Costume Designer From PBS’ New Period Piece ‘Victoria’ Series Talks Corsets

Rosalind Ebbutt dished details regarding working with former Doctor Who actress Jenna Coleman in the PBS series “Victoria”

Ebbutt told Hello! magazine Canada that her favorite part of being the costume designer for the historical show was replicating Queen Victoria’s wedding gown.

“I loved doing her wedding dress. To make that all work, and for Jenna to look amazing, it was a moving day for us funnily enough.”

Ebbutt has worked on other outstanding period costume dramas, including Downton Abbey and Anna Karenina. During the design phase, Ebbutt had access to Queen Victoria’s own diary entries, as well as the actual gown worn by the 19th century monarch.

“Victoria wrote a lot about it in her diary, about how she wanted to dress in white and look more like a real woman and less like a queen. She wrote about the orange blossom and the fact that Prince Albert gave her a beautiful brooch. She wanted to really be an English bride.”

Important to the process of creating accurate period costumes is the quality of materials used. Ebbutt added:

“We were able to source a lot of things, silk that was very similar to the one Victoria wore, lace made by English lacemakers in Honiton. Victoria was very keen that everything would be from her country and made by an English dressmaker, so it would look like she was head of her people.

“The wedding dress was the one thing we knew how it would look so it was a longer drawn out process. Sometimes we had to get things done in a week or so but we had more than several weeks which was great.”

“We actually made the bridesmaids dresses based on her own drawings in her diary. We had eight bridesmaids and we fitted all of them, we did a long beautiful train and choreographed how they would carry it.”

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress holds a great deal of historical and cultural significance. At the time, red was the most popular color for wedding gowns, and the tradition of wearing white was begun when the monarch married her prince in 1840. Queen Victoria also refrained from wearing her crown and ermine robes during the ceremony, choosing instead an orange blossom wreath as a head dress.

Victoria wasn’t the first of British royalty to wear white, as Mary Queen of Scots wore white at her 1558 wedding. But Victoria was the one to start the now nearly two-century old trend. In fact, Victoria also instituted the tradition of wearing black in mourning.

Ebbutt said she had no problem getting star Coleman to wear the period-mandatory corsets while filming of the new series documenting the queen’s life.

“She got used to wearing a corset instantly. She just looked amazing in it. She was always perfectly dressed and just really keen to look right as Victoria. All the females wore a corset, even the servants, because it makes them stand and walk like a Victorian – not that Jenna wouldn’t have been able to do that – but it just helps.”

The series premieres on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. Eastern. Along with Coleman, the series stars Tom Hughes as her husband, the beloved Prince Albert, and Rufus Sewell as her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne.

You can watch the trailer for Victoria below.

Feature image via PBS Victoria

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