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Jenny Beavan

Jenny Beavan

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Also Known As: Jenny Beaven Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: England, GB Profession: costume designer, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Designer Jenny Beavan earned a reputation for detailed and historically accurate work with a host of Oscar nominations, many for her frequent collaborations on Merchant Ivory costume dramas. In this capacity, Beavan had as important a role as the actors, given the task of creating styles that were at once pleasing to the eye and appropriate for and evocative of the characters she was outfitting. After impressive work designing for theater and the opera, with credits including 1973's "Carmen" starring Placido Domingo, Beavan made her debut creating clothing for Peggy Ashcroft for a 1979 Merchant Ivory TV-movie "The Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures" and segued to the big screen assisting costumer Judy Moorcroft on the filmmakers' "The Europeans". In 1984 Beavan began her partnership with costume designer James Bright, an alliance that would lead to six Oscar nominations including one for their debut, the Merchant Ivory filming of Henry James' suffragist drama "The Bostonians". Two years later the designers would win an Academy Award for their follow-up, another Merchant Ivory film based on a literary work, E.M. Forster's "A Room With a View". Here Beavan added to the beautiful Florence-set...

Designer Jenny Beavan earned a reputation for detailed and historically accurate work with a host of Oscar nominations, many for her frequent collaborations on Merchant Ivory costume dramas. In this capacity, Beavan had as important a role as the actors, given the task of creating styles that were at once pleasing to the eye and appropriate for and evocative of the characters she was outfitting. After impressive work designing for theater and the opera, with credits including 1973's "Carmen" starring Placido Domingo, Beavan made her debut creating clothing for Peggy Ashcroft for a 1979 Merchant Ivory TV-movie "The Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures" and segued to the big screen assisting costumer Judy Moorcroft on the filmmakers' "The Europeans". In 1984 Beavan began her partnership with costume designer James Bright, an alliance that would lead to six Oscar nominations including one for their debut, the Merchant Ivory filming of Henry James' suffragist drama "The Bostonians". Two years later the designers would win an Academy Award for their follow-up, another Merchant Ivory film based on a literary work, E.M. Forster's "A Room With a View". Here Beavan added to the beautiful Florence-set production with genuine Victorian costumes, more constricting to illustrate uptight Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) and a looser silhouette for freer spirit George Emerson (Julian Sands).

In 1987, the Merchant Ivory production team (including Beavan and Bright) took on Forster again, this time tackling the homosexual love story central to his supposed semi-autobiographical novel "Maurice". Here costumes pointed to the stark differences in class between Maurice's first love, upper class politician Clive (Hugh Grant), and the man who brought him happiness, common gamekeeper Scudder (Rupert Graves). The following year, Beavan joined Bright in costuming "Maurice" star James Wilby in Piers Haggard's "A Summer Story", marking the designers' first film work apart from Merchant and Ivory. Also that year, Beavan and Bright worked on the grand India-set adventure "The Deceivers", directed by Nicholas Meyer and produced by Ismail Merchant. Beavan and Bright brought realistic costuming to Bob Rafelson's swashbuckler "Mountains of the Moon" in 1990, and the following year continued their spate of adventure films with work as costume designers for the feature "White Fang". Beavan struck out on her own again in 1991, and the extensive research she did for "Impromptu" brought that film to a higher level. Beavan's use of authentic 19th-century fabric and patterns, her development of an appropriately masculine wardrobe for unconventional novelist George Sand (Judy Davis) and her perfect recreation of Chopin's clothing due to her discovery of actual notes from his tailor contributed to a historically sound production.

