Monday, April 24, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006 4:50 pm by Cristina   No comments
By now we all are well aware that Christina Cole will be playing Blanche Ingram on the new BBC production of Jane Eyre (first and only picture of the film up until today here). What we didn't know until today was that her beautiful, elegant dresses were coming from Sri Lanka, from the hardworking hands of tsunami survivors:

A century and a half after her death, the Victorian novelist Charlotte Brontë is still hard at work, helping tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka.

The way she is achieving this minor miracle is through her novel Jane Eyre, which as well as being the BBC's big costume drama this autumn, also has a drama connected to the costumes.

Step forward actress Christina Cole, who plays Blanche Ingram, Jane's rival for the hand and heart of Mr Rochester. Blessed with beauty and breeding, Blanche has another asset (literally) up her sleeve, in the form of the sumptuous lace frills that adorn her outfits.

Delicate yet showy, this riot of frothy handiwork symbolised, during the 19th century, the wealth and status of those who could afford to wear it. But the real-life, 21st-century person who made the lace is a 65-year-old widow called Leela Wathi, who lives not in Derbyshire (where Jane Eyre is being filmed) but in the tsunami-flattened town of Galle, south-western Sri Lanka. And until recently she described her economic situation as "desperate".

She's just one of a growing network of women whom the celebrated UK costume designer Andrea Galer (Bleak House, Mansfield Park, Withnail and I) has taken under her wing as part of a project to repair the region's lace-making industry, destroyed by the giant waves of Boxing Day 2004.

"Ever since lace-making was introduced by the Portuguese in the 15th century, Sri Lankan women have been able to supplement what their menfolk earn from fishing," says Galer. "But the tsunami not only destroyed the fishing industry, it destroyed the lace-making industry, too, by frightening off the tourists who bought the lace. I didn't realise the full extent of the problem until I went there last year."

Each time she has returned to Britain more determined than ever to promote the virtues of Sri Lankan lace and to make use of the material in her productions. She has certainly got her way in Jane Eyre.

But it won't be just Blanche Ingram wearing these precious dresses:

"All the well-to-do characters wear lovely jabots (ruffs) made out of Sri Lankan lace, and most have lace frills on the ends of their sleeves," she says. "And I've put lace all round the collar of Jane's wedding dress."

That sounds really, really good. We see the minutest attention is being paid to details of all kind.

"I've got to know a lot more about Power of Hands during my costume-fitting sessions with Andrea," says the actress Christina Cole, who was a willing volunteer for our Telegraph photo-shoot. "I think it's a great cause - the best thing is that it's working towards providing a sustainable future, rather than just a one-off donation."

Thank goodness - she's no Blanche Ingram in real life!

We encourage you to read the whole article to find out more about these remarkable women that work for the Power of Hands foundation.

It's nice to see big productions won't forget about human beings. We will be watching very closely for those wonderful lace frills!

On the picture you can see Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram wearing a lovely dress. More costumes from the production are in the background.

EDIT: If you like Christina Cole's lace bracelet, you can buy it here. It's just £ 5.00, you'll be contributing to a good cause and you will be able to show off as wearing Blanche Ingram's accessories. What's there to think about?

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