Emma. is a lavish and detailed period piece, with stunning costumes designed by Alexandra Byrne and gorgeous, colorful Georgian sets from production designer Kave Quinn and set decorator Stella Fox. When I saw Emma. I immediately wanted to watch it again, but with the power to pause so that I could study, in detail, the many eye-popping textiles and set pieces. Now, thanks to Universal dropping their first-quarter releases on premium on demand early, I can rent Emma. (here are some more SD Recommendations) and pause and zoom on gowns, screens, wallpaper, and curtains to my heart’s content, and guess what? I DID. So here is a ranking of the best textiles and/or prints in Emma., from elegant to luxuriously extravagant.
One of the wonderful details of the design of Emma. is the pattern mixing, which is most prevalent with the Woodhouses and their home, Hartfield. The combination of Mr. Woodhouse’s leaf-print dressing gown and the sprigged floral stripes of his chair is busy, yes, but the colors are complementary and the nature motif—something prevalent with the Woodhouses—is consistent, so that it comes across as a unified whole.
Another example of the color coordination among the Woodhouses and Hartfield is Emma’s pink spencer—which is beautifully detailed on its own—and the interior Woodhouse spaces. For the film, much of Firle Place was repainted, including the saloon in which Emma and Mr. Woodhouse prepare to leave for Miss Taylor’s wedding, which is painted a complementary shade of pink, meanwhile, the Woodhouse carriage is a lovely contrasting blue. In both cases, Emma’s pink spencer is set off to maximum effect.
Behold, Mr. Woodhouse’s collection of draft-defeating screens. Again, everything is a contrasting pattern, but the colors are coordinated, and everything works with the gold tone of the walls, bringing the whole look together. The Woodhouses live in a tornado of color and pattern, yet everything is pleasing and harmonious.
Emma’s yellow pelisse
I believe this garment is called a pelisse, and while the color is beautiful, it is all about that pleating in the back and the ruffled, vaguely Elizabethan collar of the underdress. The texture on this gown is positively touchable.
Emma’s spangled Christmas gown
At the Westons’ Christmas dinner, where the rooms and clothing are all dark, natural tones suitable for a snowy, cozy evening, Emma shows up in winter white, standing out amongst her cohort, as she should. Emma is always dressed to stand out from the crowd, and Christmas dinner is no exception.
Emma’s white ballgown
A white ballgown, trimmed in roses, is described in practically every ball scene in every Regency romance novel ever written, and as Emma is technically a Regency romance novel, it is fitting that Emma appears in a white ballgown, trimmed in roses. Again, the texture of this garment is exquisite, and it’s a deliberate contrast to Mrs. Elton’s gaudy yellow gown. Unlike Mrs. Elton, Emma is not “over-trimmed”, and the rosettes on her gown fit the nature motif that Emma wears throughout the film.
Emma’s black and yellow feathered cap
Emma’s yellow pelisse is wonderful, but this feathered cap is a showstopper. In a film stuffed full of gorgeous bonnets and caps, this feathered number takes the cake. The color, the contrast, the little daisy-like detail over one ear, I WANT THIS CAP FOR MY VERY OWN. The costumes of Emma. are not at all wearable—Regency fashion is so particular and fussy—but I would find an occasion for this cap.
Hartfield dining room wallpaper
When I saw this room on the big screen, I GASPED. “Pink and green floral wallpaper” sounds hideous, but the effect in the Hartfield dining room—really the Firle Place billiards room—is nothing short of stunning. This room defines Georgian extravagance and the slightly ridiculous world of Emma Woodhouse. Matched with the green and pink drapes, this room is the most graphic, jaw-dropping space in the entire film.
Rating: Luxuriously Extravagant