The Great – Recap Episodes 1 & 2


We’re excited enough by Hulu’s comedic version of Catherine the Great that we’re recapping and podcasting the series two episodes at a time. Pour yourself a cocktail, because we don’t expect to take The Great (2020) too seriously! Here’s our screencaps to follow along with our costume analysis in this week’s podcast.


Episode one starts with Catherine and a friend on flower-decked swings, talking about Catherine’s upcoming marriage to the emperor of Russia. Cathy has an awfully romantic idea of the whole thing, and this first episode exists to burst her bubble.

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Sunny yellow, happy Cathy!

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This is a promo pic showing Cathy’s dress more clearly. Also, she’s barefoot, but IDK if she was in the scene. Sarah says, “I really love yellow silk gowns. And this one is awesome.”

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Friend is not convinced. Sarah: “Not convinced about that sleeveless robe a la francaise/chemise a la reine combo.”

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Friend has cute matching shoes tho.

Cathy’s off to Russia, dreaming her little dreams.

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She’ll wear this sweater thing a lot.

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Obligatory not-pinned-up hair because she’s young, virginal, romantic, blah blah blah. [Note: We do not approve.]

She meets Peter for the first time, and he’s a douchebag. But he’s wearing a wig!

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This seems to be his main outfit for the first two eps.

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Nice gown silhouette. Weird back seaming (this kind of pleated bodice isn’t usually cut separate from the skirt, see another example below that’s cut more correctly).

Big flashy wedding feast, and Cathy is still all romantic and excited.

The Great (2020)

This dress is very clearly based on the French court style, with the on-the-shoulder neckline and cone-shaped, self-supporting (boned and stiffened) bodice. The metallics are GORGEOUS. It’s missing the ruffled lace sleeves, but we can deal. Sarah: “One thing about this entire show is that even though the costumes are various levels of ridiculous, the FIT is amazing.”

Sofia Magdalena court dress bodice back closeup

Here’s an example of a real court dress. This one was worn by Queen Sofia Magdalena of Sweden in 1766, and is at the Livrustkammeran museum.

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Had to lighten this a ton & still can’t tell what it’s made of — lamé? sequins? WTFrock? it’s so shiny & fabulous!

The wedding night is less than satisfactory for Cathy, but she still thinks she can eek love out of this arrangement. Oh gurl.

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Marial, Cathy’s maid, has her own backstory, & an interesting wardrobe. Sarah loves her outfit. It’s very “18th-century Russian folk costume” but really well done.

Peter introduces Cathy to his mom. His dead mom.

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The dress looks about right?

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Cathy’s hair is up now that she’s been fucked.

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This dress is the same style as her previous ones, with a cuff sleeve. We can’t deal with the fact that her hair is up, but she’s STILL rocking the side-part!!

Then he sends Cathy off with the court ladies to play with hats.

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Trystan wants you to know that she would KILL for that purple dress.

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Notice the hard wig line.

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Cathy’s hair is natural (tho’ sloppy).

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Screencaps lightened to reveal more of the joke about wigs / hats.

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This is rather hard to see onscreen, so the joke is super-subtle without lightening the images as here.

Cathy is disappointed to discover the court ladies can’t read and just spend their days gossiping and playing games.

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Can we order this pavilion on Amazon? Asking for a friend.

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The Russian court ladies’ dress reminds us…

Gallerie des Modes, Habillement d'Athalie au théatre, 1779

Of Ottoman and Eastern European stage costumes of the era, like this one from Athalie, set in the ancient Levant | Gallerie des Modes, Habillement d’Athalie au théatre, 1779.

She petitions Peter to build a school, & he agrees, kind of.

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This is such a gorgeous outfit! We spent a lot of time staring at the excellent fit, and we’ve decided the revers or turnbacks (the section along the center front with buttons and buttonholes, which is meant to resemble a turned-back coat in the men’s style) must be a separate piece, with a hidden princess seam along that edge just past the buttons. It fits like LIQUID!

