The Lady of Shalott Costume
All of the clothes were designed and made especially for the film. The inspiration for the look of the clothes came from the Pre-Raphaelite paintings, especially those of John William Waterhouse, and their design was informed by knowledge of the cut and construction of both medieval and Victorian clothes. For the 1856 setting of Tennyson’s reading of the poem, our sources were the surviving contemporary clothes, paintings and photographs from the period.
The costume team was brought together by Pauline Loven of the Orchard House Wardrobe and included Jo Sullivan, Kate Loven, Bernadette Brennan, Joanna Read, Katy-Jayne Lintott, Sam Greene and Avril Sanderson. For more on the making of the costume see Pauline Loven’s blog: Period Wardrobe.
The story of The Lady of Shalott has its origins in Arthurian legend. In synopsis, the Lady of Shalott or Eliane of Astolat, dies of heartbreak as a result of her unrequited love for Sir Lancelot. Her story appears in the 13th century Mort Artu and, as a slightly different version, in the Italian novella La Donna di Scallota. It is the La Donna di Scallota which provided the source material for Tennyson’s poem.
Throughout the 19th century, Tennyson’s poignant poem inspired a number of paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artists and their followers, including William Holman-Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Boughton and John William Waterhouse. Each of these artists chose to depict The Lady of Shalott in a mythical medieval world and we have drawn our inspiration for the clothing from their imagined world, but most especially from that of John William Waterhouse (below).