (with the lovely Colin Firth) always wore this kind of neckline instead of the square neckline favored by Lizzie. So when I think of her I always she her this way. Her gown has narrow sleeves and a narrow satin sash, and the hem is trimmed with lace applique.

Over her shoulders she has a small lace cover tied in front , and she has a cream stripped shawl to keep her warm.

Jane should have had a cream crush treated silk pelisse coat. And I made two attempts at making one for her. The first went very wrong and had to be redone from scratch. But I was very pleased with the second as I'd managed to sew in an extra detailed puff at the shoulder and a shaped hem in three points. She's not wearing this lovely coat as she just refused to look tidy in it. And instead looked boxy and restricted like I'd made her a silk straight jacket instead.

I've saved it for another doll and another day after a bit of a fight. All Jane wanted was a shawl to sit in with her arms crossed. And I have to admit she does look more like herself.

The second problem she gave me was today when I started taking photos. I'd forgotten that in her pale dress with her pale blonde hair that she would almost disappear into my cream backdrop. And I missed the brightest part of the day to try and make sure that the photos wouldn't just show her round eyes.

I was really pleased that I thought of getting out my Jane Austen book collection and arranging her on top among the pages of the story that she came from. I think she looks quite sweet, and it did the trick of making sure you can see her soft wild hair.

I really enjoyed making another Regency doll as I love the style and simplicity of the clothes. Once I've finally plucked up courage I'll get started again on Darcy and Elizabeth, but for now I'm working next on a true fantasy - My take on Little Red Riding Hood :)