Fall TV Costume Hilarity: Reign

There are period pieces on network TV now! Gone are the Downtons of yore, where Angels costume warehouse was only a delivery range away. In Vancouver, anything goes. (I’m assuming they’re both shot in Vancouver, as with every single other TV show ever.) And we get to enjoy them all, together.

Yesterday, we talked about Dracula, a late-Victorian TV show that was trying and failing. Today, we talk about REIGN, which has decided not to even try!

When you’re done laughing, let’s get started.

REIGN ostensibly follows the travails of Mary, Queen of Scots, during her time as Queen Regent to Francis II of France. Given that she was just a kiddo when they hauled her over there, and assuming this is during their courtship prior to the marriage, this puts things at aboooout 1557, though I’d honestly give a network more than a decade of leeway in either direction; the Tudor sleeves are instantly recognizable as pre-Elizabethan Tudor, but if they wanted to skip it and go the Cate Blanchett route with moderately-accurate daily costumes and the occasional portrait recreation when you want to stun, we’d still be golden.

First, some portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots around the time covered by the TV series, decent interpretations of any of which would have been perfectly acceptable for network TV interpretation of Mary and her ladies:

(Left, around 1555; Middle, around 1558; around 1565.)

And now, some costumes worn by REIGN’s Mary and her ladies:

Well, we were never going to get gable hoods, but apparently even updos are out of the question. But otherwise, this is perfectly fine! It wouldn’t be okay in a feature film, and I’d probably have some questions about that red dress even if this was a BBC production, but for low budget network TV, we’re looking good!

How are her attendants?

…oh. That’s an actual still from the show and not rehearsal footage with clothes they brought themselves? That’s. Huh. Let’s keep going. Do things improve?

(I’m literally laughing just uploading these. I cannot WAIT for tonight.)

So! On the left, we have Anna Popplewell in a ballgown from the 1840s, On the right, we have a dress that wants to start a fight with me, because if we’re just going to pretend no historical things ever, don’t you dare show me a front-lacing waist cincher on the outside of a dress. You and I know better, dress; don’t pander to me.

And how is Megan Follows, who I cannot wait to see as Catherine de Medici?


But maybe this is just supporting-character syndrome. You run out of money all the time on these shows. You scrimp. Maybe so long as Mary is vaguely historically accurate, it’ll be fine!


There’s nothing to be said about her getup. Let’s look at Francis; having lucked out by being a guy, he gets a free pass on the silhouette of his vaguely-doublet doublet. He doesn’t get a free pass for the fabric, which for the future king of France would have been so studded with gems and gold-embroidered that it would take two people to help him slap it on, and which even for TV would require some brocade or silk or velvet to be all right. (The Borgias managed it; I know you can, too, show.) And technically, he also shouldn’t get a free pass on those pants, particularly the BELT LOOPS, but it takes somebody like Christopher Eccleston to make breeches and hosen look badass, so it was probably for the best that we opted for pants.

Quick, general reference for some possible doublet silhouettes of this era, or slightly later (slightly earlier was The Tudors, so we’re all up to date on what TV makes that look like, and also apparently I am never over Christopher Eccleston because I mentioned him in that rundown too and regret nothing):

And here is the fancy outerwear of our male leads, with their actual historical counterparts:

(At right, court coat from c. 1798.)

(At right, British ambassador, 1907.)

Excellent work, everyone. History’s comin’ alive!

But really, to get the full gonzo effect of what the CW plans to do to fill their frames this fall, you need to check out this still during a formal ball, which I stared at for more than a minute trying to figure out what was going on:

MAJESTIC, isn’t it? Let’s look again.

So, the white circles (black on the legend) are dresses we’re not even going to talk about, because why would you. The blue is good work! Nice pulls, everyone, proceed.

I honestly don’t know what to tell you about green, pink, and yellow. In Me vs. This Show, This Show might just have won.

We’ll find out tonight, though! Oh, will we EVER.

Recent Work

TV Recaps: Elementary, Season 5

TV Recaps: Victoria, Season 1

TV Recaps: Reign, Season 4

TV Recap: Bates Motel, "Hidden"

Fiction: "Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home", Clarkesworld

Film: How many movies about grief this year? All of them, Legacy.com

Book Review: HIGH NOON: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic, NPR.org

Book Review: How to Read a Dress, NPR.org

Nonfiction: A Doom of One's Own, Clarkesworld

Genevieve on Tumblr

  • Whether you will, or no

    I wrote a piece for VICE about consent as fantasy element in the 18th-century “Beauty and the Beast,” and a little about what happens to the shape of the tale when a retelling (say, I dunno, Disney) alters those elements: “How Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Became the Darkest Tale of All.“

    An excerpt:

    The most powerful force in Beauty and the Beast isn’t magic, or even love, but consent. Most retellings of Villeneuve’s version are careful to keep it. The Beast is clear that Beauty must know what she’s getting into. (In Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s 1910 version, it’s still more explicit: The Beast warns Beauty’s father to “be honest with your daughter. Describe me to her just as I am. Let her be free to choose whether she will come or no…”) Later, the Beast asks Beauty herself if she comes willingly. And that first dinner is marked by the Beast’s deference to her wishes. Beauty’s earliest surprise is how much power she wields. Even in his nightly request that Beauty marry him, he defers. Andrew Lang emphasized the power dynamics in 1889’s Blue Fairy Book:

    “Oh! What shall I say?” cried Beauty, for she was afraid to make the Beast angry by refusing.
    “Say 'yes’ or 'no’ without fear,” he replied.
    “Oh! No, Beast,” said Beauty hastily
    “Since you will not, good-night, Beauty,” he said.
    And she answered, “Good-night, Beast,” very glad to find that her refusal had not provoked him.

    Lang was one of many who used marriage proposals for the nightly request (Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s 1756 retelling was the first), but Villeneuve was under no illusions about the story’s undertones. In her original, Beast asks Beauty to sleep with him. Beauty’s power is the ability to withhold sexual consent.

    [Full article]


2016 Appearances

Emerald City Comicon
April 7-10, 2016
Seattle, WA

Kent State Wonder Woman Symposium
September 23-24, 2016
Cleveland, OH

New York Comic Con
October 5-9, 2016
New York City

World Fantasy Convention
October 28-30
Columbus, OH