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Peter has the school burned down though, and that, along with his fucking every other woman in court, bums Cathy out.

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Adorable compere-front gown! We’d love to know how exactly they accomplished that trim. It looks (in the best possible way!) like ruffled cabbage leaves.

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We’ve all been there, girl.

She goes to this big, nutjob party where people are drunk and stupid, and Peter is shooting is gun off inside the room.

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Cathy tells the ladies their wigs aren’t hats. Another lightened screencap so you can get the joke better.

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Wacky Aunt Elizabeth wears all kinds of wacky stuff, but it’s so dark, you can’t see most of it.

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Here’s that lavender compere-front dress again. The stitched-down back pleats are lovely, if 1770s-80s. This is what that weird-back-pleats dress above should look like.

Peter shoots the bear he’d given to Cathy as a gift. She slaps him and runs out of the party. Shit gets real.

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And that’s when it’s clear Peter is wearing Contractually Obligated Leather Pants!

Episode one ends with Cathy figuring out that a love-match is totally not happening, so how about a coup instead?

And thus episode two starts with Cathy getting yet another fuck by Peter.

We’ve all been there.

After the obligatory royal fuck, Peter goes to chill with the court bitches.

Robe à la française sighting.

And by ‘chill’ we mean ‘fuck.’

Meanwhile, Cathy takes a bath and plots a coup.

Marial the maid again. And her hair is UP! HUZZAH!

The emperor and his council meet and order a guy to cut off his beard — one of Peter’s previous “reforms” to make Russia “modern” was to outlaw long beards. Count Orlov sticks up for the beard guy, and this will become important later. Back to Cathy. She goes out and about to the court.

Her first new dress of this ep is the same style as previously, but in a pale green leaf print. And her hair is up in a perfectly period fashion!

As discussed in the podcast, this style was called the “tete de mouton” (sheep’s head) hairstyle, and was very popular in the 1750s-60s.

Portrait of a Frenchwoman by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1753

Here’s what that hairstyle looked like in real life: Portrait of a Frenchwoman by Jean-Etienne Liotard showing the tête de mouton hairstyle, 1750s.

Looks like the court ladies are wearing their wigs correctly now!

Again, the fit is great on these gowns. Gotta hand it to the costume team.

Cathy finds every one of these fuckers tedious.

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That yellow dress is back-laced, but it’s on an extra, and it’s the only one we’ve spotted so far, so we’re pretty happy.

Yeah, there is implied animal violence, though not actually shown on screen. Kendra is VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THIS SHOW’S CRITTERS, even if she knows objectively that it’s fictional. POOR RACCOON. POOR BEAR. POOR PUPPIES!!

That’s probably the yellow dress to the right.

Peter has a chat with his crazy aunt, who is easily the most interesting woman at court. She tells Peter something inside him is “rancid,” according to his mom.

Tonight, she’s wearing a 1980s goth poet shirt to lounge around. She also has bad ’80s metal hair. \m/ Sarah: “I just got off a facetime with Trystan and she was legit wearing this…” Trystan hangs head.

Cathy tries to make progress on coup-plotting with a ludicrously bad attempt at seducing Orlov. But no costume changes until the next day, when she’s afraid he’ll reveal her plans.

Peasant casual. NBD.

At least she has a corset underneath. This outfit is clearly supposed to be a nod toward Russian folk costume, showing Catherine’s increasing attachment to “Russia.”

Peter tries to have another talk with Cathy and sorta make nice. He’s not good at it, of course. So he goes off hunting.

He’s out with Georgina (who Peter is fucking) & Grigor (her husband, who sucks it up because, duh, the emperor).

Super cute riding habit.

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Promo pic shows a bit more detail.

This looks so much like…

1760 Riding coat, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This c. 1760 riding habit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There’s a feast to celebrate a battle against Sweden.

