A NEW project inspired by the recently released Far From the Madding Crowd movie aims to capture references to clothing in Thomas Hardy’s writing online.

The Dorset County Museum and University of Exeter have been working together to develop the online facility to collate references to clothing by Hardy and in the time in which he lived.

The costumes worn by the actress Carey Mulligan, who stars as Bathsheba Everdene in the latest Far From the Madding Crowd production, are on display at the Dorset County Museum until the June 8 and it is hoped they will inspire people to find out more about the project.

The ‘Thomas Hardy and Clothing’ project will highlight the importance of fashion in Hardy’s writing by providing references to clothing in his fiction, poetry, letters and biographies.

It will also provide a greater understanding of the historical, social and political context in which Hardy wrote and lived.

Jonathan Godshaw Memel is a PhD student at the University of Exeter whose project, ‘Thomas Hardy and Education’, involves leading work on the prototype online resource alongside the Exeter University’s Hardy expert and Associate Professor of English, Angelique Richardson.

Professor Richardson said:"Dress is crucial in Hardy's fiction for indicating a character's profession, social and economic status or role, for bringing colour to local scenes, for expressing but often subverting custom and transgressing gender norms.

“Bathsheba flouts Victorian convention, not least dress code, by not riding side-saddle in the opening scenes of Far From the Madding Crowd, when she also allows her hat to fly off, in disregard for propriety.

“Clothing can also indicate moods, emotions and character.

“Bathsheba is often associated with the colour red, which signals her feistiness - she wears 'a rather dashing velvet dress, carefully put on before a glass'; on another occasion Hardy points out 'the red feather of her hat'.

“The database will show for the first time what such attire looked like and by whom it was worn.”

The project builds upon extensive research by Exeter students, who were instrumental in collating the references to clothing, later adding themes to the database.

Professor Richardson added: “As well as providing a useful resource to students, allowing them to connect their academic learning with historical objects, the online facility will raise a greater awareness of the significant archive and costume collections in the South West. Hardy enthusiasts from around the world will be able to view our research and add their thoughts.”

Mr Memel said: “The widespread enthusiasm for Hardy's writing and its depictions of clothing is clear from the response to recent exhibitions at the Dorset County Museum.

"We have been able to produce an educational resource that truly reflects such engagement by working closely with the museum’s curators and volunteers, enabling members of the public, researchers and students to learn more about Hardy’s life and work in and around Dorset, an area of outstanding natural beauty in the South West of England.”


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