Gabriele Binder interview: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ costume designer
“I approach it from the chess itself,” says “The Queen’s Gambit” costume designer Gabriele Binder about how the game at the heart of the series influenced her work. She wanted to create “something structural, something geometrical, it’s black and white,” but in a “subtle” way that didn’t overemphasize the references. “She is chess, so we go with a very straight and very minimalist and also contrasting look to tell this story with the costumes.” We talked with Binder as part of our “Meet the Experts” panel with Emmy nominated costume designers. Watch our interview above.
“The Queen’s Gambit” follows orphan-turned-chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she rises through the ranks of international competition while struggling with drug and alcohol abuse during the 1950s and 1960s. In the finale episode “End Game,” which earned Binder an Emmy bid for Outstanding Period Costumes, Beth faces off against the best in the world during a climactic tournament in Russia. “Most of what you see on Anya Taylor-Joy was made for her,” and the ’60s were “appealing to us because it was the first time when youth had owned fashion and developed something that was different from what the older generation would wear,” and the style from the era became so classic it has been “revived again and again.”
But attention was also paid to Beth’s rival, the steely Borgov (Marcin Dorocinski) who looms over the series as a fearsome adversary she must overcome. Men’s wardrobe doesn’t usually get the fanfare of women’s wear in film and TV, but Binder’s choices brought out that character as well. She sought “elegance” in his look, but also something “proud” and developed from the “Russian uniform.” Even the color made a difference: brown “because it was, for me, a very unusual color for American suits, so it made him very different from what she was used to.” The clothes make the man, so developing characters through wardrobe is integral to telling a story.