The Edwardian era is a period of British history that spanned the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to1910, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, which followed her death and the end of the Victorian Era.
Although L.M. Montgomery set her novel Anne of Green Gables in the 1880s, for both production and costume purposes, Kevin Sullivan decided to set his film version in the later period of the early 1900s. It provided him an opportunity for cleaner and simpler designs, and a chance to enhance the book’s visual style.
The Victorian Era (1837 – 1901), was a time known for a class-based society, sweeping progress and ingenuity. Victorian fashions were modest, but also known to be hot, heavy, and uncomfortable. Corsets were hour-glass shaped figures that compressed the abdomen, and skirts were wide and bell shaped that were made from stiff linens.
The Edwardian era (1901 – 1910) was a time where the world was in a golden period of peace when prosperity reigned. The invention of the telephone, type writer, and telegraph, suddenly offered new job opportunities and introduced the new middle class woman.
Edwardian fashion brought more light hearted concepts for an active lifestyle, such as dresses made of light weight fabrics, and shorter corsets and corset free dresses. The heavy fabrics and the bustle (a pad at the rear end), from the Victorian era were gone. Edwardian fashion also had the following defining features:
Blouses featured high neck with fabric or lace, bead work, and lines of ruffles
2 piece Dress that hung high at the hips and flared at the hem
Trumpet bell shaped shirts
S shaped profile vs. the hour glass profile
More relaxed sleeves, with soft fabric puffed slightly from the shoulder to the elbow
Hats, not as wide, swirled with flora, ribbons, rosettes, or feathers
Menswear only changed slightly from Victoria to the Edwardian era, with calf length coats and three piece suits.
The costumes for Sullivan's Anne films were designed by Martha Mann, who in fact had dinner with Montgomery as a child growing up. Her grandmother and Montgomery were good friends, and it is no doubt that Anne of Green Gables remained close to her heart.
All of Anne and Marilla’s costumes were original and constructed for the film by Mann. The clothing was incredibly detailed with boning in corsets alongside petticoats ,furbelows, hats, feathers, as well as jewelry and shoes from the time period.
Mann worked with London’s Cos Prop Design Firm to obtain many of the supporting casts wardrobe, and took extra care to make sure every item was authentic and spent time breaking down wardrobe according to each character’s personal history. Her genius lay in the amount of research she did to perfect every character’s clothes, and how each garment would have been used and how the intricacy would express the personality of each character. As once quoted by Mann, ‘just as everything you see in a film the clothes too have to tell a story.” – Martha Mann