Previewing The Favourite… Finally!


Welp, the Mary Queen of Scots (2018) movie looks like a shitshow, but thank god someone (ahem the genius Sandy Powell) has done their homework in costuming early 17th-century-set The Favourite (2018). We’ve been dying for a glimpse, and now finally, a trailer! This is a darkly comic take on the aging Queen Anne of England and two rivals for being her favorite, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and Abigail Masham, Baroness Masham. With a cast like Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, and Emma Stone — PLUS costumes by Sandy Powell! — this should be great.

The director is Yorgos Lanthimos, whose thing apparently is absurdist/dark humor. I haven’t seen any of his films, so I can’t comment further, but every time I mention this film someone says “note the director!” so clearly that’s going to be a thing.

First, let’s take a look at the real characters being portrayed:

Queen Anne by John Closterman

John Closterman, Queen Anne, c. 1702, National Portrait Gallery

Sarah Churchill Duchess of Marlborough

Godfrey Kneller, Sarah Churchill Duchess of Marlborough, via Wikimedia Commons

Unknown woman formerly known as Abigail Masham

It looks like there’s no known image of Abigail Masham, but to give us something to work with, here’s Unknown woman formerly known as Abigail Masham, National Portrait Gallery

Of course, none of those portraits give us any sense of fashion in the early 17th century, because the big trend in portraiture was to be painted in dressing gowns. Instead:

1690s mantua, via the Met Museum

The mantua gown was all the rage. It’s basically a front-opening Middle Eastern robe that’s got wide pleats along the front edges. It’s worn over separate stays, a sash gives it waist definition, and the skirt is tucked up and back into the sash. This 1690s mantua, via the Met Museum, is a little early, but still gives a good idea of the style.

1690s Mantua, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And from the back.

Mantua, c. 1708, British, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The movie should be set around 1704-08, so this c. 1708 British mantua is probably a better example. Note the open front filled in with a stomacher, and the skirt pulled up and back. The petticoat is a lot fuller, and by this era, the back train folding gets a lot more complicated. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1698, Queen Mary, via V&A

Women’s hair was narrow and high, with the fontange headdress all the rage. The fontange is a wired lace cap that sticks up EVEN higher than the hair. 1698, Queen Mary, via V&A.

Now, the preview!

The Favourite 2018 trailer


The Favourite 2018 trailer

Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill, wearing a black dress with stomacher and high, spangled fontange. Were they ever black? I don’t know!

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. Her dress looks a bit more 1660s-ish from what I can see here, which I guess is a nod to her being extra formally dressed. Are those scrapbooking brads (JOKE)?

The Favourite 2018 trailer

OOOOO THIS FONTANGE! Ok, clearly we need to look at the out-of-style 1660s-70s dress, because Queen Anne is all about them.

Silver Tissue Dress, 1660, Fashion Museum (Bath).

This was the fashion in the 1660s — separate bodice and skirt; boned, super structured bodice with wide neckline; period appropriate back lacing; wide, short sleeves set really far towards the back; full petticoat. Silver Tissue Dress, 1660, Fashion Museum (Bath).

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Everyone is in black & white, which makes me think they’re setting the film in 1708, when Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark, died.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Allll those little (faux, I hope) ermine tails! Ermine being associated with royalty, of course.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

They’re really liking geometric lace for contrast.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Emma Stone as Abigail Masham. Going blond, I see. She’s got the wide pleated cuffs that are right for this period.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

More hot fontange action!

The Favourite 2018 trailer

“You look like a badger.” Okay, #truth, but let’s focus on that fabulous ribbon in her hair!

The Favourite 2018 trailer

NO idea what’s up here. I peered closely, and I THINK that’s a belt with buckle at the waist and not a waist seam, which is good and right and proper. Phew!

The Favourite 2018 trailer

AWWW YEAH. The pulled up and back skirt on the mantua is KEY, and I LOVE that black lace!

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Her stomacher is lace, but has little buttons down the front.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

RIDING HABIT! YES! Again, great lace, and who doesn’t love a good tricorn!

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Abigail again.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Same dress, more view, worse lighting.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

OH-KAY, we’ve got pants, ladies and gentleman. Those should be much fuller breeches IF she’s going to be wearing pants, which I strongly question in the first place. Looks like those are knee-high boots, which, okay, they’re being sporty.

Antoine Trouvain, "Mademoiselle de Loube, Fille d'honneur de madame, en habit de Chasse," c. 1692-95. Rijksmuseum

Yes, women totally wore menswear-inspired riding habits, but they did so with skirts. I’m also wondering when the tricorn came in, and I’m thinking it hasn’t happened yet … Antoine Trouvain, “Mademoiselle de Loube, Fille d’honneur de madame, en habit de Chasse,” c. 1692-95. Rijksmuseum.

The Favourite 2018 trailer


The Favourite 2018 trailer

Now we’ve reversed things, going black on white! I wonder if this is because Sarah is now out of favor?

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Geometrically patterned silks, and what looks like a mid-18th century hat to me.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

More of that ermine gown!

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Boys, wear full-bottomed wigs and makeup. We will thank you for it.


The Favourite 2018 trailerAre you looking forward to The Favourite?


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.

