The Queen’s Gambit: Clothes Also Tell a Story.
Exploring themes like drug addiction, feminism and the search for one’s true self during the growing counterculture of the early 60’s, The Queen’s Gambit — miniseries based on the novel of the same name written by Walter Tevis — didn’t take too long to take the first place as the most-watched limited series on Netflix.
It is easy to understand the reason behind it: from an unique perspective, we get to know Beth Harmon, a child that becomes a chess prodigy at the same time the orphanage she lives in introduces her to drug addiction. Despite her tragic past and the difficulties she faces, each small victory — in chess or in life — makes us more and more attached, and even proud, of Anya Taylor-Joy’s character.
As her worldview expands, Beth Harmon matures in the way she dresses and expresses herself.
Costume Design in Character Construction
In the pre-production stages of a movie, it is common for the director, costume designer and actor to consider the personality and difficulties the character will face, such as anxiety, depression and alcoholism. Together, they determine the most effective way to show the audience the personality of the character they want to portray. More than that, the audience must believe that every person portrayed in a story already had a life before the movie began. At the beginning of The Queen’s Gambit, we get this idea when we understand the origin of the first outfit we see Beth wearing: a dress lovingly embroidered by her mother “so she never forgets who she is”. The burning of this piece represents, for the character, the feeling that an important part of her life is gone and will never come back. And, above everything, it represents that she must learn to deal with it.
Even after being adopted, Beth realizes that fitting into the world would be as difficult as fitting into the orphanage. The feeling of being an outsider was also reflected in her clothing style, which, like the girl herself, was very different from those of young people her age. In search of someone — or something — to connect, what catches her eyes is a shop dummy. The chess, the only thing the character felt a strong connection with so far, is very much present in her first choice of clothes.
In the course of the series, as the protagonist progresses on her personal journey and gains more confidence, her clothes are also there to say the same. The undeniable influence of the 1960s counterculture shows the strength of the character and its contrast to the environment in which it is inserted.
By the end of the series, by wearing clothes the same color as the dress her mother made, we can understand that Beth feels “at home”. She is winning and has surpassed the one person she feared. She feels that her friends are by her side. She finds her place.
Gabriele Binder, the Berlin-based costume designer responsible for the costumes of The Queen’s Gambit, claims to have left many other messages through the series.