28 July 2010

Bright Star - Sewing in the Movies

Sewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane Campion
People ask me how and why I suddenly made the decision to take up sewing. I can pinpoint the moment exactly to one evening in November when I walked down to my local cinema to see Jane Campion's Bright Star.

As I sat in the auditorium waiting for the film to begin, I was thinking about how I wanted to take up a craft come the new year, to put my hands to some use other than typing. As the lights went down I was considering pottery, but from the opening shot of the film - an extreme close up of a needle being threaded - my mind switched to stitching and the decision had been made.


Sewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane CampionSewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane CampionSewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane CampionSewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane CampionSewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane Campion
The opening titles feature intimate shots of needle and thread, as Fanny quietly stitches the extravagant collar she will later emerge from the house wearing

I'm sure many of you will have seen the film, but if you haven't, and you're reading this blog because you love sewing, ahhh... you've got such a treat coming!

Bright Star is about the passionate, short-lived love affair between John Keats and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne. While Keats' poetry is of course central, no less prominent is Brawne's own craft of dressmaking. The fabulous costumes don't just appear from the props cupboard: we see her working on them from design right through to the reveal at society events.

Sewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane CampionSewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane CampionSewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane CampionSewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane Campion

"This is the first frock in all of Woolwich and Hampstead to have a triple pleated mushroom collar"

Her character is first introduced as "the well-stitched little Miss Brawne, in all her detail". She is mocked by Keats' best friend for being a slave to "flounce and cross-stitch", a frivolous hobby in counterpoint to the more "serious" musings of a poet. However, while the poet friends struggle against writer's block and gain little respect (let alone income) for their work, Fanny consistently - and quietly - turns out beautiful pieces.
My personal favourite of Fanny's creations

Fanny sews to express not only her youthful style, but also love and grief. Keats' unlined coat is a constant source of concern for Fanny (and will eventually be the death of him); and when his brother dies, Fanny offers her condolences not in words but with an embroidered pillow case.


"She stitched it all night long"

The film is a real stitcher's paradise, not just because of the theme and narrative: the cinematography displays a wonderful sensitivity to fabric texture. Don't be alarmed if you're tempted to glide your hand over the screen... or at least have a sudden urge to go fabric shopping...

Sewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane Campion
Sewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane Campion
Sewing in the Movies - Bright Star by Jane Campion

22 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post! The movie's been on my "to-watch" list for a long time, but now I simply must make it happen:)

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  2. oh how i loved this movie! :) i had heard a little about little miss fanny thru keats before i saw the movie- but i didn't know she liked to sew- defintiely a movie to keep on the netflix instant play section- this film is always a source of inspiration. :)

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  3. Now I have to see this movie - thanks for the sewing inspiration!

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  4. (Gasp) Hand Stitching!


    I feel like this movie hasn't gotten any play in the States and such a shame! I don't blame you for starting the journey from a flick like this. The character play sounds right up my alley, I can't wait to see it! Tilly, thank you for the lovely review.

    -roe.

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  5. I never heard of this movie - thanks for the post!

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  6. I need to get around to seeing this movie. It's been on my "to-do" list as well. Haven't found any "me" time to watch it though. The boyfriend hogs the 55 inch. ARGH. anyway I enjoyed the post and the story of what inspired you to take up sewing.

    -Nicole
    craftmysoul.blogspot.com

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  7. Wow! This is certainly going on my list (I've made this pledge to make my way through those 'must watch' films I've never got around to seeing, because I'm so ignorant when it comes to films!) thanks for the sewing film recommendation!

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  8. You sold me, its going on my net flicks queue. Thanks for the lovely review. Can't wait to watch it.

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  9. I agree...this movie was soooo visually stunning and swoony from a sartorial perspective!! I loved learning more about the incredibly talented woman behind the Keatsian poetry

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  10. Great post! I was lucky enough to see this in the theater, too. The costumes were all so unique!

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  11. Jane Campion has amazing attention to detail, and the cinematography looks gorgeous! It is wonderful that it inspired you to start sewing. I remember 'The House of Elliott' TV series being an inspiration for me when I was younger!

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  12. Hey, no fair! I just read about this yesterday and requested it from my library so I could blog about it. It looks freakin amazing!

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  13. This has been one of your best post to date! I hadn't heard about the movie before, but it is now at the top of my movie list!

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  14. Lisette - oh no, I hate it when that happens! Inevitable when we've all got sewing on the brain, I guess. No reason for you not to write a post on it though.

    Sherry - actually the name for this blog alludes to a plot line in The House of Eliott. But I don't really remember the series that well so you've prompted me to add it my Lovefilm list...

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  15. Thanks for this, Tilly! I love all of Campion's movies and I hadn't realized this was out (and on instant watch on Netflix here) -- I'll be enjoying it soon :)

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  16. I'd never heard of this before - I'm going to watch it right now!

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  17. I just watched it and cried and cried -- it's so beautiful. It probably doesn't help that I am a tailor just broke up with a poet. :P

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  18. Lovely blog!!
    :)

    /Fashion Bowie

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  19. I finally saw this film and kept in mind what you'd written about it. It was a lovely and interesting film in many ways. Mind you, I was slightly disappointed that Fanny herself seemed to take less interest in her sewing as she took more interest in Keats, as though it were something trivial after all compared with his poetry. Well, I suppose compared with Keats' talent, pretty much anyone's sewing is trivial, but still...

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