More work in the quiet, character-driven historical dramas that made her name came with Syd Macartney's moody, atmospheric Victorian-era drama "The Bridge" in 1992. That same year, she reteamed with Bright and Merchant Ivory on the roundly acclaimed pre-World War I drama "Howards End". 1993 saw her outfitting Nazi Germany teenage Anglophiles in appropriately slapdash ensembles for "Swing Kids" before reteaming with Bright and Merchant Ivory, creating along with production designer Luciana Arrighi a suffocating propriety that exists alongside the freedom of the rolling countryside in "The Remains of the Day". She next designed the costumes for Caroline Thompson's 1994 take on perennial children's favorite "Black Beauty". In 1995 she worked again with Bright, designing costumes for Merchant Ivory's "Jefferson in Paris", a tale of the noted American patriot and President's romance with slave Sally Hemmings and time abroad in a liberty-striving France. Their costumes were illustrative of the cultural differences between the somewhat uptight colonial-era Americans and the more decadent French.

That same year Beavan costumed Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibility", creating some of the more memorable and historically accurate pieces for a less wealthy family than is generally portrayed in such films and earning yet another Academy Award nomination. Teamed with director Franco Zeffirelli, she dressed "Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre" (1996) in suitably severe and plain clothes, coordinating well with the film's somber gray atmosphere. Her period work on Philip Saville's 1970s set "Metroland" (1997; released in the USA in 1999) was note perfect and appropriately unglamorous, proving that her skill encompassed often unattractive realism as well as romantic yesteryear costuming. 1998's "Ever After" was a particularly challenging project for Beavan, who had to create numerous and different lushly detailed ensembles for the main characters played by Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston and Dougray Scott. Her Renaissance-era clothes were inspired by painters including the ever-present da Vinci, and her work was an especially instrumental aspect of the film, evincing both period realism and fairy-tale magic. That same year she reteamed with Zeffirelli on "Tea With Mussolini", creating costumes for this 1930s-set ensemble piece featuring Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, Lily Tomlin and Cher. Beavan's fashion creations helped to amplify and distinguish the variety of personalities and social status in this collection of women. Eternally proper Smith was attired in suitably starched gear, while Tomlin's sexually ambiguous character wore less fussy man-tailored styles, and Cher's American heiress was the perfect picture of showy new wealth.

In 1999, Beavan reteamed with director Andy Tennant and took on a project of epic proportions as designer for "Anna and the King". Working closely with production designer Arrighi, Beavan created a wardrobe for the cast of the Thailand-set film that mined the nation's rich textile roots and used traditional fabrics purchased in the Thai city of Chaing Mai although actual filming took place in Malaysia. The grand scale of the production gave the designer the task of not only costuming Jodie Foster's Anna in appropriately unadorned, practical frocks and Chow Yun Fat's King in elaborate royal garb, but was responsible for costuming thousands of extras. The result was a visually remarkable production that earned Beavan her seventh Oscar nomination.

