When we think of period drama, the image we have in our mind is always wrapped up in the setting of the show. The setting is an interesting time in a historical or imaginary time different from our own, but so is the setting. Things in It’s how everyone looks. Sometimes that stuff means swords and shields and dragons, and the martial and fantastical nature of “Game of Thrones” is what makes it so visually special.
But even if chainmail isn’t involved, it’s the costumes that bring us closer to the previous characters or make them seem more serious and distant. Highness and modesty are always acceptable places – “Bridgerton” is not a dress show; The costume is, in many ways, the show.
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Costumes also provide extremely subtle, perceptible differences in character – the cuts of Hans and Isaac’s coats in “pachinko” tell you all you need to know about how they move through the world. So, it’s great when a show can do both.
“The Great” has clothes suitable for the setting of the palace in decoration and detail – this is Russia after all. But they also convey the different approaches the characters take as they try to capture and hold onto the power of the emperor. Of course, it makes sense that it’s a story about emperors and empresses, even if it’s just a joke. And “The Great” costume designer Sharon Long helps visually convey the series’ power structure between the royal couple. For Catherine’s crown gown, Elle Fanning went all gold and deliberately gave a nod to Russian icons, saying, “We ended up with her heels, you know. [so that we could] Raise her up, raise her up so that Peter doesn’t have to be admirable,” Long told IndieWire.
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Catherine’s efforts to spread her values at court and her relative position within it are something the show’s costumes always speak for sure. “She is still pure and idealistic, and still very pure [in her look] “Compared to the ladies of the court who were very extravagant and overdressed,” Long said. “She’s not wearing anything, which was really a great tool in Season 1, to keep her really young. So we did a little [more in Season 2]. It’s actually a gradual increase. “
It’s always possible to keep track of the “great” that’s secured everywhere, seeing how the environment suits their individual style preferences. While the show isn’t overly fashion-forward, it does have moments where a character is at the forefront of how a character is on another level and can bend the world to their will, as Gillian Anderson did when she appeared as Catherine’s mother, Johanna. In the court and briefly makes it around her.
“The size of her dress was an interesting tool to use,” Long says of the character’s costume choices. “We made her as small and tight as possible and made her skirts as big as we could go and she would fit in the set and take her place.”
For Peter, on the heels of the latter (and in formal situations he wears at least a little bit of heels) in all seasons, the happily removed emperor wears clothes that he rarely wears. He stumbles upon the ghosts of his mother and father and all the moments of their real relationships with Catherine in nightgowns and the Russian equivalent of a bathroom. This is amazing for a man who wore a baby shower dress for his own wife.
“He’s so masculine that he doesn’t care if he’s wearing pink or a full-face shirt or lace,” Long said. “I feel like I pushed him a little bit, and I tried to separate myself from Gregor a little bit. [played by Gwilym Lee], sometimes only in color. Gregor goes a little more blues and the animal print isn’t that prevalent, you know. So even though they are good friends and mimic each other, [Grigor and Peter] began to develop [different styles]He said.
Courtesy of Hulu
That ability to slowly trace the progression of characters through costume, even if they stay on a very complex baseline, has a long history with Catherine the Great. That’s the case for a show like “The Greatest,” which gleefully mixes comedy and absolute power politics. It prompts the audience to court the characters, to judge the person who presents them, to see how strongly those ideas are expressed in fashion and the ways in which they present them, perhaps, too much. In doing so, Long and her team pull off the best power move historical fiction has in its arsenal: to show how we’re not so different.
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