WTF Is Margaret Beaufort Wearing in The White Princess?!?!


When The White Princess (2017) — the based-on-a-Philippa-Gregory-novel sequel to The White Queen (2013), telling the “story” of Elizabeth of York (wife of Henry VII) — was announced, I shuddered and rubbed my hands gleefully simultaneously. The White Queen wasn’t a total trainwreck, but I certainly hated a lot about it. Then, the teaser trailer for The White Princess came out right during Snark Week, and I thought, “Okay, Starz is throwing DOWN!” I was twitchy enough that I had to make a series of memes, one of which captured my WTF reaction to Margaret Beaufort:

The White Princess (2017)

I had problems with the dress, but THE HEADWEAR!!!

Welp, Trystan and I recently decided to drunkenly hate-watch the first episode of The White Princess. Amongst a sea of synthetic taffeta, flocked velvet, and hair extensions, my rage was focused on one character: Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, played by Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones).

To quote Frock Flicks reader Margaret B. Munday:

Michelle Fairley as Margaret Beaufort looks like Maleficent got religion.


The White Princess (2017)

I thought the cross emblazoned onto the front of her partlet was EXTRA SUBTLE. SO WAIT, IS SHE RELIGIOUS?

The White Princess (2017)

THIS DRESS. Clearly they are going for a sideless surcoat effect, but this is a case of NOT NEARLY ENOUGH FABRIC. And if someone wants to burn test a swatch of that fabric, I’ll believe that it’s silk. Until then, I’m calling $3.99 acetate taffeta from JoAnn’s.

The White Princess (2017)

It’s this headdress that killed me. When I saw the promo, I thought it was some kind of rounded big-hair-cozy, which would have been weird enough. But no, Starz decided to double down with a triceratops take on a French hood.

The Tudors french hood

I mocked The Tudors for the same thing, but clearly I should have saved my ire.

2017 The White Princess


Let’s compare that hood with some 1480s-1500s hoods, just so we can keep at least one toe in the swimming pool of reality.

English hoods 1480s-1510s

Top row: Portrait of Elizabeth of York (1465-1503), between c. 1470 and c. 1498, Hampton Court Palace | Church of England parish church of St Mary, Ewelme, Oxfordshire: head of alabaster effigy of Alice de la Pole on her tomb (died 1475) | Anne Monument, North Aston, late 15th c. | Rowland Lockney, Lady Margaret Beaufort, c. 1500, St. John’s College
Bottom row: Detail of the tomb of Elizabeth Plantagenet, Duchess of Suffolk in St Andrew’s parish church, Wingfield, Suffolk (built 1503) | Tomb of Henry VII (died 1509) and Elizabeth of York in Westminster Abbey | Tomb of Margaret Beaufort (died 1509), mother of Henry VII of England in Westminster Abbey | Lady Joan Lisle c1510 via Tudor Effigies

2017 The White Princess

They tried to tone things down with this overly-buckramed Marian-style (i.e., Queen Mary I, so 1550s, i.e., about 50 years too late) hood, which I swear has bugle beads glued to the edge.

The White Princess (2017)

Okay, so not bugle beads, but that’s what it looked like on screen! I am also NOT a fan of that gold trim.

Trystan and I only made it through the one episode, through which there was MUCH drunken ranting, the results of which you’ll get to hear about in future posts. But apparently we have much more WTFery to look forward to:

The White Princess (2017)

Okay, so at least they sprung for some more fabric, even if it looks like something that should upholster a couch at the Vatican.

The White Princess (2017)

I’m glad to see they’re sticking with the Minnie Mouse hood effect.

The White Princess (2017)

This is my Christmas nightmare.

The White Princess (2017)

Now she’s Thai?!?!


Can you explain any of the above?!?!


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

54 Responses

  1. Nicola

    That headdress looks like the unholy offspring of a bad French hood and an even worse atifet.

    I love Michelle Fairley. I’m kind of embarrassed on her behalf.

    • phlegmfatale

      I love her, too. That voice!
      She deserved better. I think they overworked in their attempt to convey the severity of Margaret Beaufort, but they would have been more on the mark if they’d approached the challenge with austerity.

    • dyan

      Like Fairley too, but she is way too old for this part.

    • Laura

      Not to mention the side of a cow he comes out in later on in the series. Like, an entire hide. No decoration but a pinned-on clasp band.

    • Cassandra

      I believe that was what they were aiming for.

  2. Lian

    i have been watching it in excitement for you ripping it apart and you didn’t disappoint i am embarrassed for them!

  3. May

    The actress is way too old to play that part. Please note I would love to see more older women in serious rolls but Margrate was 13 when she had Henry so she should be in her late 30’s early 40’s not pushing 60.

