Frock Flicks note: We recapped and podcasted S1 of The Great, and when the second season dropped on Hulu, our friend Sabrina offered to write about it. This is the first in her series. Sabrina is a literature scholar and historical costuming enthusiast, and you can follow along with her costuming progress at MapleJade Creations.
Welcome to Part 2 of this two-part series on season two of The Great (2020-). For absolutely no real reason other than having some sort of criteria for splitting up what would otherwise be a gigantic post, in this part, I’ll be focusing on the brunette characters. You can find Part 1: The Blondes here. I’ve been looking at what colours the different characters have been wearing and how this relates to the individual characters and their allegiances at court.
Marial’s (Phoebe Fox) return to being a lady of the court means that she finally ditches her servant’s garb and gets a wide range of fancy gowns. Her first appearance in her restored status sets the tone of her whole character. In an interview with Town & Country, Fox says of this gown, “This outfit was my first dress as a lady, and I loved it because it was so triumphant. It says a lot about how Marial feels about her ascent.” She wears a darker tone of Catherine’s favoured blue-green, showing her renewed allegiance to Catherine (after ratting her out — or saving her life, depending on whose take you believe — in season one). She wears a lot of blue-green shades throughout season two as she insists on her continued loyalty to Catherine. The sash is also a nice throwback to the hot pink colour that Catherine wore at the end of season one when the coup started.
I don’t hate the sash, even though it doesn’t look historical with that big bow on the shoulder. These kinds of sashes always remind me of things that people actually wore (and still wear) as orders.
However, the decision to put Marial in other berry and plum tones, the jewel tones of the old court, in addition to the teals and aquas reminds the viewer that Marial is Russian, unlike Catherine. She’s been raised at the Russian court and understands it far better than Catherine.
Something that really irks me about some of Marial’s gowns (and that we see in other characters’ dresses, like Catherine’s ivory with red floral in the finale) is that the bodices are often back-closing. Most gowns from the 18th century opened in the front. While it doesn’t have to be an issue in the show (obviously historical accuracy is not the goal in a show that dubs itself “an occasionally true story”), it becomes an issue when there is a split-front overskirt. It just doesn’t work, in terms of clothing that is put on and taken off, because the front bodice isn’t also open. So there has to be some weird jiggery-pokery going on, like having the overskirt (which historically was attached to the bodice to create a gown) separate from the bodice. Eighteenth-century court gowns would have a separate bodice, petticoat, and overskirt/train, but these dresses, although worn at court, are not court gowns. (Catherine does wear an 18th-century style court dress in season one for the wedding and in the season two finale in Peter’s daydream.)
Some dresses, though, have totally accurate backs, like this one where there are sewn-down pleats from the bodice into the skirt.
Marial carries on the theme of having a generally historically accurate silhouette, but with fun fabric choices, like interesting, modern-looking florals and large checks.
Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow) is more of a redhead than a brunette, so maybe she shouldn’t be in this post; but she’s definitely not a blonde, so here she is. Elizabeth has an earthy sort of colour palette. She wears a lot of greens and purples — colours on the colour wheel that are on either side of Catherine’s blues — as well as a lot of metallics, which are common in Peter’s wardrobe. This reflects her love for both of them. (Her wardrobe also includes a lot of insect designs. That’s just Elizabeth being Elizabeth.)
One of the best things about Elizabeth’s wardrobe is how often it is inspired by 18th-century menswear. She wears a lot of shirts and coats, but usually with skirts rather than breeches or trousers. Is this historically accurate? Yes. Women’s riding habits, in particular. Based on portraits, riding habits like these don’t seem to have been worn exclusively for riding. And some of them are really fancy.
Elizabeth’s wardrobe also features a lot of historically inaccurate jabots and weird lizard frill ruff things. I don’t know what that’s about. A more suitable option would be a tied cravat.
Georgina (Charity Wakefield) is still wearing her signature berry colours from season one. She’s firmly in the old Russian court camp. A lot of her outfits are more fashion-forward, very 1780s jacket and skirt combos, in particular because the jackets tend to have a “zone” or cutaway front. The stomacher sections seem to have seamlines making a V, which serves no purpose that I can tell in addition to looking just plain weird.
Georgina wears this gown at the coronation reception, so I guess it’s supposed to be fancy, but to me it’s just really WTF. Maybe it’s supposed to be a take on a volante, a garment that was popular in the early part of the 18th century, which is open in the bodice front but closed at the skirt?
Katya Velcra (Jane Mahady) isn’t a main character and I don’t think that her colour palette is saying much, but she plays a sizeable role and she has a pretty great wardrobe that strongly references popular mid-18th-century styles. (Plus her name cracks me up!) The frilly serpentine trims and the elbow ruffles especially say Rococo to me.
Even though I’ve been focusing on the women, I need to give an honorable mention to Peter (Nicholas Hoult) here. He rocks this over-the-top outfit at the most ridiculous, whack-a-doodle baby shower ever held ever.
The truffle-hunting puppy also gets an honorable mention! Coco Ottina is definitely a brunette!
I was happy to learn that a third season has recently been confirmed, so we can expect to see more of The Great and its interesting costumes in the future. Huzzah!
What do you think of the second season of The Great?