About That New Mary Queen of Scots Film


Y’all probably know I’m the resident Mary Queen of Scots fan here, and I’ve been following the possible new movie about her life starring Saoirse Ronan for awhile. Well, it’s finally started filming, and last week a promo photo of Ronan in costume was issued. It wasn’t all that interesting to me, but I figured I’d reserve further judgement until I saw more.

2018 Mary Queen of Scots

Sarah was impressed that she’s a redhead. So what, it’s a dyejob or a wig? MEH.

2018 Mary Queen of Scots

I was, however, offended that the actress didn’t take out her TOTALLY MODERN five hoop earrings for the frickin’ photo shoot. Also, is that a bra strap I see peeking out of her apparently princess-seamed bodice? Blergh.

This dress on Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart really looks phoned-in. Was someone in a rush? Could they not get a rental from Angels or CosProp in time? C’mon, this is weak as shit.

Whatever GIF

The film is a U.K. production, they have oodles of far more historically accurate 16th-century gowns at their disposal to slip into for a quickie shoot. Throw me a frickin’ bone, fer chrissakes. But like I said, I wasn’t going to get too worked up about this one lamesauce photo until…

What the damn hell? GIF

Yesterday, one of ours readers, Simone, sent us a photo on Facebook asking “Please tell me the new outfit for portrayal of Elizabeth I isn’t in bloody denim? Help me out here, am I blind?” OMFG!

2018 Mary Queen of Scots

From the neck up, this could be a great Queen Elizabeth I — curly red hair, high forehead! Good job. Then you look down, and OH NO THEY DIDN’T.

2018 Mary Queen of Scots

WHAT IS THIS STEAMPUNK MONSTROSITY?!?! No, they don’t get brownie points for the faux blackworked shirt or spiral-lacing on that corset-worn-as-outerwear.

Yeah, Simone, it looks like denim to me too. There is nothing here that is a historically accurate look for a late 16th-century story.  It makes me want to throw things. The cutaway partlet / “zone” front / spencer jacket thing over the pierced corset.  Those buckles on one side of the skirt. The denim-on-denim color scheme. What the hell is this even supposed to be? IT ALL MAKES MY BRAIN HURT.

I'm sorry, that's fucking bullshit GIF

The costume designer is Alexandra Byrne, best-known for Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), which were both pretty but very much stylized in a haute-couture-meets-Bollywood aesthetic to suit director Shekhar Kapur’s vision. So what the frock is director Josie Rourke’s vision here??? Reign already did MQoS goes haute couture — did Rourke think that Mary Queen of Scots goes steampunk is the natural evolution???

Why do you hate me? What have I done to you? GIF

What the ever-loving fuck is going on with directors / designers / people these days that they can’t just look at a fucking fashion history book and work from that when costuming a historical movie?!?! We’ve talked on this blog endlessly about how yes, it’s cool if films have a consistent and original thematic idea for how to interpret historical fashion that’s telling a story, but just slapping a bunch of different pieces from random eras together is grade-A bullshit.

Everything's just getting shittier GIF

I don’t want to hear ‘it’s more relatable to modern audiences’ if historical characters are wearing a goddamned mishmash of ye-olde-time-y styles and modern clothes. It’s relatable if you have a good script and good acting, FFS. Do the heavy lifting with your direction and writing, not fucked-up costumes.

Legally Blonde - what like it's hard? GIF

Yeah, OK, fine, not everyone will notice if the costumes are historically accurate — note the comments on fashion site Go Fug Yourself, where insights were as in-depth as “The blue of that gown looks absolutely gorgeous” and “If the costumes are like that gorgeous blue dress then I am in.” Also, this little exchange:

Comment A: “Why does she have those ear piercings? Oversight, or…?”

Reply B: “If you do a Google search for portraits of MQoS, you’ll see she has earrings on in many of them.”

Miss Piggy headdesk GIF

Yes, she had ONE set of ear piercings. That was fairly common for the period. NO do not keep posting this closeup:

1550, Maria of Portugal, workshop of Antonis Mor, closeup

It’s a close crop of this portrait of Maria of Portugal, Duchess of Parma, circa 1550, painted by the workshop of Antonis Mor. Using one or two images from kinda-sorta the period but in a different geographical area doesn’t prove jack shit (note to Frock Flicks staff: we need to write an article about how exceptions don’t prove the rule in fashion history and on-screen, gawd that pisses me off). Parma is in Italy, not Scotland, France, or England, any of the historical places Mary Stuart would reasonably be expected to take her fashion cues from. ALSO, we have a very well-documented list of legit contemporary portraits of her showing, as I said, ONE set of ear piercings — here, I’ve collected the images all on Pinterest because, yeah, it’s my jam.

