The Daily Telegraph

This Pursuit is what we need


Alongside Lily James and Dominic West (yes, it’s that production), the other star of The Pursuit of Love, the rompy new BBC adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s novel which begins tomorrow, are the costumes, of which there are 1,200. Linda Radlett (James’s character) alone has 65 costume changes. Mitford adored fashion, and she would have found the costumes in the new adaptation hugely diverting.

Published in 1945, Pursuit is the first in her trilogy about the aristocrat­ic Radletts, who were loosely based on Mitford’s own dysfunctio­nal family. Despite the truly bleak ghastlines­s of Lord Alconleigh, the Radlett patriarch (played by West), it is tremendous­ly humorous and stylish.

Emily Mortimer, who appears as The Bolter and also directed and adapted it for a modern audience, had strong views on how the clothes should look. Her best move was to hire Sinéad Kidao, a costume designer who brings reservoirs of verve to the task, as well as a love of Mitford. Result: costumes that are easy on the eye but also complement­ary to the plot, filling in the narrative gaps that open up when a novel is transferre­d to film. They also help make a 75-year-old novel with salty views appear newly relevant. Here’s how:

1 It dives deep into the Bright Young Things of the period – the Influencer­s of their day. Kidao dug through thousands of photograph­s in the archives of society photograph­ers such as Bassano and Lafayette, Cecil Beaton and the National Portrait Gallery, looking for the most characterf­ul individual­s. “We leaned into the most idiosyncra­tic and unexpected looks,” she says. “Sometimes you would look at how someone had styled themselves and think ‘is that really the 1930s?’”

2 It puts the Hot Priest in hot pants. For Kidao’s first interview with Mortimer, she showed her a picture of Beaton from 1932, wearing a pair of very short shorts. “I think that’s probably what got me the job,” Kidao says. “The photograph gave us licence to have Andrew Scott wear hot pants.” 3 It’s a stickler for details. “Emily was very keen for this production to have a very specific look and feel,” says Kidao. “All the creative department­s worked closely together to create a visual that is very true to the period, albeit a stylised version.”

4 Rather like a 2021 Gucci show, it’s not afraid to embrace the unflatteri­ng if it’s true to the period. “We wanted to create a world that was authentic to the tone of the original novel – bright, bold and comedic. The aim was for it to be as enjoyable to watch as it was to read. We really relished some of the more audacious fashions of the period to comedic effect.”

5 It embraces the joie de vivre of fashion. “Nancy Mitford and Emily Mortimer both adore clothes, and the book and scripts were filled with brilliant details and characterf­ul descriptio­ns,” says Kidao. “One of my favourites was how Nancy described Louisa’s coming-out ball dress as having a giant overblown flower dangling from the left shoulder that looked as though it was ‘strangely unrelated to the dress’, which we ran with for the actual dress that Beattie Edmonson wears as Louisa.”

6 It features a sensationa­l 1930s teal gown in episode two that someone should rush into stores right now. “That dress is my favourite,” says Kidao.

7 It doesn’t mess around with tawdry fakes. “We were incredibly lucky to have access to Bulgari’s archives,” says Kidao, “where much of Linda’s jewellery comes from. The whole look is quite a statement.”

8 Much of the costume work was done in lockdown. “I had to buy mostly online from vintage dealers via ebay, Etsy and First Dibs, rather than in person. So there were a few disasters where I got the scale completely wrong. But we just got on with it and it was fine”

On BBC One, 9pm, tomorrow

 ??  ?? Love it: scenes from the BBC’S new adaptation of The Pursuit of Love starring Andrew Scott, Lily James, Assaad Bouab and Emily Beecham
Love it: scenes from the BBC’S new adaptation of The Pursuit of Love starring Andrew Scott, Lily James, Assaad Bouab and Emily Beecham
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