The Queen’s Gambit Costume Designer Gabriele Binder


“Every costume has their own story.”


Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed / Gabriele Binder / Phil Bray / Netflix

So, to celebrate the success of The Queen’s Gambit, BuzzFeed sat down with costume designer Gabriele Binder, who took us behind the scenes of how these incredible costumes came together. Here’s everything we learned:

1.

First, about “80%” of the costumes were handmade by Gabriele Binder and her team of costume designers, including every single dress and coat Beth wears.


Netflix

In the end, they only found “some skirts,” but the rest was handmade for the series.

2.

Gabriele was instantly drawn to The Queen’s Gambit upon hearing about it and she said it immediately seemed “interesting.”


Phil Bray / Netflix

“I got a call from a producer and they said, there’s something about chess and the ’50s. And, you know, usually [for a project], I immediately have a feeling that it sounds interesting,” Gabriele said. “And after I said yes to this, I thought, ‘What’s wrong with me? It’s about chess. It might not be that interesting.’ But, I had immediately and intuitively this feeling of, ‘Whoa, this is something.'”

3.

In the beginning of the series, the major fashion inspirations for Beth were Audrey Hepburn and Jean Seberg.


Silver Screen Collection / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

4.

Then, as the series progressed, the inspiration behind Beth’s later costumes were Edie Sedgwick, Juliette Gréco, and other French singers and stars.


John Springer Collection / Corbis / Keystone-France / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images

Gabriele explained, “Very much later it was Edie Sedgwick, but it was also like Juliette Gréco or some French singers or French stars after the Paris style. So we really had a lot of women [who] we thought, ‘They are interesting,’ and that’s Beth’s way.”

5.

Gabriele said it was “so much fun” doing fittings with Anya Taylor-Joy and she made it easy to find Beth’s style and voice through her clothing.

6.

Gabriele explained that working with Anya on Beth’s style was like a game of “ping pong.” Gabriele had concepts for designs and Anya gave “a lot of input” on how Beth’s character arc could be shown through what she wears.


Phil Bray / Netflix

“I made, of course, a concept in the beginning and we already had this idea about the orphanage [styles] and how this should look. So a certain costume design logically followed,” Gabriele said. “But Anya also gave really a lot of input on how she sees the development of Beth. So it was like ping pong. It was really cool to develop with her.”

7.

Gabriele made sure that Beth’s early style highlighted the fact that she lived in an orphanage and didn’t have a lot of role models growing up, so she is constantly looking to imitate the women in her life through her clothing.


Phil Bray / Netflix

She explained, “I think it’s because in the beginning she doesn’t have too much inspiration about fashion. She has some natural aesthetics that she wants, but since she comes from the orphanage, there was nobody [to look to]. So later on, she jumps very quickly on some new person and tries to copy their style. I think she’s also a very curious person, and she wants to find out how this really feels on herself. I think she finds her own way.”

8.

In fact, the best example of Beth imitating what others wear and looking to someone for fashion inspiration is when she meets Cleo.


Netflix

“She tries to find her group. You know, she thinks the girls in the school are kind of interesting or fashionable as a group. And she chooses costumes to belong to [a] group, but then it never works out because maybe she’s too much in her head and too much in chess,” Gabriele said. “She finds a little bit of herself, but very often she sees something on someone, like with Cleo. She really thinks Cleo is so cool. So she tries a little bit of Cleo’s style.”

9.

Gabriele believes that when Beth attends the party with the other girls at school, it’s then that she finally realizes how important her individual style is and that she doesn’t need to dress like the other girls to fit in.


Netflix

She said, “When she goes to the girls’ party from school, everybody’s in jeans, but she didn’t know that they would dress like this, so she comes in a very elegant dress. And I think in this way, she finally realizes, ‘Ah, maybe this is my style.'”

10.

Gabriele designed all of the costumes with chess players in mind, so that’s why you don’t see a lot of jewelry on Beth and she doesn’t wear “asymmetrical” patterns.


Ken Woroner / Netflix

“You know when I researched the chess players, I thought they need to be really 100% concentrated on the chess game,” she explained. “So there should be no jewelry or something that’s hanging on your ear or something that is asymmetrical or some pattern.”

11.

Tapping into chess players’ love of chess is where Gabriele came up with the idea to have the lines and squares of a chessboard appear in Beth’s clothing.


Phil Bray / Netflix

“I thought here, ‘They just love to play.’ And, if you’re a chess player, of course you like the chessboard,” Gabriele explained. “So you like this kind of pattern and it’s the only possible pattern. So that was the idea behind it.”

12.

When Jolene returns and visits Beth, her outfit was inspired by Angela Davis and “a little bit of the Black Panther Party.”


Netflix / First Media Group / Oakland Tribune / Getty Images

13.

In fact, Jolene’s adult costumes were created so that they exemplified that she’s a “smart woman” and that she’s “a fighter.”


Netflix

Gabriele said, “She is [a] very smart woman and she’s a fighter. So she really wanted to go her way, but within the rules. And she wanted to work within these rules and also make better rules for herself. So I wanted to have a little bit of this fighter thing in her clothes plus the smarts that says, ‘I know how to step out and go my own way.'”