Come on, vogue! Let your body go with the flow. Sarah tried for tens of seconds to get a good screencap of that red stripey number.

Time for a new dress!

Sort of a peachy print, same style as always, but with wider skirts.

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Promo pic, lightened to show detail.

Crazy auntie!

Georgiana dances on her husband’s head.

Gotta wash off the dead guy stench on your hands after a dinner with Pete III. Also, that lovely little detail on the back of Marial’s bodice.

The next time the beard guy comes to see Peter, the emperor forces Orlov to shave him. This seals the deal, and Orlov is 100% in with Cathy’s coup.

Looks like her teal dress from ep 1 again. The bodice wrinkles remind me of Anne Boleyn’s dress in Wolf Hall, and makes me think Sarah is right that the issue with both is just that they’re not-underlined-or-stiffened satin worn over separate stays, and the satin is moving around a bit because the gown is just slightly loose.



We’ll be back in two weeks with episodes three & four!



The Great Episodes One & Two, Podcast Recap

Listen to our podcast recap of the episode here or on iTunes!





25 Responses

  1. Jillian

    Holy shit, I might actually check this out now that I know the costumes aren’t the pits. Thanks ladies!

  2. Shashwat

    There is just so much wrong,yet so much right!Nowhere near the haloed pedestal of virsimilitude, but seems like the designer clearly knew the business.Retain the silhouette,then scrape elements for desired effect.Those frock suits on Peter are gorgeous.Is Charity Wakefield playing Peter’s mistress?
    That golden robe de cour style dress depresses me though.It hurts me to look at it,as it was exactly how to imagined the live action Belle(Beauty and the Beast)would dress for the showstopper ball scene.To rub salt in my wounds it is worn by Elle Fanning,the live action Aurora😥.
    We all love you FF,but please add a warning before the scary stuff.That image of Peter’s mom all decked up in all her decaying glory was a jump scare!I literally dropped my phone.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yes, it’s Charity Wakefield! Sorry about the corpse, that didn’t bother us as much as the animal stuff (altho’ that’s not really shown, just implied) :(

  3. Byzant

    Weirdly this looks so much fun. Love the teal dress , but it might be overkill for the office.

  4. Colleen

    For me, it was a giant ‘no’. I stuck it out for the first two episodes, and then quit. It wasn’t the anachronisms, I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the animal abuse and ignorance of everyone around Peter. The man is clearly not right in the head, but everyone ignores it because he’s the head of the country and he’s fun.

    • Sarah Lorraine

      I feel you on the animal abuse, but the whole point of the show is that Peter IS so over the top awful and his court so poisoned that it makes you completely ok with Catherine plotting to murder him.

      You could argue that what we know of Peter III’s actual character was largely overwritten by the pro-Catherinian propaganda machine who made him out to be nothing short of a monster, but you could also argue that there was likely a kernel of truth to those accusations of mental instability and cruelty.

      • Colleen

        Oh, no, I really want him dead. I skipped to the last episode to see if he had been removed from the throne (if we went by the actual history), but he was still alive. I might return when I know for sure he’s going to die.

  5. Sam Marchiony

    I read an interview where Nicholas Hoult said his major preparation technique was just asking himself “how would Olivia Colman do this,” and it TOTALLY shows.
    My biggest peeve of the show thus far has been wondering whether or not Elle Fanning is wearing chemises under her corsets, especially in her shirt-skirt combinations, because I can’t always tell, and my nipples start sympathy chafing!

  6. Laura

    I’m thrilled that you ladies are watching this! I’ve been loving it and a big part of that love is seeing how well the costumes fit and the hair is mostly up. Can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts on the show.

  7. Barbara

    Oh Charity Wakefield! I didn’t realize she was in this! Have you ever done a WCW for her? Or has she not done enough frock flicks yet to warrant one?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      She’s getting close — just a handful so far & all small roles. I usually wait till someone’s had starring roles or they’ve been in a dozen or more costume dramas. But we were all pleased to see her again in The Great!

