Mr Darcy's shirt on show in the US

Actor Colin Firth in the wet shirt he wore as Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC Pride And Prejudice miniseries.
Actor Colin Firth in the wet shirt he wore as Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC Pride And Prejudice miniseries. PHOTO: YOUTUBE

The white shirt that turned British actor Colin Firth into a heart-throb will be part of a Shakespeare and Jane Austen exhibition

NEW YORK • It is official: The shirt that turned actor Colin Firth into a heart-throb - and helped fuel the continuing global Jane Austen pandemonium - will be going to the United States.

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington confirmed that it has secured a loan of the billowing white shirt worn by Firth in an indelible scene in the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride And Prejudice.

It will be on view starting in August as part of the exhibition Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, And The Cult Of Celebrity, alongside relics including a bundle of wood collected at Shakespeare's birthplace, a bottle of Austen- inspired Bath Gin (tagline: "Gin of a different persuasion"), and Will and Jane action figures.

In the scene, Firth - playing the aloof Mr Darcy - dives into a pond and emerges with the garment moulded to his strapping physique.

The Regency wet T-shirt moment appears nowhere in Austen's novel, but it has inspired homages such as the 3.6m fibreglass-coated Mr Darcy that temporarily rose out of a London pond in 2013 and a photo re-enactment by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, done as a charity fundraiser, that caused heart palpitations across the Internet in 2014.

"The shirt seemed like a celebrity object that demonstrated the kind of fun that people have with Austen as an author," said Ms Janine Barchas, a University of Texas English professor who is a curator of the show with Ms Kristina Straub of Carnegie Mellon University. "It exemplifies the kind of play that is central to our whole exhibition."

The Shirt, as the exhibition label will call it, belongs to British costume supply house Cosprop, which said it received several requests a year for Mr Darcy's garments. (Like Rin Tin Tin, the Shirt was actually played by several shirts, given the need for a dry one before each take.) And no, you cannot rent it to wear, say, to your prom.

"The costumes hired from Cosprop's exhibition department are for display purposes only and must not be worn at any time," a representative said by e-mail.

Outside the protective glass case, the library is bracing for a humid reception.

Ms Barchas said: "We will be giving the Folger some Windex, to be used in what we anticipate will be a daily wiping-down of lipstick marks."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Mr Darcy's shirt on show in the US'. Print Edition | Subscribe