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ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE

Costumes And Makeup Fit For A Queen
Returning costumer Alexandra Byrne created, yet again, a spectacular wardrobe for Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth. Byrne explains, "The benefit of doing the first film meant that I already knew the period very well, having done the necessary research for Elizabeth. In a way, that allowed me more freedom to look at the period more tangentially this time, to read more about Elizabeth, as opposed to just looking at reference material.

"The more I read about her,” she continues, "the more references I discovered to her amazing appearance, her astounding dresses and her beauty, and I felt that it was important to give some sense of that to an audience today, by making her look, perhaps, more accessible to us than historical dramas normally do.”

Byrne's inspiration for the tone she sought came from the work of Spanish fashion designer Balenciaga, who had interpreted various historical paintings in his 1950s couture, including some Elizabethan pieces. Alexandra Byrne: "That was the big leap for me…Elizabeth was a fashion icon in her time, and I felt this was the way to make her more relevant to an audience today.”

Offers Blanchett, "Elizabeth stage-managed her appearance according to what image she needed to portray—and we've definitely worked that concept into the film. Some costumes and makeup are much more revealing and quite connected to the subtext of the film. Morag Ross created 16 wigs, many to reflect her state—some perky, some tragic. We talked much about the public and the private self. Alex Byrne has created the most astonishing costumes. Her sense of color is emotional, as well as visually arresting. One of the most exciting costume progressions was as Elizabeth moved toward Tilbury and hardened her heart to Raleigh—it was clothing as armor ending in the vision on the white horse, Elizabeth as warrior, her Joan d'Arc.”

Geoffrey Rush concurs, "Most audiences have a sort of idea of what the period must have been like, but we seldom think about how funky and vibrant, sexy and exciting aspects of it might have been. Alex has successfully tweaked and played with what the portraiture of the clothes looked like. She's made them seem more alive and much more accessible to our 21st Century eyes.”

For Byrne, returning to the evolution of the character of Elizabeth allowed her to expand on the artistic vision of the first film. She says, "In Elizabeth, we find a girl, a princess, actually, who became a Queen. She made conscious choices about how to present herself, sometimes reinforcing her confidence by her costume. Now, she has established her reign, she's firmly on the throne, her palaces to her liking, and her style of dress reflects that. She's confident, and she's Queen…and she's on a journey toward immortality.”

One of the challenges facing Byrne was the fact that there is no iconic "crowned Queen sitting on a throne scene. We establish that with the red dress at the opening of the film—formal robes, while she's at the job of being Queen. From that, we establish that she has both formal and informal attire, always very conscious of her public personae.”

Perhaps one of the leader's most important public appearances was in front of her troops before the battle with the Spanish Armada. Actress, director and designer were in complete accord that her costume would convey her willingness to be seen as one of her soldiers, someone willing to serve, fight and die beside them. The resulting look—a valiant woman-at-arms, clad in almost medieval-looking armor, hair down, astride a white horse—echoes another famous female militarist. Per Byrne: "In a way, it's both a PR exercise and a reality. It obviously touches all the images for the audience of Joan of Arc…but whether the Queen wore armor like that and rode astride, we don't know, but in terms of telling our story, it's a very ke

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