February 3rd 2021

Fashion, Chess, and the Queen's Gambit

No introduction is needed for this iconic character from the popular Netflix show, The Queen's Gambit. Most of Beth Harmon's merit can be attributed to the brilliant writing, plot, and Anya Taylor Joy being a national treasure, but the story driven costuming done by Gabriele Binder is the not so secret superpower of The Queen's Gambit, a 60s couture classic.

For the first few episodes, Beth is still very much a pawn in other people's games and dresses accordingly. Her fashion before the dress she buys with the money from the Kentucky State Championship was not even chosen by her. Her color scheme: a motif of contrasting black and white, like that of a chess board, was already present and would continue to appear in her wardrobe as she advanced in the chess world.

Photo caption: I've stared at this awful haircut for so long that I'm starting to like it.

Episode three to episode six is the span of time that may also be called Beth Harmon discovers the color wheel, as her wardrobe features brighter, stylish pieces from the 60s. She's no longer a pawn but remains under the diction of the pills and alcohol. Thankfully, her style is not hindered by her substance abuse, as she sports many unique silhouettes in her fashion dated to her time period that still manage to set her apart from the rest.

A brief yet important appreciation for Beth Harmon in hair ties.

As if there wasn't enough chess in Beth's life already, her wardrobe is also filled with homages to the chess board. When she isn't wearing solid colors, she wears outfits with checkerboard pattern or with two contrasting colors. Maybe this pattern in her wardrobe is intentional to her character or maybe it's just an easter egg by the costume designer: Beth still pulls off every piece.

Follow the death of Mrs. Wheatley and the departure of Dudley Dursley, Beth's spiral out of control can be seen plainly by the abrupt change in her style, as her dependence on the tranquilizers and alcohol grows stronger. She returns to the scene of her first tournament win, wearing a similar makeup look to Mariska Veres' in the Venus music video (though the song technically released several years after the end of the show's timeline).

My favorite of Beth's extensive wardrobe is the mint dross she wore to the match against Borgov in Paris 1968, shown in the cold open of the first episode and returned to in the sixth episode.

Image Caption: A replication of this particular dress is actually available to purchase online at the website Takerlama.

Perhaps the most recognizable look from the show is the last one we see Beth in, an all white set of hat, coat, pants, and shoes after she wins the world championship in the last episode. As confirmed by the costume designer, this is an homage to the queen chess piece and a great departure from the pawn-like outfits she wore at the start. And with such an iconic final look as this, the queen reigns supreme.