The men have had their turn to preen; this month it’s ladies fashions in the world of slang. Might as well start at the passionately overdone top.
Dressed out, over-dressed, or awkwardly ornamented.
When I think of over-dressed ladies, I picture the Bingley sisters from Pride and Prejudice. After all, their first mention reveals:
His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion.
This is like saying someone has a nice personality when you ask how they look.
They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselves agreeable when they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.
So here we learn they had money and, likely because of their antecedents in trade, were inclined to spend that money in pursuit of rank and position. They would have known the Shakespeare quote, “the apparel oft proclaims the man,” and knew that by keeping up with current fashion, they were proclaiming their wealth and place in society. I’m inclined to think this is why they are dressed so ostentatiously in certain adaptations of the book.
Because the 1940 version utilized costumes from the antebellum south, and the 2005 version inexplicably omitted one-half of the persnickety sister-duo (yet included the pig and his nethers waltzing through the Bennet house…but I digress), I’ve chosen to illustrate bedizened ladies with the Bingley sister costumes from the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I found an article in The Sydney Morning Herald from March 1996 that included an interview with this version’s costume designer, Dinah Collin. She stated to demonstrate the difference in wealth between the Bingley and Bennet sisters, she chose to dress the former in brightly colored silks with plenty of embellishment.
The extent of their adornment needed therefore to be greater. I did this with bright yellow and cerise pink silks, feathers and brooches.
Boy, did she ever! They were bedizened within an inch of their lives to help illustrate the difference in their monetary stations. I think it worked.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- See the full article, Sense and Sensuality, in the 6 March 1996 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald (I’ve included the link but you’ll need a subscription to see it, unfortunately).
- You can also read interesting excerpts and see more costuming ideas and inspiration from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice adaptation at FrockFlicks.
- And yes, because this word was about going overboard, it took all I had in me not to use the word Austen-tacious instead of ostentatious. You’re welcome.