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Florence Foster Jenkins: Exclusive Costume Sketches

Friday 6th May sees the release of Florence Foster Jenkins, the 1944 set true story of a woman, Ms. Foster Jenkins herself (played by Meryl Streep) who heard nothing but sweet angels in her head, yet couldn’t actually sing for a toffee. Her manager and husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) hides the truth during the private recitals, but when Florence agrees to sing live at Carnegie Hall, things begin to get a little tricky…

Costume designer for Florence Foster Jenkins is Consolata Boyle, a BAFTA award winner probably best known for her work on The Queen (2006), The Iron Lady (2011), and more recently Philomena (2013) – and yes there is definitely a ‘real life’ theme here. For this project, however, everything had to be even larger than real life. This is mid-forties New York (even if the film was actually shot in Liverpool) with Foster Jenkins a full-on society dame enabling an eccentricity ingrained since childhood.

Below we have an exclusive series of sketches for Streep, Grant and supporting players Simon Helberg and Aida Garifullina. I do not know if these were made retroactively, but even so they provide a fascinating comparison between the imagined and physical – the intent and the result:


Hugh Grant sketch black_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image-001



Evidently this is not exactly the same costume, as Grant is wearing a dinner suit in the sketch and white tie and tails in the photograph (minus top hat).


Meryl Streep sketch purple_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image-001

I have not yet seen the film so I’m unsure if this is supposed to be the same outfit worn for the same scene, or Streep just sports a similar hat and purple corsage.



Meryl Streep black sketch_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image-001

The colours on the hem of the dress are, unsurprisingly, far more pronounced in the sketch; after all the sketch is a ‘representation’ not a blueprint.


Meryl Streep virgin queen maybe sketch_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image1

Honestly not sure what this outfit is but it’s wonderful!

Meryl Streep angel sketch_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image-001


Streep’s ‘Angel of Inspiration’ garb (seen HERE on the real Foster Jenkins) drawn on black to emphasise the stark white of the ensemble, which is sadly somewhat lost against the pale set.


Meryl Streep sketch padding_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image-001


This sketch shows the amount of padding Streep was required to wear, both bust and torso, to reflect Foster Jenkins’ true silhouette.


Simon Helberg sketch_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image.McMoon037-001


Simon Helberg as pianist and composer Cosme McMoon. Again, not the same ensemble as the sketch but his overall look, which is far more obviously youthful than Grant’s, is encapsulated perfectly.


Aida Garifullina sketch_Florence Foster Jenkins_Image-001

Aida Garifullina as real life opera star (she also toured with the USO) Lily Pons who makes an appearance in the film.

Florence Foster Jenkins is due for release on 6th May. File it under ‘definitely please’.

© 2016, Lord Christopher Laverty.