Monday, October 9, 2017

How to Dress a Queen: Costume Designing Victoria & Abdul


It’s not the first time Consolata Boyle, the costume designer behind Victoria & Abdul, has dressed a queen. Boyle earned an Oscar nomination for transforming Helen Mirren into The Queen in 2007, she was also nominated for dressing Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins in 2016. With Testament of Youth, Miss Julie, Philomena, The Iron Lady on her c.v., the designer clearly knows how to work in the world of costume dramas.



Let’s take a look at how she approached dressing Judi Dench—who she also dressed in Philomena— as Queen Victoria, the widow queen who dressed in black for most of her life. As she told Fawnia Soo Hoo at Fashionista ...



I had many conversations with mechanical and our lighting cameraman about how to make black have more depth and be less flat and less slightly light absorbing. In keeping with the fashion and facts of the time, there was a lot of heavy embellishment on the gowns and a lot of detail, a lot of embroidery, a lot of lace, a lot of layered on trim. Jet, which sparkles in light, was a very common decoration. Pleating, frilling and masses of ribbon was used in Victorian period to create texture and detail, and Victoria was a great person for adding embellishment and the use of jewelry.  

But also, in order to help us tell her story as [the Queen's] relationship developed with Abdul, I used subtle different sorts of dark tones, like very dark gray or turf brown or purples, which were a mourning color, various purples and lavenders; then, of course, the traditional white, which is a very important later stage mourning color. The lace and actual white fabrics and silks used were part of the process of the mourning, but also helped the telling of our story as things lightened, particularly during their trips to Italy when she starts to rediscover joy, interest and the closeness of her friendship with Abdul. 


Victoria & Abdul, based on the book by Shrabani Basu, is in theaters now. 

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