In the summer of 2010, I had my Epic Terrible Idea: I would outfit my entire family in reproductions of the lovely white-on-white ensembles from Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

The research for this project was particularly onerous, requiring me to watch Much Ado over and over and over again. However did I manage? As much as we love the movie, I had never before watched it with an eye toward costuming, and the layers of white-on-white just fascinated me.  The men all wear blue trousers, white button-down shirts, and white vests or white-and-blue cropped military jackets. The women wear various ankle-length frothy white skirts, white chemises, and white or ivory bodices or jackets that close with buttons and sometimes have sleeves. (Evidently it was time for me to learn to make buttonholes!)

I was able to talk myself down to a doable task list: vests for the men, with purchased blue pants (we found the perfect shade of Carhartt work pants) and existing shirts; a white bodice for me and an ivory jacket for my MIL over existing chemises, and white skirts.

For my MIL, I chose to copy Ursula’s jacket:

And for myself, a combination of Beatrice and Hero’s bodices:

I had fun sourcing all those white, cream, and ivory fabrics! The key to keeping the look clean but interesting was to slightly vary the shades of white, and to mix up the textures. I ended up with a combination of linen, muslin, cotton twill, birdseye diaper cloth, and upholstery fabric. I also found some beautiful embroidered gauze to make a chemise with, should I ever decide to do more with this project.