Empire State of Mind

Post by C.M.

For all you Pride and Prejudice fans and hopeless romantics, it appears that Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy has emerged from a pond in central London, sopping after a fully-clothed dip, for you to lust after Bridget Jones style. Technically it’s a sculpture of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy as portrayed in the beloved 1995 BBC adaptation, and was commissioned by UKTV to mark the launch of a new tv station called Drama. And it’s not any old pond, it’s the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.

Darcy Statue

There he is, in all his 12 foot glory. No sniggering at the back please.

It’s all a bit weird, is it not, a 12 foot fibreglass Firth/Darcy? Kind of like a twisted Loch Ness Monster, but with more wet-shirt and brooding (although for all we know Nessie might well be a giant Regency-era gentleman. Would explain its aloofness…). But I find it amusing nonetheless, making real a scene that has had many an otherwise completely reasonable woman come undone in a wholly unbecoming manner.

The shirt and riding-britches combo was probably perfectly acceptable male swimming atire 200 years ago, but a lady would not be forgiven for soaking her demure attire. Elizabeth Bennet and her ilk would have to endure the heat rising as a result of beholding this sudden onset of dripping manliness in their Empire Silhouette dresses, hiding their blushes under a fetching bonnet.

Bennet Family

Mr and Mrs Bennet, pictured here with their five lovely daughters

I sadly don’t own a bonnet, but inspired by Darcy’s unexpected appearance decided to dig out an old New Look dress I bought years ago for some party or other. In fact I think I genuinely bought it for a (college) ball! Fitting! It’s dove grey and used to be pleated before I put it in a regular wash by mistake, and has an Empire line, resulting in a decidedly 1813 feel, apart from the not so appropriate length, resting just above the knees. But one must make do.

Somebody fetch me some smelling salts!

Upon dressing in my Empire Silhouette I thought I’d naturally become spirited and quick-witted like Lizzie, but instead came over all delicate, like one of the boring characters no one wants to read about. I put my faintiness down to the warm weather (and one of the glasses of wine I had enjoyed), and following this picture being taken wandered listlessly as a cloud around the garden, awaiting the arrival of an eligible gent of good fortune, like a sad old Jane, or a dashing and exciting ne’er-do-well, like a deluded Lydia. This would not do.

The Empire Line has endured for centuries, mostly in bridal fashions, and there’s a reason for that. It’s actually deceptively coquettish; one can do a lot of comely bosom-heaving in it, while retaining an illusion of decorum. It has its time and place of course, it really is a romantic and pretty style, but Elizabeth Bennet (and Austen herself) would surely have disapproved of using the only style of dress available at the time for man-baiting in the 21st century. I think I heard her tut. Saving it for typically lovey-dovey, highly romantically charged ocassions like weddings, pregnancy and costume parties is most likely for the best.

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