Oh wait, I said I wasn’t going to get all worked up over the Saoirse Ronan photo. Sorry, I lied. Sue me.

Stephen Colbert - Opinions are like a-holes, in that mine is the best

Anyway, I just want to leave it with this thought: Mary Queen of Scots (2018) will probably reel in a few n00bs who just know names like Saoirse Ronan from Brooklyn (2015) and Margot Robbie from Suicide Squad (2016), but the producers are being numbskulls and killing off the one guaranteed audience they COULD have, us, the fans of costume dramas and actual history. We may be little weird and nit-picky, but we SHOULD be a highly sought-after demographic.

Look at how much money we spend on fabric, books, and subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon, Acorn, and BritBox! Look at how many of us pledge to public TV in the U.S.! Producers of historical films could make BANK off us if they did shit right. But instead, we’ll mostly avoid this thing on the big-screen because it won’t be worth shelling out the money, and we’ll wait for it online, and screencap it for Snark Week. THEIR LOSS.


Do you have any opinions on these photos from the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots film?

58 Responses

  1. Caroline

    It just shows that much of Hollywood/film/tv doesn’t care about accuracy – to history or to dress. That denim dress just hurt. We are indeed a minority. Sigh.

    • MoHub

      It’s also about assuming that millennials aren’t intelligent enough to relate to any era but their own and thinking they are unable to accept that things were different in the past. Sad, really.

      • Sarah Lorraine

        C’mon, they’ve been saying for decades that “contemporary” generations can’t relate to actual historical accuracy in film. At least since the 1980s, if not longer.

        Source: not a millennial, but I love avocado toast.

        • Janette

          Yes and it was rubbish then and its rubbish now. I was “contemporary” in the 80s and historically accurate costume dramas were my sustenance then as now and I never had any difficulty in “relating” to people who were dressed differently or looked different to myself. Today’s “contemporary” generations would be equally able to relate if they were given the chance. (And I also love avocado toast)

          • Nzie

            I also think it’s a cop-out. These shows and movies have audiences who are clearly at least open to historical stories. As long as the language isn’t so far removed that people get intimidated (as they do about Shakespeare), there’s no reason to assume these people couldn’t handle it. It says a lot more to me about the skills behind the camera and script than the audience when they make these changes.

            And if there’s anything defining millennial ethos right now, it’s a quest for authenticity and a lot of nostalgia. I bet if we polled people who liked some of these dubious costume dramas, a lot of them (and probably a supermajority of the women) would say they love the beautiful historical costumes. There’s no reason to assume that these people wouldn’t love accurate costumes. And I bet they’d be interested to learn more about them. I certainly am. It’s part of why I really enjoy this blog. :-)

            (We probably are killing just about everything right now, but if historical accuracy is dying it’s inflicted by producers, not the avocado toast crowd.)

        • lenabbooks

          I am a both a millennial (who obviously also loves avocado toast too, duh!) and a self professed history nerd.

          Although I cannot speak for millennials as a whole, I can guarantee that putting historical movie characters in “ye olden times” clothing does not help us relate to the characters anymore than authentic clothing. If anything, I would argue that how period pieces portray historical figures is how we relate to the the characters, not the costumes. If you represent Mary Queen of Scots as boring and unrealistic, we will see her that way, not matter what she is wearing!

          That being said, authentic clothing makes a difference! Most millennials have studied history to some degree and have a general idea of the aesthetic of a period. We will see a show as more realistic if it is authentic, not the other way around. We aren’t so aloof that we think people wore strapless haute couture dresses a la Reign, some integrity goes a long way!

          Most importantly, if you are watching a period drama in the first place you have to be interested in history to some extant so no matter what age you are, accuracy goes a long way! If shows like Wolf Hall can do it, so can other movies and tv shows!

  2. Adam Lid

    What’s up with the denim monstrosity? Someone get a discount on a run of cheap denim? Looks DOA to me. Prove me wrong…

  3. Cheryl from Maryland

    Ugh. Mary Queen of Scots was never one of my favs (Antonia Frazer did a great bio of her), and this just makes the film easier to avoid. I already have a headache from Will — the script is actually rather good; the cast is diverse (makes sense to me — actors low in the hierarchy, so mixed races peoples work there), but the costuming and art direction make my brain hurt.

