Dressing Up The Favourite

Sandy Powell's Costumes With a Modern Twist

BY: Claire Connors

Name any period film from the last three decades, and chances are British costume designer Sandy Powell dressed it. From her very first film, Caravaggio, the 1986 biopic about the 16th century Italian artist, to her Oscar-winning designs for Shakespeare in Love (1998) to Todd Haynes’ insanely gorgeous 50s film, Far From Heaven, to Scorsese’s 2013 pinstriped drama The Wolf of Wall Street, Powell has been giving our eyes plenty to ogle over the last three decades. In fact, she’s costumed so many period dramas, she was the obvious choice for Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s newest project, The Favourite.

Sandy Powell

In what can only be called one of most intriguing period pieces ever created, the film is making waves for two reasons. First there are the five lead actors, who are all truly at their best in their royal roles. And then there are the incredible costumes created by Ms. Powell. The Favourite is being called an anti-costume drama for Powell’s authentic designs with a modern twist. “The cut is historically correct but I took artistic license and used contemporary fabrics,” says Powell. “For example, I used African print fabrics for some of the pieces and all the costumes for the kitchen staff are made from old jeans. I also used lazar cut leather rather than lace because I couldn’t afford lace—it’s expensive—and there’s a ton of lace in these costumes.”

Under the direction of Lanthimos, Powell was told to make the women look more natural. “He wanted no makeup or elaborate hairstyles, to strip away all decoration and make it bare bones,” she explains. But she got completely different directions for dressing the men. “He wanted the men to look like ridiculous peacocks! Which is actually what they looked like back then, like peacocks!”

Here, we take a look at the actors in their roles and the glorious costumes that help define the characters. If there were an award for most original, we think The Favourite would be the, ahem, favorite for that race.

The Favourite opens November 23rd.

Queen Anne

Olivia Colman as Queen Anne

She only ruled for 13 years, but Queen Anne made her name in history for being a spoiled monarch who grew increasingly deranged during her reign, and increasingly obese from her overindulgences in fattening foods. She was plagued by health issues her entire life and despite having 17 pregnancies, never gave birth to a surviving heir to the throne.

Lady Sarah

Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough was Queen Anne’s righthand woman and one of the most influencial women in England because of it. The two were close but often at opposite ends of court politics.

Abigail Masham

Emma Stone as Abigail

Competing with Sarah to become the Queen’s “favourite,” is Baroness Abigail Masham, Sarah’s very own cousin. Apparently blood is not thicker than water in this case, as the two fight and literally tussle throughout the film as they vie for the Queen’s ear in matters of the court.

Robert Harley

nicholas hoult
Nicholas Hoult as Robert Harley

Robert Harley was Queen Anne’s Lord High Treasurer, so basically her Prime Minister. He was famous for negotiating the end of Britain’s involvement in the War of the Spanish Succession, but was imprisoned by his political enemies after Anne’s death.

Samuel Masham

Joe Alwyn as Samuel Masham

Masham was already in court when he met the Queen’s new Bedchamber maid, Abigail. Although it was politically a smart move to romance the soon-to-be royal favourite, theirs was a real love story.