Redux with The Favourite and Sandy Powell

Museum reproduction or service to the script?

Pardon????? I’m confused… I thought this post was about the costumes in this movie.

This is neither bait and switch, nor loquacious speech that you have to wade through before you get to the damn recipe. (We’ve been there too often, right?) Bear with me, because I do have a point.

I will admit that I’ve been designing for a very long time. In that span of time one encounters designers of a different ethos. We see ones who uphold the sanctity of the past. 100% needed. 100% necessary. We need museum curators that show us the past through an “unclouded” lens. We need historical reenactors that show us, in a visceral sense, how those in centuries past moved through there lives, through an “unclouded lens”. Historians of the world, unite! Those who forget are doomed to repeat…et al.

Then there are others that take inspiration from the past to either redefine the present or allude to the past, redefining the now. Weaving together research and concept to make connections, creating something reminiscent of the past to vibrate in the now.

Is it more impactful for us in the 21st century to see a representation of Marie Antionette in a accurate, historical construct? Or, is there something we can learn from her, her story, and her time period by loosening the context to connect her more strongly to the “now”?

Again, it’s old(er) movie…but think about the connection of the events of these young souls and the sturm und drang isolation they experienced mirroring our 21st century online culture….connected but utterly alone? Everything but nothing?
Doxing and the blurring of other’s perceptions of reputation? Would those concepts be reinforced through exact reproduction or reinvention?
Post Script…15. 15 years. She was FIFTEEN YEARS OLD.

The Favourite explores the relationships and power struggles of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and two of her closest female attendants: Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Hill (Emma Stone). Many of the historical events that inspired the film took place at Kensington Palace.

Costumes designed by the incomparable Sandy Powell. Say it three times for good luck. Sandy Powell, Sandy Powell, Sandy Powell. #CreditCostumeDesigners

Kensington Palace was one of Queen Anne’s primary residences, and it was here that she died on 01 August 1714 with no heir, marking the end of the Stuart dynasty.

Anne had a close personal, and possibly physically intimate, relationship with her forthright childhood friend Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.

Their friendship became strained when Sarah’s cousin, Abigail, joined the Royal Household. The cousins had different political views, and both used Anne to further their personal goals by competing for her favour.

It was in the Queen’s Closet at Kensington Palace that Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill’s final argument played out. Sarah was subsequently banished from court, never to return.

“The Favourite Costume Display.” Historic Royal Palaces,

For those interested in blocking, the perfect visualization of a power dynamic.

What about the period was exciting for you?

(Sandy) This particular time is interesting because it really hasn’t been done on film. It’s the very beginning of the 18th century and I couldn’t bring to mind anything similar. Usually there’s a certain type of look to films about the British monarchy, a look that’s very historically accurate, but I knew he would have a new take on it, and so I would have been game to do the film whatever it was.

Isn’t Rachel Weisz a boss in this costume? If I ever shot a pistol, I would be dressed exactly like this.

The film follows a power struggle between Rachel Weisz’s character, a longtime friend and confidant of Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman, and Emma Stone’s character, a newcomer who quickly ingratiates herself with the monarch. How is this battle visible in their costumes?

(Sandy) For Emma’s character, it’s more straightforward. She starts as someone who was once a lady and who has fallen on hard times and becomes a servant. We first see her in something that would have been nice once, but is now well-worn. Then she’s in a servant’s look, in an outfit in denim—which I made from recycled jeans that I bought from thrift stores—and as she works her way into the Queen’s affections, she becomes something of a lady in waiting and starts wearing black, which is the color of the court. By the end of the film, when she’s gone above her station and really thinks she’s made it, I wanted to go over-the-top with that rather vulgar kind of nouveau riche look of much too much. 

For Rachel’s character, she was always the character who would display herself. She was the one who was in control for a long time, and so could be intimidating. I hesitate to use the world masculine, but I liked the idea of her being an emancipated woman, and like all emancipated women in history, she could wear men’s clothing and look great in a Katharine Hepburn kind of way. She needed to look strong and confident.

Person. “How the Costumes in The Favourite Help Tell the Story of Queen Anne.” Town & Country, Town & Country, 21 Nov. 2018,

With a fontage that compliments the costume perfectly. *A fontage is a high head dress popular in Europe during the late 17th and early 18th centuries; the fontage is actually the ribbon deco of this hair accessory, and the wire support framework for this architectural wonder is called the commode.*

The evolution of her disease so perfectly illustrated through both acting and make up.

And who knew that Nicholas Hoult could look even more fantastic? He needs to wear this wig on the daily.

Historical reproduction or Historical rewrite? Which way does the wind blow you? Traditionalist or provocateur?

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