    I never could watch Elizabeth and Elizabeth II — not just the bad costuming, but the idea of turning Cecil into Walsingham – so necessary, so arbitrary, so wrong. I had a colleague at work tell me I should put away my prejudices and watch them — I asked her who majored in art history and Tudor/Stuart history — her or me? Oh yeah, me. Blackadder is more true to history. (Rant over).

  4. LadySlippers

    I think going steampunk sounds like an interesting take on some well trodden stories. However, shouldn’t that be a consistent theme throughout?

    And Mary, as a Queen Regina since almost birth, would not have been so plain as they have the actress dressed above that irks me. Her earrings would fit better if they had been consistent with their art production theme. Frankly the modern bra that shows the kinds of attention to detail this production has….which is to say, not much.

    So in a nutshell, I like the concept but not the execution of their idea.

    • Lillian

      Mary is dressed plainly because she’s the heroine, and so she has to be modest and humble. It’s a little like how Braveheart showed all the Scottish people wearing rags: so that they could be contrasted against the evil, decadent English people.

      • Nicholas Altenberg

        “Braveheart” has costume inaccuracies too. Kilts weren’t worn in the tie period.

  5. Samantha Ritz

    I used to be in a Madrigal choir and let me tell you, these movies really do affect how people see history. I had no clue that metal grommets weren’t historically accurate, or the correct silhouettes for renaissance dress. After this movie is released I’m sure the copy cat dress patterns will come out- then madrigal singers and fair workers around the country will be sporting terrible and innaccurate eyesore costumes.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      As a longtime renfaire actor, yep, this is 100% true. Ppl get their ideas from movies/TV first, then go look at historical sources. The more I dig into 1950s & ’60s medieval / renaissance films, I see exactly where all the faire-isms of costume & SCA ideas of what to wear originated (& yes, it’s been an idea for a blog post for a while, just need to gather all the right screencaps!). These days, Game of Thrones & steampunk the big inspiration at renfaire & SCA. I’ve been at newcomer events for the SCA where ppl asked if they could play Game of Thrones characters & wear Game of Thrones costumes. sigh

  6. Seanna

    If they’re going to chuck HA overboard, could they at least give us something pretty? The blue/purple is dress is strictly OKAY, but that denim thing is ugly in any century.

  7. Ellira

    The trim on Mary’s dress looks like those dreadful 90s “tattoo bracelets”. Was black lace a thing in the period? A quick google didn’t give me any answers.

  8. picasso Manu

    The blue dress was simply bland and boring but sorta ok, but that denim thing? That genuinely hurt.
    I would not have bet much on the life expectancy of the seamstress who’d have dared to present that thing to the real Elizabeth… I keep hearing “off with her head!” for some reason, have no idea why.

    “But first, I’m gonna have a little drinky”

  9. Sarah Lorraine

    We loosely lump British tv/movies into the “Hollywood” category, mostly for convenience. Also, because there’s becoming less and less of a difference between US and UK productions as each is trying to appeal to the other’s audience.

    • MoHub

      The Brits have largely caved to the Hollywood ethos. Back in the day, British performers saw acting as a job, much like any other profession. Unfortunately, the modern attitude seems to lean toward the Hollywood standard of stardom and all that goes with it.

  10. Isara

    What really hurts here, and with a lot of “period” shows and films, is that they can’t decide if they want to be HA or not. Mary’s dress has the correct form and shape, so could lead one into thinking this was a period-accurate show. Elizabeth’s dress is just… no. If they could just pick a side and stick with it, it’d be much easier to swallow. “Steampunky Elizabethan? Sure!” At least Reign had the good sense to play with the fashions fairly consistently.

  11. Broughps

    I like Elizabeth’s dress. It’s obviously not right for an historical movie, but I could have fun with it.

  12. hadabuck

    I saw E’s get-up yesterday and said, WTF? Right out loud. I ran straight to this site to see if you had written anything. The more I looked at it, the angrier I got. Why do HA hair and make-up, and then put her in a monstrosity like that? A pop-collar spencer? Did they raid the faux-Regency costume closet, then head to Hobby Lobby for some grey pleather for the corsety-thing? Augh. Just awful. And to think of the budgets they have! It’s just a travesty.

  13. Cathryn Reynolds

    Elizabeth’s denim look didn’t get me as much as the collar and lapels! Those look fab on The Goblin King but don’t really say Lizzie 1 to me. Perhaps this isn’t denim but a funky linen? Maybe this piece is supposed to be a partlet? A sleeved partlet? 😳
    Anyway, Her Maj might be a really fun girl seeing as her skirt comes with buckles and tie down straps! 😁

  14. Martha

    I saw the screen shot of that black dress in an article yesterday and thought to myself “frockflicks is going to have a field day with this.”

