SNARK WEEK: Mary, Queen of Fabric Scraps


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Yes, I have a thing about Mary, Queen of Scots. Known fact. I’ve also have a thing about 16th-century English and French fashion, which is what MQoS wore. So onscreen depictions of her that fuck it up irritate me, and The Serpent Queen (2022) was no exception. It’s right up there with the 2018 movie, with the very slight saving grace that she wasn’t the focus of the entire eight hours. But her wardrobe was pretty damn bad! If you squinted, sure, the shape was OK, other than her hair and lack of historically accurate headgear.

What made her look redonkulous was that she was dressed in a grab-bag of fabric scraps. Which is not a 16th-century aesthetic and just looks ugly IMO. For some historical background, most upper-class women’s gowns of this period were made from the same type of fabric, head to toe. Parts of this gown might be folded back or cut away to show other garments made of contrasting fabric, often highly decorated. In general, a high-status woman would wear an outfit made of two main colors or types of fabric: her main gown (black was a very common choice, though other dark colors were common) and a jewel-tone or bright contrasting color for a petticoat/forepart and sleeve accents. The collar of a woman’s smock or a separate partlet might also show at the neckline, and this was almost always in a shade of white, though it might be decorated with metallic or colored embroidery.

1550s-60s - women's fashion

1550s – Catherine de’ Medici; 1555 – Maria de Medici by Alessandro Allori; 1563 – Portrait of a Lady by Hans Eworth; 1565 – Mary, Queen of Scots, via the National Trust

The overall effect looks like these women are wearing two colors on average, plus white and metallic trims. However, Mary Queen of Scots in The Serpent Queen is wearing too much. It’s eye-searing! I can’t stand it!

The first dress she’s show in only has two fabrics, but includes a garish plaid because, OH SHE’S SCOTTISH, SHE MUST BE SCOTTISH.

The Serpent Queen (2022)

While there’s only two fabrics used, they aren’t used in a period fashion. Separate bodices weren’t a thing like this. And that plaid is 18th century at best.

The Serpent Queen (2022)

The next time we see her, she’s wearing all one color! Whew. Maybe this won’t be so bad…

The Serpent Queen (2022)

Oh wait. It’s a clunky PLAID wool (nobody’s heard of dress-weight wool?) with velvet sleeves and a contrast patterned fabric under the sleeve puffs. Anything under the puffs should be white or maybe a solid color. Also, WTF is on her head? It looks like a padded piece of hosiery turned into a headband.

The Serpent Queen (2022)

OK, here comes the wacky. There’s a slightly more subtle red plaid, a solid red — oh wait, that’s a red polka dot! — gold mesh sleeves, a solid red petticoat, and two different red fabrics making up the sleeve puffs. Dunno if the loose hair is better without the gold padded roll or not.

The Serpent Queen (2022) The Serpent Queen (2022) The Serpent Queen (2022)

Here’s the gown she wears the most in the series, so it has the most fabric scraps! A green pattern for the bodice, accented with green velvet, a patterned green velvet for the sleeve puffs, burgundy pattern on the sleeves, solid green petticoat, and green brocade skirt. Wowzers.

The Serpent Queen (2022)

This one is slightly tame in comparison with a red and black pattern on the sleeve puff, a red diamond pattern for both the bodice and over skirt, some kind of silvery red pattern on the lower sleeve, and a pin-tucked red for the petticoat.

The Serpent Queen (2022) The Serpent Queen (2022)

Her Christmasy red and green dress accomplishes a lot of fugly with fewer fabrics — reddish sleeve puffs, green and gold diamond pattern on the top of the bodice and on the lower sleeves, green damask on the bodice, and probably a solid green petticoat.

The Serpent Queen (2022) The Serpent Queen (2022)

Her wedding/coronation gown is tame in comparison with just two red and gold prints!

The Serpent Queen (2022)

That green/burgundy gown she wears the most, she also wears at the king’s funeral with a burgundy partlet.

The Serpent Queen (2022) The Serpent Queen (2022)

Her final gown is a sparkly mess of dark greenish/red print on the sleeve puffs, dark sparkle on the bodice and lower sleeves, a slightly different dark sparkle stuff on the skirt, and red petticoat.

The Serpent Queen (2022) The Serpent Queen (2022) The Serpent Queen (2022)



Are you inspired to use your fabric scraps now?



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16 Responses

  1. Ann Brogan

    What irritates me the most about MQOS’s costumes in this series are her tacky, Claire’s Accessories-style headdresses!

  2. Boxermom

    I can’t even tell you how much this hurts me (maybe some chocolate would help). :)

  3. Susan

    Why didn’t they remember that MoS mother was a FRENCH PRINCESS. A DE GUISE. Did they want to out-Reign Reign?

  4. Mollie

    The “Christmas” gown just needs to be off the shoulder and it would pass as an early 90s Holiday Barbie dress.

  5. ED

    Thankfully I was too busy being impressed by how delightfully tall, sleekit and deliciously bonkers this Mary Queen of Scots was – the actress struck me as fit for HORRIBLE HISTORIES, which I consider a supreme compliment when applied to a darkly comic take on a historic person.

    I’m really, really hoping we can get a spin-off showing an investigation of the murder of Henry Stuart, King Consort, that builds to the reasonably-plausible conclusion that the former Lord Darnley was murdered by half the Scottish Establishment (and the other half seem to have showed up to munch whatever early modern Scots noshed on in place of popcorn).

    We’ve had so many High Romance Mary Queen of Scots flicks that a dark, dark comedy would probably be a nice change of pace.

    • Roxana

      I agree with you. Practically everybody hated King Henry while he was alive. If his murder hadn’t been so blatantly and insultingly obvious and if Mary hadn’t so clearly been in bed, literally, with the chief suspect she could have gotten away with it.

      • ED

        In all fairness to Her Grace, (A) she wasn’t necessarily bedded down with Bothwell of her own free will and (B) the Scottish nobility of the period was so inveterately treacherous they quite literally gave lessons to Westeros – Mr GRR Martin having gone on record about having borrowed quite liberally from Scottish history, amongst other places.

  6. ED

    Also, if you think I’m above ‘borrowing’ the name GUNPOWDER, TREASON AND PLOT for this hypothetical period piece, you are Dead Wrong.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I swear, next Snark Week, I will get off my butt & do a full takedown of Gunpowder, Treason, & Plot because I hatehatehate that show! It’s crap history, crap costuming, just terrible.

      • ED

        I can just barely remember watching it in the year if it’s release, but have never seen it since – must see if I can rectify that, at some point.