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Threads: Summer garb from "Atonement"

Andrew here, taking up the mantle for newish series “Threads” while Nathaniel's in LA. Each Wednesday we’ll fixate on one specific costume.

This week, to distract from the flurry of snow that some parts of the U.S. might be experiencing let's go summer. To be honest, I'm mostly using this as an excuse to talk about Keira Knightley since 2014 has been a great year for her and she may well hog the red carpet soon. She's probably the best of the cinematic clothes-horses  right now. It helps that three of her most significant characters were dressed by the excellent Jacqueline Durran. Durran does not work as much as Sandy Powell or Colleen Atwood, but when she does she's simply oustanding.

I’m sure when you hear Atonement  and costume design your mind immediately goes that lush green dress. Why wouldn’t it? I remember the majority of the push for Jacqueline's Oscar campaign in 2007 was around that gown. As lovely as it was, though, it's not the costume I find most impressive in Atonement. For that, look to the understated blouse and skirt Cecilia spends the first 15 minutes wearing.

The simplicity and detail is such a great example of Durran’s ability to triumph with the simple just as with the grandiose. It’s such an effective get-up for Cecilia. The large buttons on the skirt and that unusual pocket placement, the blouse that looks thin enough to deal with the heat. The flowers point to the season but they're not too busy or finicky to seem out of place on Cecilia. It's detailed enough to betray her wealth, but not too ornate to make her seem ostentatious. Particularly obsession worthy is the unusual print on the skirt; the designs should clash, but they miraculously don't.

Like everything in Atonement it photographs beautifully. She strips of the outfit soon enough, though, in that fateful fountain meeting. To reveal, beneath it, a matching slip. I've always wondered if the tan coloured slip was a Jacqueline Durran original, too...

Previously on "Threads":
The Book of Life; Snowpiercer

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Reader Comments (6)

Sandy Dennis is dead. I think you meant Sandy Powell.

My favorite Keira costume is the White ball gown from Anna K.

November 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Nice choice Andrew, Keira Knightly is beautiful, but in a great dress, she is jaw droppingly so.
I loved the dress and the casual way she tosses it off to get into the fountain. Durran's work is always eye catching and perfectly appropriate to the character. As for my favourite Keira outfit I would pick something from The Duchess. Those great hats were divine.ter. As for my favourite Keira outfit I think I would choose something from

November 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Keira's acid green dress from this film was instantly iconic (honestly, it's exactly what i imagined when i read the book) but this particular one was lovely too. It really matched the whole aura of the surrounding gardens.

I'm totally on board with Henry and the white opera ballgown from Anna Karenina. Especially with that diamond flower necklace.

November 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

I support any excuse to talk about Keira Knightly. And of course you were right and I was immediately thinking about THAT GREEN DRESS. I love your article and that you highlight this beautiful dress. I think I have to watch Atonement again. And Anna Karenina.

November 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

Outside of, what, Downton Abbey, we don't see too many fabulous pre-WWI English period clothes as amazing as this whole wardrobe. Jacqueline Durran did such an inspired, noticeable job on Pride and Prejudice but she totally topped herself here with aesthetic perfection of all those pieces, this lovely daytime summer outfit included. You could do a whole thesis on Juno Temple's clothes in this as well.

Durran then went on to top herself yet again in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (menswear perfection, a rare treat) and Anna Karenina and justly won her Oscar for the latter.

And even tho she doesn't work as much as some others, I love that she's Wright's and Mike Leigh's go-to at this point.

November 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

I love the fact that this article exists.

November 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

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