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The story behind 'The Queen and The Crown: A Virtual Exhibition of Costumes from "The Queen’s Gambit" and "The Crown"'

By Heather Cichowski

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Netflix viewers have had a lot of beautifully shot, thrilling shows to watch lately, including Season 4 of The Crown and the new limited series The Queen's Gambit.

Fans of the two hit programs will be thrilled because the Brooklyn Museum has a virtual exhibition about them both entitled The Queen and The Crown: A Virtual Costume Exhibition.

The project is curated by Matthew Yokobosky, Senior Curator of Fashion and Material Culture at the Brooklyn Museum, and features the iconic costume designs from the new limited series and Season 4 of The Crown. It combines them with thematically-related objects from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection.

No matter where you are in the world, you can "visit" the exhibition online and take a self-guided tour of the costumes and objects in a reconstruction of the Museum’s third floor Beaux-Arts Court.

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. Photo: © Mark Mainz, Des Willie

Anyone who was captivated by the costumes on the small screen from Gabriele Binder and Amy Roberts, The Queen's Gambit and The Crown's respective costume designers, will enjoy seeing the looks and finding out greater insight regarding them in the exhibition. You'll recognize a few outfits from The Crown's Princess Diana (Emma Corrin), the Queen (Olivia Colman), Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) and Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) in the exhibition.

HELLO! Canada spoke with Matthew Yokobosky to find out more about curating the virtual exhibition during COVID-19 and the connection between the two shows.

HELLO! Canada: What is it like curating and creating a virtual exhibition compared to a physical one?

Matthew Yokobosky: Since the curator and designers are not hampered by the usual museum guidelines for protecting the art from bright light and “touching,” the approach to creating this virtual exhibition was more permissive: The museum’s virtual Beaux Arts Court is flooded with light, and viewers are afforded the experience of viewing the costumes and artworks in close proximity.

Virtual does require a greater level of technical and photographic expertise, but it also allows you the freedom to curate and design an exhibition without the sensitivities normally required for a presentation of actual artwork.

How did you choose the thematically related objects to go alongside the costumes?

While watching The Queen’s Gambit and the 4th season of The Crown, specific themes emerged from the series that corresponded to themes that also existed in the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection. Chessboard patterns found in the museum’s photography, drawing and paintings collection dovetailed with patterns in [The Queen's Gambit costume designer] Gabriele Binder’s costume designs and the set motifs in The Queen’s Gambit.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon (left) and Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley in The Queen's Gambit. Photo: © Netflix

And in The Crown, the British Commonwealth and Apartheid are both employed as important narrative structures which also thematically corresponded to sculptures by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke and South African artist Johannes Mashego Segogela in the Museum’s collection.

MORE: Everything you need to know about Emma Corrin, the rising star who plays Princess Diana in ‘The Crown’

Did you watch any of the shows before coming up with the final selections for the exhibition?

Yes, it was important for me to watch all of the episodes of The Queen’s Gambit and Season 4 of The Crown before curating the costume checklist and the related Museum objects. While costume designs for film and television are often only partially realized (since full ensembles are not needed for close-ups, or if the ensemble will only be seen from one angle), the costumes for these two series were fully executed and adapted easily to the 360-degree viewing situation in a virtual exhibition.

What piece(s) captivated you the most? Why?

For The Queen’s Gambit, I was struck by Gabriele Binder’s research into the fashions of Pierre Cardin and Christian Dior for the characters of Elizabeth "Beth" Harmon and her mother Alma, creating a sophisticated fashion narrative for the two women.

For The Crown, based on real people and situations, designer Amy Roberts had an extensive mood board from which she could replicate looks or use them as a “jumping off point” to create looks in the spirit of a character.

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in The Crown wearing the show's version of the iconic wedding dress. Photo: © Des Willie/Netflix

I think many people, including myself, remember waking up to see the marriage of Lady Diana and Prince Charles on television in 1981, and being awestruck by her exceptional wedding gown. So having it represented in the virtual exhibition was nostalgic, as well as an affirmation of its true “staying power."

What was the reason for focusing on the female characters' wardrobes?

Good question. And I believe it is also a broader question in the museum field. The history of women’s fashion has more dramatic shifts than men’s fashions, and that is primarily why most fashion exhibitions focus on women’s wardrobes. There is more visual diversity.

Of course, the men in The Queen’s Gambit – and more so in The Crown – have distinct looks (Prince Philip, for example). Yet, it is the women who visualize their personalities and inner feelings more articulately through dress.

Anya with Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Benny) in memorable looks from The Queen's Gambit. Photo: © Ken Woroner/Netflix

What do you hope people take away from the exhibition?

Both stories focus on young women (Beth Harmon and Lady Diana Spencer) who, through intelligence and opportunities, elevate their stature. We see their struggles and successes, and how good fashion choices can license access and amplify momentum. And so for viewers of a similar age, these two women are blueprints for achievement.

Check out to see the virtual exhibition.

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