We’re excited enough by Hulu’s comedic version of Catherine the Great that we’re recapping and podcasting the series two episodes at a time. Pour yourself a cocktail, because we don’t expect to take The Great (2020) too seriously! Here’s our screencaps to follow along with our costume analysis in this week’s podcast.
Episode one starts with Catherine and a friend on flower-decked swings, talking about Catherine’s upcoming marriage to the emperor of Russia. Cathy has an awfully romantic idea of the whole thing, and this first episode exists to burst her bubble.
Sunny yellow, happy Cathy!
This is a promo pic showing Cathy’s dress more clearly. Also, she’s barefoot, but IDK if she was in the scene. Sarah says, “I really love yellow silk gowns. And this one is awesome.”
Friend is not convinced. Sarah: “Not convinced about that sleeveless robe a la francaise/chemise a la reine combo.”
Friend has cute matching shoes tho.
Cathy’s off to Russia, dreaming her little dreams.
She’ll wear this sweater thing a lot.
She meets Peter for the first time, and he’s a douchebag. But he’s wearing a wig!
Obligatory not-pinned-up hair because she’s young, virginal, romantic, blah blah blah. [Note: We do not approve.]
This seems to be his main outfit for the first two eps.
Nice gown silhouette. Weird back seaming (this kind of pleated bodice isn’t usually cut separate from the skirt, see another example below that’s cut more correctly).
Big flashy wedding feast, and Cathy is still all romantic and excited.
This dress is very clearly based on the French court style, with the on-the-shoulder neckline and cone-shaped, self-supporting (boned and stiffened) bodice. The metallics are GORGEOUS. It’s missing the ruffled lace sleeves, but we can deal. Sarah: “One thing about this entire show is that even though the costumes are various levels of ridiculous, the FIT is amazing.”
Here’s an example of a real court dress. This one was worn by Queen Sofia Magdalena of Sweden in 1766, and is at the Livrustkammeran museum.
Had to lighten this a ton & still can’t tell what it’s made of — lamé? sequins? WTFrock? it’s so shiny & fabulous!
The wedding night is less than satisfactory for Cathy, but she still thinks she can eek love out of this arrangement. Oh gurl.
Marial, Cathy’s maid, has her own backstory, & an interesting wardrobe. Sarah loves her outfit. It’s very “18th-century Russian folk costume” but really well done.
Peter introduces Cathy to his mom. His dead mom.
The dress looks about right?
Cathy’s hair is up now that she’s been fucked.
This dress is the same style as her previous ones, with a cuff sleeve. We can’t deal with the fact that her hair is up, but she’s STILL rocking the side-part!!
Then he sends Cathy off with the court ladies to play with hats.
Trystan wants you to know that she would KILL for that purple dress.
Notice the hard wig line.
Cathy’s hair is natural (tho’ sloppy).
Screencaps lightened to reveal more of the joke about wigs / hats.
This is rather hard to see onscreen, so the joke is super-subtle without lightening the images as here.
Cathy is disappointed to discover the court ladies can’t read and just spend their days gossiping and playing games.
Can we order this pavilion on Amazon? Asking for a friend.
The Russian court ladies’ dress reminds us…
Of Ottoman and Eastern European stage costumes of the era, like this one from Athalie, set in the ancient Levant | Gallerie des Modes, Habillement d’Athalie au théatre, 1779.
She petitions Peter to build a school, & he agrees, kind of.
This is such a gorgeous outfit! We spent a lot of time staring at the excellent fit, and we’ve decided the revers or turnbacks (the section along the center front with buttons and buttonholes, which is meant to resemble a turned-back coat in the men’s style) must be a separate piece, with a hidden princess seam along that edge just past the buttons. It fits like LIQUID!
Peter has the school burned down though, and that, along with his fucking every other woman in court, bums Cathy out.
Adorable compere-front gown! We’d love to know how exactly they accomplished that trim. It looks (in the best possible way!) like ruffled cabbage leaves.
We’ve all been there, girl.
She goes to this big, nutjob party where people are drunk and stupid, and Peter is shooting is gun off inside the room.
Cathy tells the ladies their wigs aren’t hats. Another lightened screencap so you can get the joke better.