  8. Roxana

    18th century women wanted to look like a sheep’s head?

  9. Terry Towels

    I think that I know how to make that cabbage leaf trim. If you already think you’ve thought of this, and passed, I apologize in advance.

    Make a tube of materiel, then feed it over a string (rope). Ruche up the tube to desired rucheiness, and sew the edge (to the tape, in the picture). So, they made two tubes, and sewed them to the the center tape.

    It occurs to me as I write, that a really nice way of doing this would be to make the tube seam on the outside, and stitch the seam to the tape, which would avoid any compression to the ruching.

    I can think of a few other variations, but I’ll leave that to you.

    I decided not to watch this precisely because I read there was animal torture– off-screen or not, I just can’t anymore. So thank you for all the screenshots.

  10. Stella Lee

    You have to check your colour profile settings because it was not this dark on our screen.

  11. K

    Yesss. I’m loving this show. There are some issues with the costuming, but weirdly I’m ok with most of it, since this is clearly not really meant to be a historically accurate rendition of these events. I have noticed that they seem to be going more for the 1770s in dress styles and hair than the actual period. Although the actual period is a little smudgy anyways (Catherine married Peter in 1745, but he didn’t become Emperor until 1762 and that’s when the coup happened), so really it’s hard to pin anything down enough to make a judgement anyways. But the gowns are so well made and pretty it’s hard to care if they’re not right for any particular year or whatever. And I actually loved that peasant blouse/skirt combo Catherine wore. When I saw it I screamed at the tv, “This looks like something someone would wear in 1861!” but then I just loved it. I want to wear it.

  12. Elle

    I’m really excited about this! Also, I love Gwilym Lee (Grigor), he’s hilarious, and looking amazing in a wig.

  13. Danuta

    I really wanted to love this show. I really did. I find the idea of making historical shows with modern language and humor great (sic) and hilarious. But while it’s funny when the 18th century folks use f*cks, it’s not funny when they can’t get the basic facts right (like, Peter the Great WAS NOT Peter III’s dad! Women in the Russian court could read!). Idk, it may be a trigger thing for me, but as a Pole, I don’t like English / American shows about central and eastern Europe being made in the vein of “Ooh, look at them, so barbarous and backward!” Argh. Kinda… colonial? Idk, but I sense a huge superiority complex there. Can’t they just make a show like that about Queen Victoria? :D

    • Shashwat

      I feel that the lack of awareness about foreign history is more about the general perception of the public than specific productions(they produce what the common folks consume),and Philippa Gregory is single handedly destroying every single English queen she can lay her hands on.Queen Victoria’s personal life was perhaps too simple though for such a depiction.Maybe Elizabeth I or Mary Tudor?
      But some productions like Reign are so messed up,they leave you wondering if they are treating history as comedy or outright satirizing historical dramas in general.

      • Danuta

        That’s true. Because of those shitty movies, I am constantly questioning whether something is inaccurate on purpose or by accident. That being said, if getting the dates / historical figures wrong is supposed to be funny, then I don’t get this joke. :P

  14. Andy

    I don’t mind the fictional animal violence so much (yes, it is unpleasant to watch, but at least it’s fake)
    I’m more concerned whether the furs they wear on occasion are fake or whether they murdered real animals to make costumes for a TV show (I really really hope it’s fake)

    Anybody know how current historical dramas handle the fur issue in general?

    • Andy

      Particularly concerned about the (rather ugly to booth) full fox stoles/sashes/whatever a couple of the ladies are wearing in a later episode.

  15. Faye

    When you’re an archaeologist you get used to the human corpses.

    Squicked me out when I was a fresh-faced first year undergrad though. Now I just try and treat it like any other archaeological artefact/object, with a dose of extra gentle handling and respect.