    • Angela

      I know! I’m all for middle-aged actresses getting work, but this bugged the crap outta me too.

  4. Katy Werlin

    The fabric in the Christmas Nightmare dress is actually a really beautiful pattern. I’m a big sucker for a good pomegranate motif. If only it wasn’t used to make a fugly Christmastime At The Ren Faire Bar Wench dress. Like, what????

  5. Melinda

    Ohh, next year’s snark week’s gonna be hideous if you keep on watching and saving the best for us :D

  6. Al

    That mottled (diseased?)… chemise? is really… something. And that green gown is shouting “drapery fabric” to me, even though it’s the prettiest thing she’s got going on here.

  7. Carmen Beaudry

    What the actual fuck are they trying to do with that laced-up horror?

  8. Tracy Benton

    It’s the most poorly-paced and ridiculously-gowned piece of faux history I’ve seen on Starz, and that’s saying something.

  9. Emily

    So glad others thought there was something really WTF with the costumes… really don’t understand the show’s concept

  10. LadySlippers

    Philipa Gregory makes me so frothing mad I could spit nails — I tend to avoid anything and everything she does because of that. To make matters worse, so many people think she’s historically accurate, and I’m not sure how to break it to them Gregory is all fiction and barely historical. The costumes here keep that ‘lovely’ theme of inaccuracy going.

    Bravo to anyone that can stomach her crap because I certainly cannot. And crap it is. Although your snark does tame the flame of despiction just a tad. Thank God for Snark! 🌷

    • Kristen

      I hate her version of “history”. The first time I saw The Other Boleyn Girl, I could only stare in horror as the credits rolled. Seriously, did she do any research on her books?

      As for the snark, volumes could be written just with the first episode!

    • Susan Pola

      I detest Philippa Gregory. She is in NO WAY historically accurate. I avoid her like the plague.

      This is another reason. Margaret Beaufort Countess of Richmond, was a descendant of John of Gaunt, through his liaison with Katherine Swynford, whom he later married. All of the children were born before the marriage. Including Joane – Cecily Neville’s mother. As the mother of the King, she founded a college -at Cambridge I believe, but wouldn’t swear to it- She was Henry’s most important advisor. Whether or not she was involved with the death of young Edward & his brother Richard (Princes in the Tower) is a matter for debate, but she was known for her piety.

  11. Charity

    I thought you’d appreciate that… uh “French Hood.”

    I think modern interpretations of history have a “no wimple” rule. :P

  12. ladyaquanine73551

    Everyone, it’s official: We’ve entered the age of stupid, drugged-up costume designers that don’t know what the BEEP they’re doing. The worst part is, I don’t think it’s gonna end any time soon. And here I thought the horrors of “The Tudors” and “Reign” were coming to an end.

  13. brainybrunette20

    Ugh! I wasn’t a huge fan of the book! But the WTF levels of this production reached critical mass even before the first episode aired!

  14. M.E. Lawrence

    OMFG! I’m so glad I only get broadcast telly, or I might be tempted to watch this and keep falling off the sofa. A formidable and scary woman, Margaret Beaufort (yet another plausible candidate for the who-murdered-the-princes-in-the-Tower? game); she doesn’t deserve this wardrobe.

  15. natswrite

    Oh I have been waiting with baited breath to read your comments on this show! I liked the White Queen but so far this show is sort of terrible. The acting is ok (except for Suki Waterhouse, who thinks she’s on Reign) but the costumes and hair are killing me. So many questions:

    1. Why is everyone wearing their hair down ALWAYS? (bobby-pin shortage, perhaps)

    2. Why do half the actors look like they are wearing nightgowns/robes?

    3. Why does the wife of the King have such a crappy wardrobe? She’s been wearing that blue lace-up nonsense for months. Are they trying to say she doesn’t care enough to wear anything interesting? Is no one giving her money for things? What is that pink (lavender?) lace-up dress??

    3. Henry wearing pleather pants. Not a question but ugh.

    4. This could be wrong, but I thought royalty did not wear their crowns that often? Seems like Henry always has it on. I suppose it could be a conscious narrative choice (as in, he is overcompensating) but it seems anachronistic.

    On another note, it’s bugging me how fast and loose the show is playing with history, which is interesting enough on its own (but I blame the source material for that). They have also really kicked up the magic aspect with the mother and it’s pretty dumb – it was handled much more subtly in the first series. The Tudors had some sketchy costuming but at least it didn’t constantly distract me from the show itself, whereas here all I can see on screen is that awful turquoise and gold lace-up thing.

    But I’ll probably keep watching because, why not?

    • Kendra

      Yeah, I kept saying to Trystan as we were watching, “That could be the most spot-on crown repro ever, but I’m still calling it: Burger King.”

