The Queen’s Gambit is a dazzling series that explores identity, addiction, and feminism against the milieu of the 1960s counterculture rebellion.
However, it looks like there’s more to Beth Harmon’s impeccable chess skills, as the German costume designer, Gabriele Binder, gives us a closer insight into the secret messages behind Beth’s on-screen style. Binder revealed that she drew her inspiration for the show from the chess world itself, ‘to find out what traits are unique to chess players and what makes them interesting people’, and breaks down some of Beth’s most iconic looks…
Beth Harmon’s Very First Fashion Connection
Binder shared that Beth’s whole late 1950s/early 1960s vibe was no accident, “that way we could clearly show the moment when she catches up with the modern day in New York where she discovers how young people in her generation are living”.
Struggling to fit in, “she is searching everywhere for something (and someone) to connect to and, in the absence of a real person, she connects to the dress on the mannequin”.
The Connotation of Checks
Binder thought that incorporating the check design to Anya’s character would align perfectly, since Beth “would intuitively choose to wear pieces that are connected to chess. The contrast of the check print also mirrors the nuances of the game itself – it’s decisive, it’s win or lose…”
The Muses of the Time
Binder uses an array of references for the different styles found within the series. She tended to lean towards designers that were outsiders themselves, just like Beth – such as Jean Seberg and the rise of Biba.
The 1960s Counterculture Inspiration
The character of Benny Watts is connected to Andy Warhol’s Factory, and some of the periodical art and music. Binder shares, “He’s so different from everybody else…as with Beth, he is an outsider”.
The Liberty of the T-Shirt
Towards the end, Beth makes use of many T-shirts in the colours of green, white, and blue, which “hint to the Courrèges silhouette.”
The Pierre Cardin homage in Paris
For the Paris tournament, Beth wears a dress which Binder compares to Pierre Cardin, as it “has that kind of elegance that doesn’t even exist anymore”.
Moscow’s En Route to Success
Binder revealed that the checked coat that Beth wears when leaving the tournament is actually a real vintage piece, allegedly designed by André Courrèges. “This was a very self-confident piece, we wanted the visuals of a strong decision referenced by the checks”.
In the first episode, Beth wears a dress made by her mother, with Beth’s name embroidered on it. Its colour “represents Beth’s sense of ‘home’” – hence why the dress in her final tournament has the same colour. “In the beginning, it’s a colour that makes her really fragile, but in the end, the same colour is a sign of her strength; it is symbolic of a homecoming.”
Queen of the Chessboard
In the finale, Beth wears all-white and Binder adds that “the idea, of course, is to convey that she is now the queen on the chessboard and the chessboard itself is the world”.