24 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Sarah Marlborough was a strawberry blonde not a brunette. So maybe Rachel and Emma should have played each others role.
    Costumes are what I’d expect from the awe inspiring Ms Powell. So yeah, I’m going to see it.
    The history seems so so but who knows…

  2. MoHub

    I just hope we get to see Anne indulging in her “cold tea” habit. “Cold tea” being code for the queen’s well-known practice of drinking liquor from a teacup–as if she was fooling anyone.

  3. karenbs333

    Yorgos Lanthimos is a genius! “The Lobster” was hysterical; I was snickering and amused through the entire film. But many did not like it or get his humor. Colin Farrell was perfect (he gained 40 lb for his role). So Lanthimos and great costumes! I’m in!

  4. Saraquill

    I enjoyed Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” Going by those two film and the trailer for this one, I expect more absurdity than a strict dedication to period. I’m still likely to enjoy it.

    • Viola

      The colours too remind me strongly of The Lobster rather than being strictly period, but you can’t deny that the effect is very striking. Such stylish-looking films.

  5. Sharon In Scotland

    I ADORE Olivia Colman, really talented and mad as a box of frogs!

    • M.E. Lawrence

      I had to blink at that first photo before I remembered that Anne was the divine Olivia. Great casting.

    • Northcountrygal

      Oh yes please! That was the show that made me interested in this period. I think this movie is going to be something of a burlesque. Which is fine unless you actually know something of the characters being burlesqued. Oh well as I said yesterday “Carry On Queen Anne”

  6. mmcquown

    1708 is early 18th century. Looking forward to this one. It took me a while to figure out that the numbering of centuries started with the year 1, so the first century was 01-100, the 2nd was 101-199, etc.

  7. Kelly

    Oh please let it be gay!

    Like, a movie with royal mistresses vying for attention like pretty much every court intrigue period drama, but the men are only tangential.

    I mean, we’re getting Colette so I don’t want to be greedy but…..

      • Northcountrygal

        Oh dear – just what I feared. Sarah was not the Queen’s “lover” – nor was Abigail. Anne may have had some lesbian leanings, but Sarah did not – she was passionately in love with her husband (and Mark Gatiss as the incredibly handsome John Churchill – what’s up with that?) And Sarah was not running the country. Sidney Godolphin was running the country. Both Godolphin and Marlborough kept Sarah in the loop in political matters, but to say she was running things is ridiculous. (yes I know it’s a comedy, but alas most people who see it will probably think it’s accurate in those details.)
        And Sarah was famously blonde!!

          • Northcountrygal

            Bi people may exist, but there is absolutely no reason to think that Sarah was bisexual. Anne may have been. Sarah actually found Anne’s rather goopy sentimentality somewhat tedious and did what she could to stay away from court (although she also wanted to continue to influence politics – Sarah was full of contraditions).

              • Northcountrygal

                Not trying to erase you; it was an unfortunately used expression. Yes BI people exist. However Sarah was not BI. Anne may very well have been. She latched onto Sarah when she was only a child and wrote her many sentimental letters (in the style of all the young ladies at court). Sarah was headstrong and beautiful and sure of herself and Anne was very much the opposite. Sarah proved loyal to her during her periods of political distress under William III and that made Anne cling even more to her. However Sarah often showed more than a little annoyance at Anne’s clinginess and a definite reluctance to hang out with her. She wanted to be with her husband and children and her country place, rather than at court. Sarah could get nasty and did when she realized she had been replaced as favourite. But that is because she wanted political power for her and her husband (and she would say for the good of the country). I’ve read many bios of Sarah (A Passion for Governance by Frances Harris is the best). I’ve also read her letters. No indication anywhere that she had any kind of lesbian leanings herself.

                • Northcountrygal

                  Sorry – the title is A Passion for Government by Frances Harris.

  8. Roxana

    Poor Queen Anne! Eighteen pregnancies (!) and every one of her children died. She deserved any emotional support and comfort she could get!

    While she and Prince George seem to have gotten along well and were certainly sexually active Anne, like her ancestor James I, had an eye for attractive members of her own sex.

  9. lesartsdecoratifs

    Riding habit with long pants was a thing. Both Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great were portrayed astride on horses wearing long pants and while google defies me right now I remember reading that Madame Palatine, Duchess of Orleans liked to hunt while sitting astride as well. And Marie Antoinette’s pants are actually quite tight in her portrait.

    My issues with this movie’s costumes will be the materials. They look modern. Very modern. Distractingly modern. Couldn’t they find some passable brocade?

  10. Pheobe

    On the topic of upcoming movies and shows,

    Have any of you the read the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn?

    It’s an AMAZING, famous, regency romance novel series, kinda like Jane Austen with lots of steamy sex.

    (I’m sure 90% of this site has read it already)

    It’s now being adapted by Netflix into a TV show and I SO excited!! I’m not expecting too much historical accuracy from Shonda Rhimes (the in-charge), but since she’s all about those sexy modern shows, at least we’re not going to see boring, dumpy, potato sacks for regency gowns! She has to sell the show to the average viewers right?

    Here’s more info!:

  11. misat0

    I’ve seen The Lobster, and it’s mindfuckingly good! That alone makes me want to watch this, with the added bonus of a frock flick!

  12. versailles1972

    I loved this movie; the costumes & acting were all so good, even if it was loosely based off history, it was enjoyable. I wish there would’ve been more to be seen of Harley; I liked him, in a weird way.