So it’s no secret we’re totally into Reign, the amazing new “historical” soap from our friends at The CW. While it’s technically based on real 16th century events and characters, the costuming can be generously described as “budget high school production of Camelot.” These outfits run the gamut from 90s prom to Kate Middleton’s wedding to last year’s Coachella and everywhere in between. As a lifelong Tudor history nerd (with a History BA), I know a bit about where they’ve taken liberties with history. I consulted with our in-house expert, Anne Forman, to grasp exactly what is so WTF about the fashion. As Assistant Professor in the Fashion Department of the Illinois Institute of Art, Anne teaches all the fashion history classes and can deduce in 0.05 seconds why these costumes are so hilarious, yet fabulous.
Lace up your corsets, cause this show’s fashion is more all over the map than Carmen Santiago.
I’m pretty sure this shot from the opening credits is the only actual corset to appear on this “historical” drama. Suck it in, ladies!
Historical fact #1: there was a real woman known as Mary, Queen of Scots, and she lived in the French court with her fiance (later husband — spoiler?), Prince Francis, and his parents. She looked (and dressed) like this:
This is literally a portrait of her from 1558, the year after Reign takes place. Unless Scottish/French fashion had a major overhaul between 1557 and 1558, I’m pretty sure this would be how she’d have dressed in 1557 as well.
You may notice a slight difference between the actual portrait and this white lace glamour TV Mary brought to the King and Queen’s BBQ party.
Anne wants me to mention that Mary is a) not wearing a corset, b) displaying her cleave, and c) clearly not wearing a farthingale (the wooden or whalebone hoop ladies wore under their skirts). Also? The floral headband is kinda on-point. During the Renaissance, it was stylish for women to wear jeweled or floral headbands, a trend that started due to a syphilis outbreak in Europe after the Middle Ages/ Crusades. Initially, women wore these headbands across their heads as a way to detract from the skin issues that came with full blown syphilis. Sexy!
Mary Q of S did travel with an entourage of four minions, hilariously all of whom were also named Mary. Love how the HBIC arranged things so she didn’t have to waste her time remembering useless things like other peoples’ names. On the show, their names are Lola and… um, the slutty boho one, the one with the braids in her face, and the other one. The only thing accurate about the way they dress on the show is that Mary’s outfits are always better than theirs.
Anne says, “Strapless dresses were not really popular until the 1940s. This just looks like these chicks are going to a metallic themed prom.” To which I would add, “In 1995.” To which Anne adds, “Which they arrive for in a Ford Fiesta, apparently.”
Check what Queen Mary wore to the same soiree. Gothic, romantic and uber-flattering to her dark hair and porcelain skin. She’s def the Beyonce to Kelly and Michelle here.
Though this look is solid gold, it’s also TOTALLY WRONG. Mary (or any lady in France in 1557) would NEVER be wearing sheer material on her dress and she also wouldn’t be sleeveless. Instead the sheer material would be worn as a cape called a conch. Also I’m kinda distracted by the gal in the strapless seaform and championship wrestler’s belt. Way to werk a Bump-It, gurl. And snaps to Lola, who apparently fashioned a curling rod out of a blacksmithing tools or whatever to throw down this “Taylor Swift circa the Love Story video” fashion.
This Mary has clearly been spending too much time pinning pics of the Game of Thrones cast on her 1557-style Pinterest board. That being said, Anne says that the forehead was considered the most glamourous, sexy part of a lady of this era, so using braids to draw attention is sorta on point. Not on point? This sleeveless dress with sheer decollete.
Snaps for the oh-so-slight nod towards actual historical costuming with this jewelled belt.
Boho Spice misread the invite, thinking she was going to a Florence and the Machine theme party and not to a royal ball in Renaissance France. Add a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers and she’s basically doing Vanessa Hudgens doing Mary-Kate Olsen, right?
Wheee! Gonna go get crunk at the royal ball, bitches! Spring Break Renaissance France Forever!
Anne would kill me if I didn’t let you know that these sleeves are not stylistically appropriate… which is funny because they are also hideous. Why are the costume designers making these ladies wear such ugly sleeves?
