• August 1, 2021
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Beth, the protagonist, balances beauty and power. As viewers watch her mature, she also gains confidence in her style. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)  

*This article contains spoilers* 

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix original released on October 23, 2020. The series follows Elizabeth Harmon from childhood through adulthood. As much of the show focuses on chess, it also uses beauty to depict character. I am one of the many viewers who became transfixed by the chic sixties fashion in the show. 

The audience watches Beth (portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy) as she transforms into a poised and strong-willed young woman after experiencing many of life’s obstacles. It is a tale of growth and talent that comes with a purposeful change in appearance. 

Daniel Parker, the show’s hair and makeup stylist, and Gabriele Binder, the show’s costume designer, are practically creative geniuses for the way they aged the actress through wigs, makeup looks, and outfits. 

The different design departments all developed styles for Beth that showed her maturing through the years. Nearly every look symbolizes and connects to plot points occurring in Beth’s coming of age story, creating beautiful character dynamics. 

Beth at The Orphanage

(Photo courtesy of Netflix) 

We meet Beth as an eight-year-old when she is left shockingly unharmed by the car crash that killed her mother. Her father is not in the picture, so Beth finds herself at a small school for orphans. 

At the orphanage, Beth hides behind the same haircut and outfit as every other girl, limiting her to have no opportunity or freedom with her style. Beth has no control. In this phase of her life, her clothes are monotonous and dull, similar to her personality because she has not yet had the chance to discover her potential. 

Beth has a very severe haircut. It is just past the ears, considered a mini pageboy — where the ends of the hair are curled under. She is a poor little girl who just lost her mother and the first thing that happens to her is that she is defrocked and her hair is chopped off — stripping her of her identity.

Beth’s First Glimpse of Hope

(Photo courtesy of Netflix) 

After Beth is adopted, she still lacks autonomy over her style because her adoptive mother can only afford items on the sales rack. Once again Beth has no control over her clothing because her outfit is prioritized on what is affordable and what fits, not what is stylish.

At the orphanage, Beth felt that the other girls were so different from her, to the extent that she did not feel as if she belonged to the group. She searched everywhere for something and someone to connect to, and, in the absence of a real person, she connects to the dress on the mannequin. 

This dress gives her a glimpse of hope into a life of control and freedom.  

With the prize money from her first tournament, she immediately heads back to the department store. Buying herself a chessboard was her only intention going into the store, but on a whim, she falls into her urge and buys the plaid dress that catches her eye. 

This dress symbolizes independence. It is the first time she has control: control over money, control over her attire, and control over her future. As Beth starts winning chess tournaments and her wealth increases, she is fascinated by the glamour of high fashion and decides to use her money towards clothes. 

Beth Starts to Gain Freedom

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

With her newfound wealth, Beth has many choices when shopping, but she is drawn to check patterns. Not only do the haircut, makeup look, and color scheme of Beth’s outfits relate to her personal story, but the pattern of her clothes often resembles the main thing in her life — chess. 

Gabriele Binder told Vogue: “I always try to mirror what is happening inside a character with what they are wearing on the outside and the checks are something that I thought would be immediately interesting to Anya’s character, as she would intuitively choose to wear pieces that are connected to chess.” 

The checked clothes are often very self-confident pieces as Beth becomes a powerful figure in the chess world. As she starts to gain more money and freedom, she continues to upgrade her style. However, she is still young and does not know how to balance her actions. 

Beth Loses Control

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Following a Paris loss, Beth enters the lowest point of the series. Viewers watch her chug bottles of wine and containers of pills, and she falls deeper into addiction. Her life, which was once balanced and healthy, soon started spiraling downwards. 

As Beth rises and falls in the chess world, her beauty routines reflect that. When the character reaches her lowest in her addiction spree, she ditches her usual glamour, smudging the perfectly powdered face and neatly lined eyes.

Her outfit choices at one point are an indicator that she is not just grieving her Paris loss, but the loss of her adopted mother, Alma. Beth begins to wear colors like baby blue and light pink, complimenting outfits her adopted mother would wear. 

The color represents a feeling of comfort, as Alma was the closest thing she had to a motherly figure and role model in Beth’s life. The colors represent a sense of home and security for Beth when she has nothing that is stable in her life. 

Beth’s Redemption

After beating Borgov and winning the tournament of champions in Moscow, she is now the best chess player in the world. The final outfit worn by Beth is this striking white ensemble that represents the end of her narrative arc, transforming her into a queen. 

The White Queen chess piece – the most powerful piece in the game.

The symbolism is rich as it communicates Beth has all the control and freedom she has ever wanted. “The idea, of course, is to convey that she is now the queen on the chessboard and the chessboard itself is the world,” Binder said in an interview with Vogue. Beth Harmon becomes a style icon.

The Queen’s Gambit absolutely amazes through just seven episodes and deserves all the critically acclaimed praise it receives. Behind the shockingly rousing chess matches are strong, symbolic outfits, and fragile yet powerful makeup looks that help make the series so binge-worthy. I believe everyone should consider watching the show and appreciate its beauty.

 

 

Author

vastraniero@students.wcpss.net
Hi! My name is Viviana and I am a staff writer for The Mycenaean. I also am a member of Leesville’s varsity softball team. Outside of school, I work at Alpine Ski Center and frequently serve at my church. I often tell my best stories through films and videos.

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