      And we will DEFINITELY be getting into how they’re mangling the history!

  16. Liz Hamill

    I’ve been waiting for you guys to post about this frothing nightmare, though I haven’t laid in enough liquor to watch it myself yet. Just the promo shots make me stare in horror.

    The French hoot-attifet-hooded-cobra-thing…wow. Now I’m staring at both the dresses and the headwear. I’m with one of the commenters above–I actually like the pomegranate designed velvet(?) and wish they’d done something a little less awful with it.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I absolutely hate the pleated gray turtlenecked chemise that Margaret always seems to be wearing. It looks pseudo-Victorian to me for some reason. Also it’s ugly.

    I can’t wait to read what y’all think of the outfit I’ve dubbed “The Little House on the Prairie Dress.”

  17. indiaedghillI

    Say what one will about THE TUDORS (and I’ve said plenty, believe me!) at least the costumes were fun. Insanely non-accurate, but fun, and they looked expensive. The costumes in WHITE PRINCESS…I can’t even…what the hell is that blue gown with the upcurved front that “Lizzie” wears so much of the time? You know, the one with the leg-of-mutton sleeves?

  18. Sarah F

    Thank you for hate-watching this so I don’t have to. I love being able to participate in the gleeful snark without having to sit through hours of awfulness. I can’t hate-watch everything. I appreciate you all!!

  19. Dawn

    Oh my sweet lord! My eyes bleed at the sheer mishmash of attempted historical costume. A hood that reminds me of the one worn by Marie Stuart in some of her later portraits. A sideless surcoat somewhere between 50-100 years late (I forget the actual dates) WITH a late French hood. No veil, natch. The last picture reminds of Russian kokoshniks. And those hanging/pocket sleeves–what’s the actual date? Not 1485/6, I’m pretty sure. And I just don’t know what that purplish one is about. Although I believe I have a shirt of the same material the underdress is made of that I bought several years ago.

    While I like the black and silver dress with the dark teal apron and the big sleeves, that’s the one that really looks like Maleficent got religion. And it certainly isn’t period.

    Although Elizabeth’s gown looks closest to timely, it still seems somewhat out of fashion.

  20. revknits

    I feel like the production co spent all of about $50 per character for costuming, including shoes, hose and jewelry. The little sisters look like ordinary children. Can’t imagine the stress of the costume dept finding cheap rolls of fabric to try to clothe the actors. I thought the Tudors was bad! Gonna go watch an episode of Wolf Hall, which at least avoids hair down and fabrics that look like they cost something.

  21. dyan

    There is certainly major costume discontinuity in the White Princess and Beauford’s head piece, boy howdy, but even worse for me is the actress playing Margaret B, is way, way too old. She had him when she was about 13 which would make her plus or minus 30-ish. She doesn’t look a day under 60. The casting and costuming were much better done in prequel, White Queen.

    • Lulu

      Exactly! I was like, this is 30 DAYS later, not 30 YEARS!

  22. Kathleen Norvell

    OMG! Where to begin? Oh, the horror! The headdress that looks like a dark blue taco shell. The cheap-ass sideless surcoat with the turtleneck thingy under it. The “Christmas nightmare” outfit that looks like it was made from two fleece throws. At least the silver gown looks vaguely from the time period, although something on her head would be appreciated. I am SO GLAD I don’t get STARZ. I would be throwing rocks at the TV.

  23. Stacey

    I thought the last headpiece looked more like a Russian kokshnik.

  24. JudyPerry

    What in the name of all that is holy IS that tie-dyed chemise she’s apparently wearing??? Even my handmade, doubtlessly overly buckramed etc. French hoods were all doing the $3.99/yd cheap ass acetate thing/plastic hairband/craft beads thingy, but you know, I made it for my kid who was 5 at the time!

  25. Roxana

    Is a gable hood that hard? Interesting note: on formal occasions Elizabeth and Margaret used to dress alike, Elizabeth would wear her crown and Margaret a smaller coronet. Whether on loose hair or a hood I don’t know.

  26. MzTansvanian

    Are some of the head peices eastern european? It may have been groovy for those particula outfits to be in a fantasy production.
    I did draw an eastern styled hat on a rough sketch picture of Vampira…I wonder if got it right (:-0

  27. Shelbh

    Acting wise, Michelle Fairley did a pretty good job as Margaret Beaufort. Costume wise, it’s all wrong. In portraits of Margaret, you see her wearing white gable hoods and dressed sort of like a nun. Why couldn’t they get that right? It isn’t hard to look at portraits of 15th/16th century women and copy the fashions from there.

  28. ladyliterator

    Man I know I’m years late, but compare the Minnie Mouse/cobra hood to a Zuniceratops. It’s uncanny.