‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ spotlights style for the ages

Warning: You may leave the sexy, often graphic Netflix film Lady Chatterley’s Lover with a deep, deep desire — for the clothes.

The main characters’ wardrobes are so uniformly appealing and sensual that the many scenes in which the characters are undressed almost make you want to return to their clothes anytime soon. The seductive film is an adaptation of DH Lawrence’s once banned 1928 novel, which was controversial for its depictions of sex and female lust and desire.

British costume designer Emma Fryer collaborated with French director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre to tell the story of the lovers from a predominantly female perspective, allowing for the clothing’s many symbolic associations.

Emma Corrin, who played Lady Diana Spencer in The Crown, plays Lady Constance (Connie) Chatterley, who is dressed in the film’s loveliest wardrobe. For trips to London, Venice and the English countryside, she’s swathed in rich velvet, draped in supple silk and layered in sheer, alluring cotton. Matthew Duckett plays her husband, Sir Clifford Chatterley, who returns from World War I paralyzed from the waist down. An aristocrat, he is immaculately dressed in thick, stiff woolens representative of Edward’s austere era.

Overwhelmed and emotionally frustrated by a now loveless marriage, Lady Chatterley follows her husband’s suggestion that they have an affair to produce an heir. She finds a torrid romance with the estate’s sensitive and well-read game warden, Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell), who makes suspenders unexpectedly erotic.

“Throughout the film, there is a journey that Connie’s clothing takes, and the clothing also tells the story of that journey,” says Fryer.

The story begins in 1918, a promising historical moment, says Fryer.

“It’s a really interesting time because you have the suffragette movement and the First World War and women’s clothing has really changed in that time. The corset is gone. There were military styles that women started wearing. And the length of skirts is starting to go up and down,” says Fryer.

“Everything is loosening up. The rigidity of the early Edwardian and Victorian periods is over. That actually worked well for Connie’s trip, but at first it was a little more buttoned up and the colors were darker and the fabrics heavier.”

Even in her buttoned state, her gowns, trimmed with fur, embellished with intricate embroidery, and draped in layers of lace, have a sensual feel that reflects her exalted status and gradual relief.

A woman in period clothing stands next to a man in a wheelchair "Lady Chatterley's lover."

Even in their buttoned-up state, the costumes worn by Emma Corrin in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, here and below with Matthew Duckett, have a sensual feel.

(Seamus Ryan/Netflix)

Emma Corrin and Matthew Duckett stop under a tree in a scene from "Lady Chatterley's lover."

“The colors were darker and the fabrics heavier,” says costume designer Emma Fryer at the beginning of Lady Chatterley’s romance journey.

(Seamus Ryan/Netflix)

“As we travel through the journey of the film and meet Mellors and the relationship grows, I moved away from wintry tweeds and wool and her overall silhouette became looser and the fabric became lighter – more flowy and sheer,” says Fryer.

As Lady Chatterley sheds her repression, her clothes become lighter and freer, she adds.

“We were at the height of the relationship in the summer and the fabrics were very heavily weighted towards lightweight cotton and printed sheer fabrics. There was a real bohemian aesthetic and playfulness about Connie and Mellors together,” an effect meant to emphasize their free and rebellious spirit.

Many of her ensembles featured layers that revealed the tantalizing edge of a panty or a glimpse of a lining.

“It’s almost like undressing,” says Fryer, who built openings and translucency into the garments, sneakily suggesting the downtrodden person looking for escape. Mellors is given casual French workwear in ink blue and tactile textures that enhance his green outdoor presence. A key element, a button-down underwear shirt, shares heritage with today’s Henley, a shirt that has never lost its masculine association.

Although the film is set more than 100 years ago, the clever incorporation of classic and contemporary objects makes the attire and characters relatable and the costumes desirable for viewers.

When Fryer worked with Corrin to find the character of Connie, the duo found relevant items in current designer collections such as Zimmermann, Vilshenko, Galanthya and, for a wedding dress, British company Needle and Thread.

“A lot of the clothes you could wear today,” says Fryer. “When we found Connie as a common character, Emma said, ‘I would wear that now.’ Some of the fabrics are lightly embroidered, which is very contemporary, but you still see so much of it in clothing today. The time we were in is repeated in so many designer collections almost every summer,” says Fryer, who found historical and modern examples of ruffled prints and embroidered dresses paired with boots, a mainstay of the fashion trend.

“Those small elements, the oversized collars, belts, sashes, embroidery and lace. Even today there are labels that entertain this time. It brought some of that into her wardrobe.”

With the addition of authentic vintage items and bespoke costumes, the contemporary pieces merged almost imperceptibly.

As Lady Chatterley’s life is reinvented, her clothing reflects her new direction. In a final scene, she’s gotten a new look: simple, tailored menswear classics.

“She relied on convention to demonstrate her independence from established mores,” says Fryer. “It was a real sense of freedom.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-12-07/lady-chatterleys-lover-costumes-emma-corrin ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ spotlights style for the ages

Sarah Ridley

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