The Queen’s Gambit has a quietly impeccable wardrobe. We are so invested in Beth Harmon’s emotional and intellectual journey that we sometimes forget that her costume journey is a fascinating one. It doesn’t hurt that costume designer Gabriele Binder had Anya Taylor-Joy donning her looks. Binder and Taylor-Joy are a powerhouse costume pairing.
There is an exciting chicness to Binder’s designs that correlate with the sophistication of the 1960’s. Instead of putting Beth in large ponchos or bell-bottoms, Binder focused on clean lines and feminine silhouettes. It was something that went hand in hand with her admiration of the decade.
“All the shapes we have in chess–everything geometric and contrasting–we can find in the costumes. I could jump into it and I was lucky because the 1960’s enhanced her looks unlike if this was set in the 1970’s or 1950’s. It was perfect for telling her story and it connected to chess. I love the 60s because it’s kind of a renaissance. Things were developed in that decade that are forever modern. It was also a time that a young generation its own fashion and that hasn’t stopped. It was a time of innovation and revolution in the clothes.”
A lot of green appears throughout the limited series. The varying shades constantly reminded me of the pills that Beth became addicted to, but there are also thoughts of nature and intellect when we see Taylor-Joy wearing the color. It hints at potential fame and fortune and how Beth might be jealous of a life she never knew.
“The color is present a lot after the car crash. We decided on this color to show a bit of fragility since it is a connection to her mother and her whole story before the crash. We had to bring back this color throughout the story to reconnect her after her long trip where she connected with other people and chess. We came back at the very end when she knows who she is and that was a nice connection to her mother.”
One of the most satisfying things about Binder’s designs is how Beth transforms as a young woman by watching how other people dress. For most of her childhood, she wears collared dresses or a youthful school uniform. Her clothes don’t diminish her but showcase her age in an obvious way. Beth clearly learns by watching other women in her life. When she is on her own, she wears more formfitting dresses and a character can’t believe how amazing she looks.
“She comes to realize that she had power for the first time and what it means to be a woman. Of course it was very smartly shape but we framed it with black to include that chess ideal. It contrasted and I tried to make the costumes for someone who loved chess but would choose those dresses. I tried to develop her journey that way. A chess feeling.”
Even with such a rich tapestry of clothes to choose from, Binder didn’t hesitate to answer me when I asked what design she would steal for her own closer.
“The white t-shirt with the crossed lines. It’s light and the black lines make it versatile.”
The Queen’s Gambit is streaming now on Netflix.