14.

Light green was a color that popped up a lot in The Queen’s Gambit and ultimately represented Beth’s “home.” She wears a light green shirt made by her mother when she arrives at the orphanage and then can be seen wearing light green during her final match with Borgov.


Netflix

“In the beginning, we thought about a color [that makes her look] really fragile and weak and that you want to take her in the arms and say, ‘Poor child.’ Later on, in the very end, we took the same color because we thought it was her home, it was her mother and her mother loved her and she made that embroidered shirt for her,” Gabriele said. “So, in the end, the same green color was like her home color, but now it’s a strong color because now she’s herself, she feels at home. And, maybe she feels connected with her mother, so we used the same color again.”

15.

Also, green was chosen for when Beth was in the orphanage because she was able to blend into her surroundings since the orphanage set was mostly green.


Netflix

Gabriele said, “So we thought it’s maybe this light green because it doesn’t make you strong and the surrounding [in the orphanage] was also green so you kind of disappear. So we wanted Beth to feel like a small nobody.”

16.

And Beth’s light green outfit for her final match with Borgov was also chosen so she stood out against the dark room and the men, who are all wearing darker clothing.


Phil Bray / Netflix

“We already wanted to have something light in the dark room and the men all wore dark colors. So, it’s her home color and made her stand out,” Gabriele said.

17.

Gabriele explained that they wanted Beth’s femininity to come across in her clothing, but she wouldn’t use it to her advantage. She wanted to be the best chess player regardless of her gender.


Phil Bray / Phil Bray/Netflix

“For her femininity, we also thought about that it’s really cool if she’s not playing this out. So if we made a deeper cleavage dress, people could think that of course she can easily win because [the men] would be confused and not concentrate anymore,” Gabriele hilariously said. “We didn’t want her to win for sexual reasons, and Beth didn’t want that. She knew that she could do that, but she wanted to be the better one and she wanted to really win. So I think this is the very modern part of Beth that we really liked.”

18.

One of Gabriele’s favorite costumes is a simple white T-shirt with the line down the front that Beth wears in both Episode 5 and 6.


Netflix

“I love them all because this is a long process and you find them and you fall back, and you have a breakthrough. So, every costume has their own story,” she said “But, for example, I like very much the super-simple T-shirt, which is white and has a blue line. I thought this was so good for the camera.”

19.

In fact, she considers it one of her favorites because it’s the perfect example of a piece of clothing that worked in the ’50s, but could easily be worn today.


Netflix

Gabriele continued, saying, “It’s so cool and so simple, and you could buy it today, maybe you could not. But, it looks like it’s from today but it was exactly from the time. I like very much to bridge into today with the real pieces. So, that’s one piece I really love.”

20.

The hardest and most complicated outfit for Gabriele to make was the red dress Beth wears in the bar in Paris.

21.

In fact, they had to remake the red dress at one point after seeing how much it flared out. They ultimately went with the “slim fit” you see in the episode.


Netflix

“It’s a kind of complicated dress to find out how much this flares out, really. So we saw [the dress] widen originally, so we had to make it more of a slim fit. So that took really a lot of hours [to make],” Gabriele explained.

22.

When coming up with Beth’s final outfit, Gabriele wanted to make a “strong statement” to close out the series and she had this idea for Beth to resemble the “white queen” on a chessboard.


Netflix

“In the end, it shouldn’t just go to black, you need something that is a strong statement and something that will stay with you as the audience. Something that somehow you remember this final moment,” Gabriele said. “So I knew from the beginning, it should be strong. When I saw the first location photos, I thought it looked like a chessboard and like she was stepping inside the chessboard. So I had the idea of the white queen.”

23.

And, in terms of the all-white outfit, it took a long time to find the “perfect” look that didn’t make her look like something out of a “fairy tale.”


Netflix

Gabriele elaborated, saying, “It was a long way to to find [and] to make this white queen outfit because very easy, you [could] look like a Russian babushka or you look like from a fairy tale. So [we had to make it look] a bit effortless. We were kind of proud that we found the perfect look.”

24.

During the final scene, Gabriele actually gave one of the old men one of Mr. Shaibel’s cardigans that he was wearing in the basement as a nod to where Beth found her love of chess.


Netflix

“The old men were cast to look different than Mr. Shaibel, but I gave [one of them] the cardigan that Mr. Shaibel was wearing in the basement,” she said. “So I don’t think anybody will ever really see this, but I thought it was enough to have this emotional moment where Mr. Shaibel is there and maybe somebody will recognize it.”

25.

And finally, having Mr. Shaibel represented in this scene allowed them to create a “full circle” moment, since this was the first time Beth was playing chess for fun in a very long time.


Netflix

Gabriele explained, “We want to make this a full circle [moment]. When she is now sitting down with the old men and, for the first time after a very long time, starts playing chess not for competition, but for fun. So, just playing chess, not for competition, just for the fun of it, we need Mr. Shaibel to come back in some way.”

Be sure to check out Gabriele’s beautiful costumes on The Queen’s Gambit, which is streaming now on Netflix.

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