Sunday, November 5, 2017

That Other "Anne with an E": Miss C Chats with Costume Designer Anne Dixon about Marilla's Belt

When Anne with a E, the reboot of Anne of Green Gables came to Netflix, I devoured it, as this original PEIslander would. 

But instead of calling the production a reBOOT, I could see it only as a reBELT, so captivated was I by Marilla's thick leather corset belt. For this otherwise practical character, the belt seemed a sensuous, flattering piece, so I contacted the designer, Anne Dixon, to see whether she might be willing to share some context.

Ms. Dixon responded generously with a lovely long email, in which she discussed the design process not only for Marilla's belt, but for the other costumes as well. Here are her words, interwoven with some notes from me:

"One of the important textures in designing Anne the series was making sure we were in turn of the century PEI.  It was essential to me that we felt we were in the Maritimes and not in the middle of the prairies: i.e., the inspiration for the school yard was a field of wild PEI flowers--everything was dyed, overdyed, painted and broken down. Then the Fishermen were added--it was crucial to have them in the background. We built the boots, the fishermen’s smock and dyed them, the trousers, the leather vests, the oilskin coats. 

"And we actually got the sou’wester from Souris [Miss C's note: Souris is a port town near the eastern tip of the Island; I remember doing a report on it in Grade 6]. Matthew’s cardigan is hand knitted from PEI, Marilla’s woven shawl is also hand made from the Island.  I just really wanted to get the pulse---all that to say about Marilla’s belt!

"We tried to keep it all real and I figured a farmer, a man would have a good basic leather working belt--what would be the equivalent for a woman working a farm?  The sash/cummerbunds of the times were made from fabrics, silks, velvets, tapestries, embroidered, pleated and decorated.  My thought was, what would Marilla do/make/use being thrifty, utilitarian and very sensible?"  

"A sturdy leather version came to my mind, still feminine in the shape but completely functional. We played with the shape and made a number of prototypes until we proportionally had the right width and curves. We overlapped it in the back and attached and secured it with a smaller belt. We didn’t get a fitting with our actress [the excellent Geraldine James] and our stunt double until the very last minute and I figured let’s make a design element of it--so we overlapped the back making it adjustable! It most definitely is an original!"

Thank you so much, Anne, for giving us a glimpse into your vision for Green Gables!


Debra Liljegren said...

I love this. I was hoping to find a post exactly like this. I love the belt too and wondered if it was a way to support the back with all the heavy lifting Marilla must have done.

Tubby Truckie said...

I, too, have been captivated by Marilla’s belt. I wish there was a picture of the back. I have a nice piece of leather I’d like to try that style.

Allegra said...

This is wonderful! I was enchanted by it, and curious to know more.

Unknown said...

I came here because of the belt!I wanted to know where I could buy one. It's amazing