Happy fall! This week on the Astrior blog, we’re going to explore our shop’s connection to other works of art. In prior posts, we’ve touched on films that depicted Edwardian era dress as a way of deepening our understanding of how modern trends are influenced by historical designs. This time, we’re featuring a film that’s an adaptation of a novel set in the early 1900’s. "Picnic at Hanging Rock" is based on the 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay. The film is famous for its dreamlike visual landscape, beautiful period costume, and intense emotional and psychological stakes.
The story follows the lives of the adolescent girls attending a boarding school in the Australian countryside. A young lady named Miranda is at the epicenter of the film’s mystery. Miranda is lovely, and is compared to a Botticelli angel in the first act of the film. This reference is demonstrative of some of the English beauty ideals during the Edwardian era. With her hair down in loose, blonde tendrils and dawning a lightweight white frock with intricate lacing around the neck, breast and sleeves she is the perfect picture of English beauty during this colonial period.
Miranda and the other girls are instructed early on in the film that they must not remove their little white gloves until they are out of sight of any townspeople on their way to the Hanging Rock Picnic—a detail that provides insight into how fashion, class, and gender performance converged in this period. The main point of tension in the film is the sudden, mysterious disappearance of Miranda and a few of the other girls during the picnic. At one point, all that is found of them is a scrap of ivory lace from one of their dresses. The small piece of fabric is literally identifying material, demonstrating how crucial small, embellishing details are in this time period and how much clothing played a role in societal status.
In our last historical dressing journal, we discussed the ideal silhouette during the Edwardian period. It includes fine details of lace and buttons near the neck and chest, full sleeves, tightly cinched waists and full, voluptuous skirts. This composition is best exemplified in the film by Mademoiselle de Poitier, who is a bit older than the girls, and thus more suited to this sensual aesthetic.
The girls wear dresses that are looser on their forms and paired with stockings, leather shoes, white gloves and woven straw hats. This is a more girlish take on the dressing trends of the times and ones that are easy to spot as an influence on modern pieces. That said however, their flowly sleeves, high necks and belted dresses are still very much on trend for the Edwardian period.
The oldest woman in the film takes on a more modest version of Mademoiselle’s aesthetic. The headmaster of the school, Mrs. Appleyard, wears darker colors and shawls and corsets with fine tassels and beading. At one point she wears all black with the only noticeable detail on her dress being the small circular photograph of a man who seems to be her late husband. I’m interested to know if this variation of a locket was worn to communicate the grief of Edwardian era widows.
This is a wonderful film if you are interested in seeing how people of different ages dressed during the Edwardian Era. It’s also fascinating to see which aspects of this time remain cornerstones of modern fashion. As a brand, we get a lot of creative inspiration from this film. Not only are these pieces beautiful and period appropriate, the women and girls in this film move freely in their dresses. They explore rocky hillsides, run across creeks, play and mourn and learn together all while looking lacey and lovely. It’s a film that very much embodies the defiantly delicate spirit!
In my opinion, the best outfits of the movie are Irma’s farewell outfit:
Okay fine, my second favorite is Irma’s “missing” outfit:
And lastly, I’m a sucker for these pressed white collars and prominent bows in the girls’ school uniforms:
If I was going to make a mini “Picnic at Hanging Rock” collection made up of Astrior goodies, I would choose the following:
Thanks again for being a part of this Astrior community! We love sharing fashion history and pieces that inspire our work with you. Stay tuned for more soon!