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:
John Closterman, Queen Anne, c. 1702, National Portrait Gallery
Godfrey Kneller, Sarah Churchill Duchess of Marlborough, via Wikimedia Commons
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:
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.
And from the back.
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.
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!
Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill, wearing a black dress with stomacher and high, spangled fontange. Were they ever black? I don’t know!
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)?
OOOOO THIS FONTANGE! Ok, clearly we need to look at the out-of-style 1660s-70s dress, because Queen Anne is all about them.
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).
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.
Allll those little (faux, I hope) ermine tails! Ermine being associated with royalty, of course.
They’re really liking geometric lace for contrast.
Emma Stone as Abigail Masham. Going blond, I see. She’s got the wide pleated cuffs that are right for this period.
More hot fontange action!
“You look like a badger.” Okay, #truth, but let’s focus on that fabulous ribbon in her hair!
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!
AWWW YEAH. The pulled up and back skirt on the mantua is KEY, and I LOVE that black lace!
Her stomacher is lace, but has little buttons down the front.
RIDING HABIT! YES! Again, great lace, and who doesn’t love a good tricorn!
Same dress, more view, worse lighting.
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.
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.
Now we’ve reversed things, going black on white! I wonder if this is because Sarah is now out of favor?
Geometrically patterned silks, and what looks like a mid-18th century hat to me.