Wacky Aunt Elizabeth wears all kinds of wacky stuff, but it’s so dark, you can’t see most of it.
Here’s that lavender compere-front dress again. The stitched-down back pleats are lovely, if 1770s-80s. This is what that weird-back-pleats dress above should look like.
Peter shoots the bear he’d given to Cathy as a gift. She slaps him and runs out of the party. Shit gets real.
And that’s when it’s clear Peter is wearing Contractually Obligated Leather Pants!
Episode one ends with Cathy figuring out that a love-match is totally not happening, so how about a coup instead?
And thus episode two starts with Cathy getting yet another fuck by Peter.
We’ve all been there.
After the obligatory royal fuck, Peter goes to chill with the court bitches.
Robe à la française sighting.
And by ‘chill’ we mean ‘fuck.’
Meanwhile, Cathy takes a bath and plots a coup.
Marial the maid again. And her hair is UP! HUZZAH!
The emperor and his council meet and order a guy to cut off his beard — one of Peter’s previous “reforms” to make Russia “modern” was to outlaw long beards. Count Orlov sticks up for the beard guy, and this will become important later. Back to Cathy. She goes out and about to the court.
Her first new dress of this ep is the same style as previously, but in a pale green leaf print. And her hair is up in a perfectly period fashion!
As discussed in the podcast, this style was called the “tete de mouton” (sheep’s head) hairstyle, and was very popular in the 1750s-60s.
Here’s what that hairstyle looked like in real life: Portrait of a Frenchwoman by Jean-Etienne Liotard showing the tête de mouton hairstyle, 1750s.
Looks like the court ladies are wearing their wigs correctly now!
Again, the fit is great on these gowns. Gotta hand it to the costume team.
Cathy finds every one of these fuckers tedious.
That yellow dress is back-laced, but it’s on an extra, and it’s the only one we’ve spotted so far, so we’re pretty happy.
Yeah, there is implied animal violence, though not actually shown on screen. Kendra is VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THIS SHOW’S CRITTERS, even if she knows objectively that it’s fictional. POOR RACCOON. POOR BEAR. POOR PUPPIES!!
That’s probably the yellow dress to the right.
Peter has a chat with his crazy aunt, who is easily the most interesting woman at court. She tells Peter something inside him is “rancid,” according to his mom.
Tonight, she’s wearing a 1980s goth poet shirt to lounge around. She also has bad ’80s metal hair. \m/ Sarah: “I just got off a facetime with Trystan and she was legit wearing this…” Trystan hangs head.
Cathy tries to make progress on coup-plotting with a ludicrously bad attempt at seducing Orlov. But no costume changes until the next day, when she’s afraid he’ll reveal her plans.
Peasant casual. NBD.
At least she has a corset underneath. This outfit is clearly supposed to be a nod toward Russian folk costume, showing Catherine’s increasing attachment to “Russia.”
Peter tries to have another talk with Cathy and sorta make nice. He’s not good at it, of course. So he goes off hunting.
He’s out with Georgina (who Peter is fucking) & Grigor (her husband, who sucks it up because, duh, the emperor).
Super cute riding habit.
Promo pic shows a bit more detail.
This looks so much like…
This c. 1760 riding habit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There’s a feast to celebrate a battle against Sweden.
Come on, vogue! Let your body go with the flow. Sarah tried for tens of seconds to get a good screencap of that red stripey number.
Time for a new dress!
Sort of a peachy print, same style as always, but with wider skirts.
Promo pic, lightened to show detail.
Georgiana dances on her husband’s head.
Gotta wash off the dead guy stench on your hands after a dinner with Pete III. Also, that lovely little detail on the back of Marial’s bodice.
The next time the beard guy comes to see Peter, the emperor forces Orlov to shave him. This seals the deal, and Orlov is 100% in with Cathy’s coup.
Looks like her teal dress from ep 1 again. The bodice wrinkles remind me of Anne Boleyn’s dress in Wolf Hall, and makes me think Sarah is right that the issue with both is just that they’re not-underlined-or-stiffened satin worn over separate stays, and the satin is moving around a bit because the gown is just slightly loose.
We’ll be back in two weeks with episodes three & four!
The Great Episodes One & Two, Podcast Recap
Listen to our podcast recap of the episode here or on iTunes!
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