The costume design nominations spanned many locations and time periods, including San Francisco in the ‘70s, 18th century England, the Jazz Age in New Orleans, suburban America in the ‘50s and Australia before World War II. But it was the ruffled, brocaded dresses and sky-high feathery hats of “The Duchess” that scored Englishman O’Connor his first Academy Award.
Keira Knightley, who had to have her trailer enlarged to house her 30 elaborate costumes, played Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the 18th century “it” girl known as the Empress of Fashion. The film follows the rise and sad stumble of the style icon, who suffers the consequences of a loveless marriage in affluent society.
“The character is young and innocent in the beginning, but her confidence builds,” O’Connor told The Times in a recent interview. “We showed that through her clothes and hats.”
Spectacular pieces include a traditional Gainsborough hat in black velvet and vintage ribbons that cost $150 a meter, which couldn’t be stored in a regular hatbox. At the end of filming, Knightley took the hat home.
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