Girlfriend keeps serving Coachella realness with her take on sleepwear:
While ladies of this era did wear linen nighties like this (called chemises), a wealthy lady like Boho would have a longer one: more fabric = more wealth. And what is up with the maid’s Oktoberfest dress? This show’s fashion is an inconsistent as Daniel Grayson’s accent on Revenge. Snaps for the head piece, though. Glad to see even the hired help get to rock Queen Mary’s hand-me-downs.
Boho goes from hippie free spirit to Samantha Jones, Jr., when she gets a late-night visit from the King in this satin bustier:
Um, so I’m pretty sure Renaissance ladies weren’t so much into lift-and-separate. Corsets were made of wood or whale boning and weren’t this sexy or decorative. Also? They required assistance to get them on/off and also restricted the movements of the wearer. This La Perla situation is soooooo far from accurate.
Lola is now doing her best impression of a Taylor Swift perfume ad. Out of everything, her posture is what’s last accurate about this ensemble.
Slumping over like this would be literally impossible with proper Renaissance undergarments. And while I love Boho’s head piece here, I’m pretty sure Nicole Richie wasn’t designing back then. At least, not in France.
Apparently going corset-and farthingale-free is all the rage among the Scottish ladies in the French court, as Wrestling Belt and Face Braid throw down slouchy fashions at the royal BBQ.
I don’t know what to say about the one on the left. I mean, Boho has her slutty hippie style, Lola has the teen T-Swift realness, and Face Braid has… her face braid. But this fourth girl is just sorta there, like the Chris Kirkpatrick of the group. Gurl, you’re better than just being “The One Who Always Wears T-Shirt Length Sleeves.” Step it up.
Meanwhile, the girl’s dress on the right would look cute as a top worn with skinny jeans, amirite?
FYI: This show’s dudes are just as anachronistic as the ladies. While the actual Queen Mary did marry the actual Prince Francis, the IRL Francis didn’t dress (or look) like this:
Not that I mind. Anne gives this jacket a tentative thumbs-up. They’re clearly trying to do a leather doublet thing, but it’s missing a bit more padding. I kind of love this man-peplum, though his hair is a little too Caleb Rivers hits the beach. Also, it’s hard to see in this screencap, but this jacket has more fringe than a concert tour jacket from The Judds.
I’m also guessing the real Francis didn’t smolder like this, but I don’t know that conclusively. OK, yes I do. Here’s a pic of RL Francis with RL Mary:
One historical change I have no issue with is the total invention of the character of Chuck Bash, Francis’ illegitimate half-brother. That’s right, if you go to Wikipedia to get spoilers on which brother Mary’s going to choose, you won’t find anything about Sebastian. History’s loss is our (and Mary’s) gain!
Anne and I both love this look on Mary. According to Anne, metallics and lace were major during the Renaissance. While this is a very modern twist on the two traditions, it looks flattering and chic and also sort of Kate Middleton-evening-wear-ish.
Out of everything, the most accurate part of this show may be the constant attempts at Mary’s life. Girlfriend was in the middle of a real-life Game of Thrones situation that culminated in her trying to have her cousin (Queen Elizabeth) murdered. I appreciate how on the show, teenage Mary is able to sort out in an episode-and-a-half what would have taken Rosewood PD five years to deduce: Evil Anne of Green Gables is trying to kill her. So, it’s only fitting that she serves Khaleesi-style ferocity when she faces off with the King and Queen in this dropwaist number.
While the regal air is accurate, Anne wants me to point out that Mary never would have been wearing a drop waistline like this. While that look was somewhat popular in Venice, it wasn’t anywhere else (and was only worn with a square neckline). But golf claps for werking that Julius Caesar-style head piece. Also? When the show inevitably brings on Queen Elizabeth I as her cousin/rival, they’d better cast AnnaLynne McCord in a red wig because that would be EVERYTHING.
So to sum up, I don’t know how many bottles of wine the wardrobe department got into before selecting these looks, but we want in. Long may this show Reign!