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!
YOU GUYS, WE’RE NOT FINE, AND IT’S HILARIOUS.
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.