  15. Susan Pola Staples

    I hope MoS’s ghost haunts them, the actors involved, the costumers who are supposed to know better and the production team for what appears to be a travesty

    I, too, wanted a HA MoS movie or miniseries, but this appears not to be it.
    Elizabeth’s costume is probably the worst thing that I can recall. Steampunk is fun, but please not in a biopic.

    Where are Jean Honeysett, Janet Arnold and the Right Honourable Glenda Jackson, MP when you need them?

  16. Black Tulip

    Oh. My. There is not enough pink drink IN THE WORLD to wash away the memory of that QE1 monstrosity.

  17. Liz de Belcaire

    Fuck an A, those are awful. Including the blue/purple thing with the horrifically ill-fitting sleeves and the Renaissance by way of Victorian silhouette.

    One thing that drives me nuts–the idea that somehow “we have to be modern/trendy because young people can’t relate to real historical costumes.” In the 1980s I was a child. The two movies that made me fall in love with costume dramas: A Room With a View and Dangerous Liaisons.

    The beauty and in fact the “otherness” of those films attracted me. The costumes (plus amazing writing, acting, and directing) transported me to another place and another time.

    I realize I may have to turn in my grown-up card but I think that “kids today” are plenty smart enough and imaginative enough to be turned ON by glorious and mostly accurate historical costume on screen.

  18. Melinda

    According to all of the bad, poorly costumed series and films, next year’s snark week should expand to a month. Otherwise I just don’t know how you girls will fill all this shit into 7 days???!!!

  19. Valerie

    So much no. And the description of the movie itself is awful. Rivals in love? Seriously?
    The MQS look is fine. That’s it. Fine. Meh. Boring even (what’s with the wig on MQS? It doesn’t look remotely 1562). Anyway, I was willing to go with it, understanding the costume designer is well known and respected, and was likely working with the director’s vision. They lost me with QE1. Lost me. So much no.

  20. Chris

    Also? Neither woman is wearing a cap. Or anything else on their heads except hair. It just looks wrong.

  21. Laura

    I have a sinking feeling that they are going to go all “A Knight’s Tale” on all the costumes….

  22. elizacameron

    The costumes look blah and I’m also not sure why the director decided to cast Gemma Chan as Bess of Hardwick who last time I looked was not Asian.

      • Nicholas Altenberg

        People are bothered though by the casting of white people in non-white rolls, which is a double standard. I saw “The Sound of Music” in New York City years ago, with a black woman playing the very real and white Maria von Trapp. She sang well and acted well, but there was no way in heck that you couldn’t get past seeing a black woman with a white family in 1930’s Nazi controlled Austria. Imagine the uproar if a white man portrayed Nelson Mandela in a film? Race defines historical characters in films and plays as much as period correct clothing and sets do.

  23. A

    Well, to be entirely honest, I do love the colour of that blue dress. Not the dress itself, though. I just love a nice blue, purely and passionately.

  24. Elizabeth

    I was watching the trailer and turned to my bf and said “I can’t tell if that’s supposed to be Elizabeth I or Pennywise the Clown.”

  25. AGOGO

    Just checking to see if you have realised that THIS FILM is actually a film of fantasy, and it’s not meant to be and never states that is a historical film? I mean FROCKS ON FILM loves EVER AFTER ; a film which references “period costumes” LOOSLY!. Just hereto remind you all that cinema is FANTASY! It’s meant to be exacapeism! If you really need a disclaimer at the beginning of the film that is is a “RE INTEPRITATION maybe YOUR watching it for the wrong reasons?

    • Nicholas Altenberg

      I’ve seen not one promotional thing for “Mary, Queen of Scots”, suggesting that it was a fantasy interpretation of historical events.
      All cinema is NOT “fantasy” or “escapism”, and even IN fantasy, we have a right to expect accuracy. Look at “Dr. Zhivago”. The story was fantasy, made up, but the costumes and sets were accurate, thus making the made up story all the more believable!
      How the heck is expecting a film about historical events and people to be accurate, “watching it for the wrong reasons”? What would the right reasons be?

      Bad enough that directors, casters and costumers can’t get their heads out of their self righteous backsides when creating “period films” that reflect their PC attitudes more than they do the history that they are dealing with, without having fans excuse all of that with, “But it’s fantasy!”

  26. Gogo

    THANKYOU for those. I’m the first to admit I’m not very good in the grammatical department. Also thanks for the link, I see none of the writers are actually in the world of film making so it makes more sense. Thanks


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