Costumes To Die For

Guest post by Ruby Wilson

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, published in 1934, follows famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as he boards a train for Istanbul from Aleppo. When the murder of businessman Mr Ratchett occurs, it is up to Poirot to solve the case. As a murder story complete with incredible attention to detail, the costumes by Alexandra Byrne for the 2017 film, follow suit.


The wardrobe of each character was sourced to reflect their class and status as well as ensure historical accuracy. The governess, Mary Debenham, wears a tweed suit to reflect her independence and practicality. However with Daisy Ridley herself being allergic to wool, Byrne claims she had to ‘use every trick in the book’ to make sure the costume was suitable for both Ridley and her character.


Practicality was also necessary for the costume of Pilar Estravados, the missionary. She wears heavy wool culottes that are practical for travelling, and Byrne also skips the underpinning process as Estravados’ red crucifix takes the costume’s focus.

In contrast, we have the attire of Broadway actress Caroline Hubbard. Always dressed for the occasion, Hubbard wears her ski gear in the mountains and a dress adorned with Syrian embroidery for the train’s departure. This dress was created with the help of the Royal School of Needlework who have continued to showcase the brilliance of hand-embroidery since their founding in 1872.


The costumes of Princess Natalia Dragmiroff are perhaps the most intricate throughout the film. Living as a Russian Émigré there is no doubt that Dragmiroff is clinging to her past life. Her costumes are also complete with hand-embroidery from the Royal School of Needlework, and her hands are always decorated with the extravagant rings that she could not bear to leave in Russia.

So it seems, that with help from the Royal School of Needlework and Byrne’s Oscar winning capability, the film contains costumes almost as perfect as Ratchett’s murder – and, if you do plan to see the film be sure look out for the handkerchief monogrammed by the Royal School of Needlework, found by Poirot in the murder scene…

To journey into the archives of the Royal School of Needlework, take a look at Selvedge issue 70.

For a more unusual twist on textiles in film, you can read all about the pinscreen animations of Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker in the new Luna issue of Selvedge.

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