Mr. Darcy’s wet shirt — yes, that one — is up for auction

Mr. Darcy’s wet shirt — yes, that one — is up for auction

LONDON — The image of actor Colin Firth wearing a long, white linen shirt clinging to his wet body after he emerges from a lake still makes many viewers swoon.

The iconic scene featured in the 1995 BBC TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” novel, as Firth played an aloof yet misunderstood Mr. Darcy who appears after an impromptu summer swim dripping wet before bumping into his blushing love interest, Elizabeth Bennet, played by Jennifer Ehle, creating a moment of politely awkward television history.

Now, Firth fans can bid for the (unfortunately dry) shirt, which goes under the hammer at a charity auction in London on Tuesday, with the auction house estimating it could sell for up to 10,000 pounds ($12,700).

The 1810s style shirt features a deep collar, loosely buttoned neck opening and a label inked with the actor’s name, while the rest of the costume includes “buff moleskin fall front breeches” and “a waistcoat of ribbed velvet,” according to a description of the lot by Kerry Taylor Auctions, which is running the bid.

Sorry, Jane Austen, but Mr. Darcy is actually the worst

Other costumes under the hammer of the charity auction include outfits from the British period drama “Downton Abbey” and movies including “Sherlock Holmes” and “La Vie en Rose” — although none of them have reached quite the same iconic status as that translucent wet shirt.

“The costumes range in style from fantasy Renaissance creations to more wearable 20th century silhouettes and will appeal to serious Hollywood and tv period drama costume collectors,” Kerry Taylor Auctions said in a statement.

The memorable scene involving the shirt depicts the repressed heartthrob taking a dip in a lake to cool off after a horse ride before he is spotted by heroine Bennet as she unwittingly tours his lavish Pemberley estate. Speaking with palpable embarrassment as she comes across him soaking wet, she exclaims: “Mr. Darcy” before he awkwardly inquires about her family’s health (twice) and hurriedly excuses himself — much to the viewers amusement.

“Mr. Darcy’s ‘wet shirt moment’ was never scripted,” costume designer Dinah Collin said in a statement about the auction. “Because on screen male nudity was not permitted,” due to BBC broadcasting rules, “the idea of the ‘wet shirt’ was born,” she said, adding: “The scene caused something of a sensation at the time and transformed Colin Firth from a respected classical actor to something of a sex symbol overnight!”

Colin Firth’s infamous wet shirt from the BBC series “Pride and Prejudice” and Drew Barrymore’s dress in “Ever After” are among 69 film costumes up for auction. (Video: Reuters)

Despite the hearts it set a-racing, the scene was in fact never written by Austen.

“Pride and Prejudice doesn’t include a scene in which Darcy jumps into a lake,” Sandie Byrne, professor of English at the University of Oxford, told The Post by email.

There is a reference in the 1813 published book to “a stream of some natural importance,” explained Byrne, which Elizabeth Bennet’s uncle Mr. Gardiner is invited to fish by Darcy.

“There’s much to enjoy in the BBC and other adaptations, but watching them is a quite different experience from reading the novels,” Byrne said. “For me, the adaptations lose most of the qualities for which we value Austen’s work. The writing is more subtle and nuanced and at the same time more revolutionary than the TV series and films.”

Heather Thomas, a trustee of the Jane Austen Society, which aims to foster appreciation and study of the work and life of Austen, said in an email: “We cannot guess what Austen would have made of ‘the shirt,’ but her novels contain plenty of seductions and elopements, so she understood the force of sexual attraction as she understood all aspects of the human heart. The Society wishes the auction well in its fund-raising.”

The lake scene has since inspired others, including in the Netflix series “Bridgerton” and the movie “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” which sees Hugh Grant’s character fall into a lake as Firth’s character looks on, in a cheeky homage to the BBC series.

The charity auction includes 69 lots from the costume house Cosprop, founded by Academy Award winning costume designer John Bright. As well as the Darcy shirt, it will feature outfits from popular dramas such as “Peaky Blinders,” and “Poldark,” as well as those worn by actors Margot Robbie (“Goodbye Christopher Robin”), Julie Andrews (“Victor/Victoria”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”).

Others include a Christian Dior ball gown worn by Madonna in the film “Evita,” a suit worn by Johnny Depp in the movie “Sleepy Hollow,” and others worn by Gwyneth Paltrow in “Emma,” and Kate Winslet in “Finding Neverland.”

The funds raised by the “Lights Camera Auction” auction event will go to the Bright Foundation, an arts education charity founded by costume designer Bright.

We are beyond grateful for the enormous generosity of Kerry Taylor Auctions who are hosting the event,” the charity said in a statement, adding that the proceeds will “provide free access to theater shows, museum tours, visual and performance arts workshops for children who might not otherwise have the chance to do so, as well as supporting creative career pathways for young people.”

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