Dickensian: Miss Havisham’s Wedding Dress

Those of us who’ve been following BBC’s 20-part Dickensian since Boxing Day last year were in tears on Sunday, 21 February. The series finale was brilliant and left viewers craving for more. Should Dickensian be renewed – a formal decision will be made at some point this month – we know we’ll be seeing Jacob Marley’s ghost, an even crazier Miss Havisham, and new characters from other novels. As soon as BBC says yes, we can look forward to 20 more episodes of Dickens goodness. In fact, in a recent article in the Evening Standard, it mentions that Tuppence Middleton, who plays Miss Havisham, ‘[is] filming the second series of Dickensian…’ Shall we take that as a ‘go’ then? 🙂 Update: BBC has decided not to renew the series (April 2016).

While we wait, let us have a look at Miss Havisham’s wedding dress, which we see in the series finale.

Tuppence Middleton as Miss Haversham from BBC's Dickensian

Tuppence Middleton as Miss Haversham from BBC’s Dickensian (source: Dailymail.co.uk)

Does it remind you of anyone?

If you guessed Empress Elisabeth of Austria or Sisi, the answer is yes! I don’t know if that was costume designer Andrea Galer’s intent, but Sisi was the first person who popped into my mind. Since the BBC series takes place around the mid-19th Century (although the various novels take place in different decades in the 19th Century), it’s likely that Dickensian‘s Miss Amelia Havisham would have wanted the most popular style for the wedding of the year. In 1865, Sisi was painted in her famous star dress with star jewels in her plaited hair. In 1867, Sisi was crowned Queen of Hungary in a white and dark blue Hungarian court dress. Miss Havisham wears the puffiest white wedding dress that resembles a combination of both of these dresses. Moreover, Miss Havisham’s hair is plaited similarly to Sisi’s and adorned with fabric flowers in lieu of diamond stars.

Left: Star Dress 1865. Right: Hungarian coronation court dress 1867.

Left: Star Dress 1865. Right: Hungarian coronation court dress 1867.

If we go by Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’, Miss Havisham was actually jilted in 1792. About 10 years later, Pip visits Satis House and meets Estella for the first time. (Hmm, would we see little Estella in S2?) Out of all the wedding dresses for Miss Havisham in film, it looks like Helena Bonham Carter‘s corseted robe in the 2012 movie is the closest to the original time period (but maybe more 1780’s than 1790’s?).

No release date has been announced for Canada or the US yet, but fingers crossed, Dickensian will find its way across the pond! Lastly, those in London have until 17 April to see the Dickensian exhibit at the Charles Dickens Museum.

4 thoughts on “Dickensian: Miss Havisham’s Wedding Dress

  1. The dress worn by Helena Bonham Carter appears somewhat earlier (1770s?), possibly with the implication she’s wearing her mother’s wedding dress. In that adaptation, the young Estelle also wears some 18C dresses, which presumably had been Miss H’s in her childhood. I liked the understanding that people did often re-use or remake older clothes (especially if the fabric was expensive).

    • Could the slightly outmoded dress be indicative of fashion in the “provinces” lagging behind hubs like London or Paris?

      My understanding is that the inspiration for Satis House is Restoration House in Rochester. Being some distance from London, maybe fashion in Rochester hadn’t caught up to what the people were wearing in London. Especially for a brewer’s daughter (wealthy though she was).

    • Sorry, can’t remember if I ever responded to this! I like your theory on the possibility that HBC’s Miss Havisham was reusing or remaking older clothes. I hadn’t thought of that!

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