Perhaps you have observed with envy as Beth Harmon of The Queen’s Gambit coolly cornered grown men into merciless checkmates wearing chic A-line dresses and mockneck sweaters, or rocked a glamorous lace-trimmed camisole as she descended into a spiral of alcoholism. Maybe you have watched Princess Diana on The Crown and wished that you, too, had access to a cornucopia of diverse shirt collars, or could pull off puffed sleeves. These shows in particular, two of Netflix’s top-ranking this month, have provoked healthy bouts of style jealousy in the most and least fashionable among us.
The runway extends beyond the finale with The Queen and The Crown, a new virtual exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum in collaboration with Netflix. Curated by Mathew Yokobosky, Senior Curator of Fashion and Material Culture, the program pairs costume designs from The Queen’s Gambit and Season 4 of The Crown with related artworks from the museum’s collection in a virtual, 3-D recreation of the Brooklyn Museum’s third floor Beaux Arts Court.
The hall is populated by mannequins dressed in the most memorable couture from each show; clicking on them pulls up a detailed dossier on the garment’s history and inspiration, as well as a video clip of the character’s look. The iconic black and beige cross dress worn by Beth during her first European chess tournament in Paris, for instance, emblematic of mid-1960s French fashion, was based on a design by the legendary Pierre Cardin, known for his mod styles that resisted traditionally feminine forms. On a pedestal nearby is a small painting by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, “An Interesting Game” (1881), depicting two men playing chess as a man and woman look on — evoking scenes where Harmon is often the only woman playing and observing matches in the male-dominated sport.
A drape neck dress with fuchsia silk and gold thread and a matching bow-accented hat, worn by Princess Diana in episode 6 of The Crown Season 4 while visiting Australia in 1983, is another highlight. The outfit was particularly tricky to put together: the team had to source vintage silks from the 1980s, many of which have been phased out in the present day, and dye existing fabrics to achieve the historically authentic look.
A contemporary work in the collection, Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke’s “Koh-i-noor” (2005), is paired with an elegant parade uniform worn by Queen Elizabeth II, complete with sharp epaulets and a tricorn hat topped with a regimental plume. Locke’s portrait of the queen, built entirely of hundreds of plastic toys and trinkets, is said to represent the different facets of her personality and convey her stature; its intricate detailing mirrors the regal embellishments of her dress.
The exhibition also invites its online visitors to discover two female figures who have remained largely behind the scenes: Costume Designer Gabriele Binder, who created the wardrobe story arc for Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit; and Costume Designer Amy Roberts, who developed outfits for Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and Princess Margaret in The Crown. Their dazzling creations should be celebrated in their own right, alongside Harmon’s chess bravura and Diana’s diplomatic legacy.
The Queen and The Crown can be visited online through December 13.
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Author: Valentina Di Liscia