Saturday 5 November 2022

Enola Holmes and the Arts and Crafts Movement


Enola Holmes (2020)

As trends come and go, William Morris designs dance between on-trend Maximalism to evocative Victorian patterns, used in film and TV to suit whichever narrative. With a keen eye for Morris prints, you too can see them pop up in anything from Stranger Things to Riverdale to Bridgerton, and also in Enola Holmes.

The film is set in the late 1880's, and follows a young Enola Holmes (sister of Sherlock Holmes), on her coming-of-age journey. The ancestral home of the Holmes is Ferndell Hall, a mansion that evokes both boisterous Gothic ornament and old manor home decor, and an Arts & Crafts aesthetic. Dark wood panelling suffuse the home and carved finials on many surfaces with heavy patterns and dark colours are accompanied by floral and wildlife motifs. Bird and Pomegranate is a Morris & Co pattern from 1926, but evokes the heavy ornament of the Victorian period the film is set in, lightened by the birds and fruit of the pattern that draws attention to the study of flora and fauna that Enola and her mother have made as their private language with one another. 

  Bird and Pomegranate, Morris & Co, 1926

Throughout the film Enola dons a series of disguises, she ends the film in a dress that evokes Arts & Crafts paintings, while also looking to the future and the Edwardian silhouette. Rather than the voluminous skirts and bustles of the 1880's, her silk gown is leaning more into the 19-teens. 

Enola Holmes (2020)

The dress can be inferred to draw its inspiration from the Aesthetic Dress of the Pre-Raphaelites, whose medieval-inspired clothing called for the drape of a smooth garment that skims the body, usually with voluminous sleeves and embroidered decoration. 

Kate Elizabeth Bunce, The Keepsake (1901)

John William Waterhouse, Ophelia (1894) 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Salutation of Beatrice (1859)

Enola's dress shows off decorative embroidery (interestingly the making-of which she scorned earlier in the film) without it overwhelming her in decoration. The dress allows for an ease of movement (which she demonstrates by riding a bicycle, an expression of free movement of the period) and sets her apart from the heavily decorated garments in fashion of the day.

Enola Holmes, 2020

Liberty of London/Paris silk gown, c. 1890's

1913 dress, Netherlands

Musings by: Lera Kotsyuba

Lera Kotsyuba is a board member of the WMSC, and is an art and architecture historian and critic. 

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