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‘Queen’s Gambit’ Costume Designer Makes Clothes Fit for a Chess Queen

Costume designer Gabriele Binder and series creator Scott Frank explained that much of Beth's sense of fashion is an attempt at imitation, at trying on different personas.

"The Queen's Gambit"

“The Queen’s Gambit”

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The release of “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix last year made us all want to live in the 1960s chess world Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) inhabited. Now, we’re learning a bit more about how costume designer Gabriele Binder conveyed a woman coming into her own identity through the costumes she wears.

As Binder and Taylor-Joy discuss, much of what Beth wears is her attempt to not just say who she is, but inhabit the changing world of femininity at the time. When Beth starts out in the orphanage, she’s swathed in grays and dirt browns that’s only enhanced by the same dull wardrobe Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller) buys for her.

That all changes once Beth wins her first chess tournament, but because she has no idea what styles are in fashion her first purchase is direct off the mannequin. “She thinks if it’s on the mannequin it must be good,” says Binder in the video. Once Beth moves out of Alma’s house, Binder put Taylor-Joy in jeans and other clothes that show Beth’s comfort being out on her own.

Binder and series creator Scott Frank explained that much of Beth’s sense of fashion is an attempt at imitation, at playing different characters. In one scene, as Frank said, she dresses up like a 1960s pop star she sees on television. For Taylor-Joy, it’s an ironic twist having Beth play different characters as Taylor-Joy, the actress, similarly plays different characters.

There’s an extended discussion of the Beth’s Las Vegas tournament dress. Taylor-Joy explained that it’s a perfect representation of the changes in history as well as within the character herself. “Beth is still trying to play grown-ups,” Taylor-Joy says. The checkered style of the dress evoked, for Binder, the ultimate example of Beth as the “chess queen.”

By the time Beth ends the series, clad in a white coat and hat, the audience is meant to see her as literally being the queen chess piece. With this kind of mastery, it’s no surprise that “The Queen’s Gambit” continues to be one of the main frontrunners this year for Emmys  —and if watching this video shows anything it’s that the series will look good winning them.

Watch the full video, provided exclusively to IndieWire, below:

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