One of the best things about watching period dramas is arguably the costumes.
They play a huge part in conveying the full effects of the period, even if they’re not 100% historically accurate.
Bonnets, top hats, spencer jackets, petticoats, and tight breeches: What more could you need in a “costume” drama?
Some of these beautiful frocks and accessories you see on the screen might seem familiar to you, and it’s not just because you’ve watched Pride & Prejudice or Downton Abbey fifteen times over. It’s probably because the costumes have been in other period dramas that you’ve seen.
It might be surprising, but many costumes in period dramas have been used and reused and used again, likely to save money and time, instead of making an all new wardrobe for each production.
Our guest writer Kylee French has scoured the internet to learn which costumes have been recycled in some of the most popular period dramas:
Maroon Dress with White Trim
This beautiful dress was worn by Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) in the 2005 film, Pride & Prejudice, and then by Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield) in 2008’s Sense & Sensibility mini-series.
Black Embroidered Spencer Jacket
This jacket was first worn in the 2003 film Byron by Augusta Leigh (Natasha Little). It was reused in the final season of the BBC’s Poldark, more than 10 years later, worn by Cecily Hanson (Lily Dodsworth-Evan).
On top of this, Cecily Hanson also wears a light blue pelisse in Poldark, which was originally worn by Annabella (Julie Cox) in Byron!
Mauve Spencer Jacket
This jacket is first seen on quiet Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) in the 2007 Persuasion. Later it is worn by Jane Bingley (Alexandra Moen) in the 2013 mini-series Death Comes to Pemberley.
Red Regency Gown
This dress has been on two Jane Austen characters from Pride & Prejudice: It was first used on Caroline Bingley (Kelly Reilly) in the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice.
It was later seen on Lydia Wickham (Jenna Coleman) in Death Comes to Pemberley.
Green Spencer Jacket
This jacket has had quite the career in period dramas! Harriet Smith (Louise Dylan) wore it in the BBC’s 2009 adaptation of Emma.
Then it was worn by Elizabeth Darcy (Anna Maxwell Martin) in Death Comes to Pemberley (which clearly used many recycled period drama costumes!).
It was next worn by Mary Shelley (Elle Fanning), in the 2017 film, Mary Shelley.
It was finally spotted on Morwenna Carne (Ellise Chappell) in the final season of Poldark in 2019. What a journey!
Green & Gold Dress
Speaking of Morwenna, this beautiful green and gold empire waist gown was worn by Mrs. Carne herself (Ellise Chappell), again, in the fifth season of the BBC’s Poldark.
Before her, the dress was worn by Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) in the 1995 film Sense & Sensibility.
White Day Dress
Did someone say Downton Abbey? The legendary period drama has shown off some pretty marvelous costumes, but did you know some of them have been used before?
For example, this white frock was seen on Lucy Honeychurch (Elaine Cassidy) in the 2007 film, A Room with a View.
It was later reused on Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) in the first season of Downton Abbey – which seems only fitting for Edith, doesn’t it?
Pink Polka-Dotted Dress
Bringing you back to Jane Austen for a moment, this pink dotted dress was first worn by Kitty Bennet (Carey Mulligan) in the 2005 film, Pride & Prejudice. This is a good illustration of how some reused period costumes are altered from film to film.
Trim was added to the neckline for Cassandra Austen (Anna Maxwell-Martin) in the 2007 film, Becoming Jane.
Tan & Black Coat
This embroidered overcoat was first seen on a very distressed Rose Dawson (Kate Winslet) in the classic 1997 film, Titanic.
The same coat was later worn by Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) in the 2002 film, Tuck Everlasting.
There are actually several costumes from 2015’s Belle that was reused in the Hulu TV series, Harlots.
Pictured above is Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Charlotte Wells (Jessica Brown-Findlay) in one of those gowns.
Green Spencer Jackets
Here you can see Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) from the BBC’s 1995 mini-series Pride & Prejudice wearing two different green spencer jackets.
They were later worn by another Jane Austen character: Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) in ITV’s Sanditon. Andrew Davies created both of these adaptations, so it’s really not surprising that some of the costumes would be reused in his latest work.
Green Striped Dress
This dress has become a bit of an icon for fans of the 2004 BBC miniseries, North & South, worn by the heroine Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe).
It was later seen on Erminia Whyte (Downton star Michelle Dockery) in the BBC’s Return to Cranford in 2009.
Most recently the dress returned on another Julian Fellowes character, Anne Trenchard (Tamsin Greig), in his 2020 adaptation of Belgravia.
Blue & Gold Striped Top
Another costume worn by Michelle Dockery as Erminia Whyte in Return to Cranford, once again is seen on Anne Trenchard (Tamsin Greig) in Belgravia!
Red Riding Habit
One of my favorite reused costumes, this riding habit can first be seen on Becky Sharp (Natasha Little) in the 1998 film Vanity Fair.
It is next worn by Lydia Wickham (Jenna Coleman) in Death Comes to Pemberley – yes, another reused costume in that show!
That same year, it can be seen on Lady Amelia (Georgia King) in the hilarious comedy Austenland.
Finally, Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) wears the habit in ITV’s Victoria series. Yes, you heard that right: Jenna Coleman has worn the same costume in two different shows, as two different characters!
And there you have it: a selection of 14 costumes that have been reused in period dramas!
Of course, there are many, many more that I haven’t mentioned. There are even websites dedicated to finding and listing them all, like Recycled Movie Costumes. If you’ve spotted any period drama costumes that have been reused, be sure to let us know!
Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection box set is available on DVD on Amazon.