Film Language: Mise-en-scène
Updated: Feb 21, 2021
The Queen's Gambit
I love the Queen's Gambit, the storyline, the characters, but most importantly, our main character's (Beth's) outfits. While I love the fact that the style changes throughout the show, accompanying the growth in Beth's character, the change also fits the time the show was set in.
In the start of the show, when Beth was in the orphanage, we see her wearing much simpler clothing. This is the orphanage uniform, a pinafore with a white shirt underneath. This style of clothing continues into her teen years. I believe the reason they used a simpler style at the start was to create some sort of base for her to grow from. From a common school uniform to her own style.
Before we talk about how her style evolves throughout the show, an important aspect of her style is the use of geometric patterns in the clothing she wears. This being a reference to the chess board pattern, shows us how chess really is in every aspect of her life.
This is confirmed by Binder, the Costume Designer for Queen's Gambit, in an interview with Vogue:
"I always try to mirror what is happening inside a character with what they are wearing on the outside and the checks are something that I thought would be immediately interesting to Anya’s character, as she would intuitively choose to wear pieces that are connected to chess."
I believe this also shows how connected she is to chess and how she would lose her sense of identity if she were to give up with chess. This is evident near the end of the show when she starts to spiral out of control. Once she stops caring about chess, she stops caring about herself.
After Bath starts getting money from the competitions, we see her style change drastically. She started to model her style after the girls she saw at school. The skirt is very accurate to the time she starts wearing them, however she continues to wear it well into the 60s. This may be due to the focus on how she is a woman in a male dominated sport and the more feminine style of the 1950s highlight that. I love this contrast since it really shows how unusual it is that she is there, which throws off the competition.
But obviously, this isn't something she aims to do, in the show she shows an early interest in fashion and this is just the way she likes to dress. I feel like this goes against the grain since she isn't different because she aims for it but rather its just her accepting who she is.
After Beth's mother passes away, we see Beth's style change to be less feminine and accurate to the 60s. I believe this shows how she is no longer holding onto the past and is becoming less dependant on others, to the point where she is even isolating herself from others. While her style does change, the use of geometric patterns does continue as you can see with the shirt she wears to one of the competitions, the one where she finally beats her rival Benny Watts.
The last outfit she ever wears is a reference to the white queen in chess. Which is the most powerful piece and also shows that she is finally the one in power of the chessboard, the chessboard of course being her world. This also being a reference to the interview she had near the start of the series, when she talks about how the chessboard is a whole world "made of 64 squares". This is confirmed by Binder in an interview with vogue:
"“At the end, Beth wears the white coat with the white pants and cap. The idea, of course, is to convey that she is now the queen on the chessboard and the chessboard itself is the world.”
I love the fact that they did this near the end because not only did the outfit reference back to chess but also the point she is at in her life. She is at the highest point of her life, finally becoming the world's master of chess and overcoming her addiction to alcohol and pills. This being in contrast to the outfit she wore in Paris when she lost for the second time. That outfit being a reference to the pills she were addicted to, since the colours of the dress match the pills. These two instances show show her style correlates to her journey of addiction.
In conclusion, the queen's gambit is not only correct to the time period it is set in but also correlates to her journey and character during the whole show.
HOBBS, JULIA. “Every Hidden Meaning behind the Nostalgic Costumes in ‘the Queen’s Gambit.’” British Vogue, 6 Nov. 2020, www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/queens-gambit-costumes.
The. “The Fashion in the Queen’s Gambit (an Analysis).” YouTube, 30 Oct. 2020, youtu.be/dRP5R1aq8A8. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Wurzburger, Andrea. “Ranking Anya Taylor-Joy’s Winning Outfits in the Queen’s Gambit.” PEOPLE.com, 30 Oct. 2020, people.com/style/queens-gambit-costumes-ranked/?slide=92ebdb37-2d66-454b-9f45-94dbbaaf3912#92ebdb37-2d66-454b-9f45-94dbbaaf3912. Accessed 15 Feb. 2021.