Make us your home page

Costumes make character statements for Knightley

Times Staff Writer

Keira Knightley's performances in films depicting earlier times have been enhanced by the creativity of costume designers, who have forged unique fashion statements for each of the star's roles.

As Georgiana Spencer

'The Duchess,' 2008

Costume designer Michael O'Connor studied portraits by 18th century painters Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough to help create Georgiana's look. He created 30 dresses for Knightley's character, including this wedding gown of cream silk with diamond detailing. "For me, fashion is all about fantasy and creating characters," Knightley told the Associated Press. "It's amazing to work with a costume designer to build someone from the ground up. You start with the socks." Famously not into fashion, Knightley added, "It's just amazing to me that you can define yourself by what you wear. But I guess that idea of designing the person you want to be goes back to The Duchess."

As Elizabeth Swann,

'Pirates Of The Caribbean,' 2003-2007

From a corseted damsel in distress to a brash, challenging leader, Keira Knightley's costumes throughout Disney's high-seas adventure trilogy matched Elizabeth's evolving maturity. Designer Penny Rose used ivory silk and raffia fabric for Elizabeth's wedding dress (Dead Man's Chest); and chose an antique quilted cotton bedspread for the petticoat. In an interview, Rose said, "I only do real. There's a lot of fantasy in the story, but not in the costumes. We want these clothes to look like they've been slept in and worn forever. Aging and dyeing for a period film are absolutely vital. I don't like people to look as if they've just walked out of a shop."

As Guinevere,

'King Arthur,' 2004

Director Antoine Fuqua took the Arthurian legend from a mystical fable to a gritty, politically charged war movie, featuring Knightley as the scantily clad warrior queen. Guinevere's battle dress (or lack of) received much commentary with the movie's release. "What we had to find was a costume that looked rustic and like it'd been handmade. . . . We did actually initially have me in full armor. But it didn't work. You just think, 'Well, where did she suddenly get that from?' " Knightley said in an interview with Cinema Confidential.

As Elizabeth Bennet,

'Pride & Prejudice,' 2005

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran played up Elizabeth's tomboyish personality and love of the outdoors by dressing Knightley in subtle earth tones and unadorned dresses. To get away from the less flattering empire-waisted fashions of the early 1800s, Joe Wright, the director, asked Durran to focus on a corseted waist seen in the 1700s.

As Cecilia Tallis,

'Atonement,' 2007

Durran again teamed up with Wright to create Atonement's 1930s sophisticated wardrobe, which included the show-stopping green dress worn by Knightley. Wright specifically requested Cecilia be clothed in green, and after choosing the iconic shade, Durran had a British master dyer create the color, which was a cross of three separate green hues. "Joe wanted the gown to have a wide hemline so that it moved beautifully when she walked. He knew he was going to shoot the ground and the dress billowing," Durran said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "It also had to be a dress that she looked almost naked in, as fine a fabric as possible, and loose-bodied." The dress has since been voted the best film costume in a poll by Sky Movies and In Style.

Sources: "How I undressed Mr. Darcy," the London Daily Telegraph; "The Past Made New," Los Angeles Times; The Duchess Web site;;; Associated Press

Costumes make character statements for Knightley 10/07/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours