The Jewelry Worn in Costume Designer Janet Patterson’s period drama
As I survey the 18th through early 19th century memorial and posy bands, double heart and five stone rings, I spot a sweet, elegantly proportioned Georgian cluster ring and ask to try it on. While I admire the subdued sparkle of the rose cut diamonds on my finger—dealer Pat Novissimo offers me a hand mirror and says that ring is one of the pieces that costume designer Janet Patterson borrowed from her for Far From The Madding Crowd. I try and picture it in the 2015 remake of the film, based on Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel.
“Oh I remember now. It had a very small but starring role.” I say to Pat, an antique jewelry dealer whom I’ve known for 20 years. She shakes her head yes and laughs.
The story, which takes place in Victorian England, revolves around a beautiful and independent woman Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) who inherits a farm from her uncle. Throughout the film, she attracts three very different admirers Gabriel (Matthias Schoenaerts) a hard-working faithful sheep farmer who falls in love with her at first sight, Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge) a reckless, gambling soldier who Bathsheba marries, only to find out he is in love with another woman and then is thought to have drowned. There is also a wealthy landowner William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) who asks for her hand in marriage twice—the second time, after Troy has supposedly passed away. Boldwood shows the engagement ring to Gabriel before a party in which he will present it to Bathsheba.
“Janet even borrowed an antique ring box for the scene.” Pat explains. “She was very particular about every detail, the time period of the jewelry and how it was worn in the society of the day. As the mistress over a farm, Bathsheba would not wear a lot of jewelry but she would wear small earrings,” adds Pat, who also loaned a variety of Victorian styles, which Mulligan wears throughout the film.
A four-time Oscar nominee for costume design, Janet Patterson first borrowed jewelry from Pat for Jane Campion’s adaptation of the Henry James 1881 novel, The Portrait of a Lady, for which she was both costume and set designer.
“I had known Janet’s work on The Piano and then met her during one of her visits to Portabello where she began to visit me from time to time when she was in London. The movies she chose to work on captured my favorite time periods,” explains Pat, who has specialized in Georgian and Early Victorian jewelry for over 40 years (see full story on Pat Novissimo/Lowther Antiques here)
“When Janet asked to borrow jewelry for The Portrait of a Lady, it was the first time my jewels were to be featured in a film, worn by a major actress and a full female cast,” Pat explains. “It was all very exciting for me,” she adds.
In the film, Nicole Kidman plays Isabel Archer a young American woman, who gains a large inheritance and then becomes the victim of scheming expatriates played by John Malkovich and Barbara Hershey.
“Janet took me to the area where they were creating all of the costumes for the film. I was able to see all of the fabrics and patterns and later how they matched jewelry to the dresses. It was wonderful to be able to gain such insight into the process of how the costumes enhance the personalities of the different characters in a movie.”
Pat continues, “I was also thrilled to receive requests from Nicole Kidman to purchase some of the pieces that I lent to the film. Some were my own personal very rare antiques so I could not sell those, but I did sell Tom Cruise, her husband at the time, approximately six pieces for Nicole.”
But the excitement didn’t stop there. Pat was elated to receive on screen credit for The Portrait of A Lady.
Pat also loaned jewels for Bright Star, a film about the love affair between John Keats and Fanny Brawne. “I have such admiration for Janet as a person and a costume designer—the way she remains true to the characters and to recreating the fashion and sets with such dedication to detail. She is a master at transporting you back to the time periods in which the films take place.”
After listening to Pat, I notice I am still wearing the ring from Far From The Madding Crowd. And she is right. I am back in the Victorian era and on a farm where Bathsheba decides to marry Gabriel, the man who stood by her since he met her. And the ring is back with Pat and will eventually belong to someone who will be able to tell the story of it’s small but starring role in the movies.
At the time this story was set to go to print last week, the news that Janet Patterson had passed away was released by the newspapers with lovely tributes by Nicole Kidman and Jane Campion. I held the article and decide to print it this week in honor of beautiful work of the acclaimed Australian costume and set designer.
RIP Janet Patterson.