This beautiful Victorian gown is a wonderful example of the importance of both good alterations and using the appropriate undergarments for a period gown. It’s a true testament to the quality of the costumes that are reused and recycled over the years that they can still hold up well enough and look beautiful after two, three - sometimes even twelve uses. However, even a gown that is still in great condition after a long period of time will suffer if it is not properly supported in the method in which it was designed.
This Victorian gown was designed for Francesca Annis in the 1978 mini-series Lillie, in which she played the title character of Lillie Langtry. Her dress is not only stunning - it fits her like a glove and is supported underneath by the proper corset that gives it a very distinctive shape. The gown was used again in 1981 on Jeananne Crowley as Rossanna McGee in Cribb: Invitation to a Dynamite Party. This time it appears that it is supported by the proper undergarments, but that it is just a bit too large for Jeananne Crowley. The third usage of this garment was on Gina Mckee as Irene in the 2002 production of The Forsyte Saga. McKee may be wearing some kind of corset, though if she is, the gown is far too large for her and has not been taken in appropriately at all. The gown on McKee is still in relatively good condition, but without being properly supported and fitted is frankly unremarkable. It is fascinating to see the vast differences between its appearance in 2002 and 1978.