Beavan's work on 2001's "Gosford Park" earned the costumer her eighth Academy Award nomination. Robert Altman's clever look at the strict social structure of British society on the eve of the class structure breakdown, "Gosford Park" featured all of the remarkable attention to detail the director is known for, notably represented in the costuming. Beavan not only aided the production by illustrating both the look of its 1932 setting and the delineation between the classes with painstaking accuracy, her work helped Altman achieve a multi-layered mode of storytelling, where the detail in her designs offered subtle but crucial contextual clues. That same year, she garnered acclaim for her stage costumes for the Lindsay Duncan-Alan Rickman teaming in Noel Coward's "Private Lives", a production that transferred to Broadway in 2002.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1973:
Got start designing a hit production of the opera "Carmen" starring Placido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa
:
Worked as a costume designer for the Welsh National Opera, the Ballet Rambert, the Nederlans Dans Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company
1979:
Began association with Ismail Merchant and James Ivory working on Peggy Ashcroft's costumes for the British TV movie "The Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures"; also appeared in the film as a governess
1979:
Assisted costumer Judy Moorcroft on "The Europeans", her first feature credit for Merchant Ivory
1980:
Designed costumes for the Merchant Ivory production "Jane Austen in Manhattan"
1984:
First of nine films (to date) co-designing with James Bright, Merchant Ivory's "The Bostonians"; received first Oscar nomination
1986:
With Bright, designed the Oscar-winning costumes for Merchant Ivory's "A Room With a View"
1987:
Reteamed with Bright to design the costumes for "Maurice", her sixth Merchant Ivory film; garnered third Academy Award nomination
1988:
Marked her first non-Merchant-Ivory features with work alongside James Bright as costume designer for Piers Haggard's "A Summer Story" and Nicholas Meyer's "The Deceivers"
1990:
Along with James Bright, costumed the cast of Bob Rafelson's "Mountains of the Moon"
1990:
Created clothing for The Disney Channel movie "Back Home"
1991:
Collaborated with James Bright on the costume design for the snowbound adventure feature "White Fang"
1991:
Returned to solo costume designing with work on James Lapine's 19th Century comedy-drama "Impromptu"
1992:
Designed the costumes for Syd Macartney's Victorian era drama "The Bridge"
1992:
Reteamed with Bright and Merchant Ivory for "Howards End"; received fourth Academy Award nomination
1993:
Designed the costumes for the prewar Germany-set "Swing Kids"
1993:
Worked again with John Bright in Merchant-Ivory's "The Remains of the Day"; picked up fifth Oscar nod
1994:
Designed the costumes for Caroline Thompson's "Black Beauty"
1995:
With Bright, designed the costumes for "Jefferson in Paris", another Merchant Ivory effort and Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibility", the latter earning the pair another Oscar nomination (her sixth)
1996:
Worked with director Franco Zeffirelli as costume designer of "Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre"
1997:
Designed the costumes for the 1924 French sequence of Adrian Lyne's "Lolita"
1997:
Picked up an Emmy for her period designs for TV miniseries "Jane Austen's Emma"
1997:
Costumed the cast of Philip Saville's "Metroland"; released theatrically in USA in 1999
1998:
Designed the ornate costumes for "Ever After", Andy Tennant's revisionist take on "Cinderella"
1998:
Reteamed with Zeffirelli as costumer for the directors 1930s Italy set drama "Tea With Mussolini
1999:
Earned seventh Academy Award nomination for her lavish costumes for Tennant's "Anna and the King"
2001:
Nominated for eighth Academy Award as costumer of Robert Altman's "Gosford Park"
2001:
Earned praise for costuming the Lindsay Duncan-Alan Rickman London stage revival of "Private Lives"; production transferred to Broadway in 2002
2002:
Created the costumes for "Possession", Neil LaBute's adaptation of the A.S. Byatt novel
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Central School of Art and Design: - 1971

Notes

"I never do drawings, I dress people up and they enjoy that. Experience has taught me that what looks good on the hanger doesn't always look good on the body. And vice versa." --Jenny Beavan, quoted in "Swing Kids" presskit, 1993

Jenny Beavan on attending a screening of "Anna and the King": "Such previews are absolutely terrifying. All you're thinking is, 'That seam's not straight'; oh, no, we left a pin in; I wish I'd changed that color; I wish I'd dyed that fabric down." --quoted in Victoria's online arts roundtable, 1999

Beavan on costuming "Anna and the King": "For a costume designer, you don't get much better than 1860 Siam. Especially when there's enough money to outfit twenty-seven hundred extras." --quoted in Victoria's online arts roundtable feature, 1999

"Today people are measuring other films to what we [Merchant Ivory] have done, and that is a great credit to Jenny." -- Ismail Merchant on Beavan, the woman who put the "costume" in many of their costume dramas, quoted in People, March 6, 2000.

Beavan on costuming "Gosford Park", quoted in the film's press kit (2001): "We talked in detail about every element of the costumes, down to what underwear the maids would be wearing. Robert Altman loves this detail: he wanted everything to be incredibly real without looking stagey or phony. To that end, I did a great deal of research and looked at original clothes from the 1930s that we then remade. Whilst there was a lot of inspiration for the upstairs characters, there was less available for the servants. They were not greatly photographed at the time, but we did have some wonderfully written records, by Nancy Astor's maid Rosina Harrison and by Lady Troubridge."

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Ian Albery. Director. Works primarily in theater; separated in 1995.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Peter Beavan. Cellist. Died in 1996.
mother:
Molly Beavan. Violinist. Died in 1964.
daughter:
Caitlin Albery. Born c. 1985.

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