Adelaide Kane as Mary, Celina Sinden as Greer, Anna Popplewell as Lola and Caitlin Stasey as Kenna. On Mary: custom gown and Deborah Moreland headpiece, On Greer: vintage gown, Moyna pearl shrug. On Lola: Vintage bridal gown, Lulu Frost necklace. On Kenna: Marchesa Notte gown (Photo: Sven Frenzel/The CW)
Editor’s Note: We loved seeing this article. Meredith is an amazing Costume Designer and we have had her in the studio many times as she hunts for vintage treasures for the show. If you are a regular and obsess over our shop you may have already spotted a few of our gowns in past seasons. There are definitely more to come in the new season so watch out for them! Congratulations Meredith on creating such a beautiful world and we hope it stays for a long, long time!
Now that holiday soirée season is upon us, everyone is searching for a gorgeous gown that no one else will have. After all, overlapping at galas is exactly like wearing the same dress to prom—and the “who wore it best” competition isn’t worth it. If you’re looking for unexpected inspiration, The CW has it. The network that’s most famous for bringing teen angst to television with shows like One Tree Hill and Gilmore Girls currently airs the surprisingly chic show Reign, which is far more more Alexander Wang than Abercrombie.
Reign is the most fashionable show on TV, but unless you know a cool teen, you’re probably not watching. Think Game of Thrones meets Gossip Girl, with characters in couture. It follows Mary, Queen of Scots and her ladies-in-waiting (in real life they were all named Mary, which would have made for modern-day Heathers hijinks). They experience all the usual CW suspects: sex, drugs (well, technically poison), and rock and roll (courtesy of indie bands like Twin Forks and The Lumineers, who wrote the theme song). It’s a fashion girl’s fantasy and a history nerd’s nightmare.
Reign’s brightly colored brocades and vintage statement pieces make it the ultimate holiday party inspiration. Much of that is thanks to the supremely talented costume designer Meredith Markworth-Pollack. She began her career assisting costume designer Eric Daman on Gossip Girl, dressing Blair Waldorf, another major style muse for fashion obsessed teens. She then worked on the underrated Hart of Dixie, where Southern styles reigned supreme. The shows have brought her from New York, to Los Angeles, and now to Toronto, where she and the show are based.
For those who are skeptical about binge-watching a show geared towards teen girls, Ms. Markworth-Pollack understands. “You’re playing with history and people don’t always like that, but when you own it like the show does it all comes together and works.”
On the first call Ms. Markworth-Pollack had with execs at Reign, the creator, director and studio execs explained that they wanted to dress the characters in modern pieces while maintaining historical accuracy. They told her that they wanted a 16th century essence, integrated with contemporary pieces that young viewers would respond to. “In a way I think that combining these elements can be harder because the rules are out the door. It’s almost like fantasy instead of historical because you’re coming up with a whole new look and it needs to be believable and something different for the viewers,” she noted. When building the dresses, Ms. Markworth-Pollack often uses a historical painting of Mary, Catherine or Elizabeth, and looks at the elements and fabrics to create the Reign version.
Some 16th century looks did not translate well to teen TV. “They didn’t want the men in pumpkin shorts because it’s not sexy, so we decided to give all of the men custom leather pants. We’ve made probably close to 1,000 pairs. For the women, it’s finding that fine line of gown. I wanted gowns that kept some kind of Elizabethan element, whether it was a nipped waist and extreme silhouette, or if it had a bit of a medieval feel. A lot of it was about keeping the textures and the palettes. I found a lot of off-the-rack pieces that felt bohemian and relaxed or super structured.”
Hip bumps were another vetoed trend, which confirm that women have been using strange style devices for centuries, you know, like the Kardashians and their famous waist trainers. “Women would put hip bumps or hip rolls over their petticoat and then put their skirt on and then their overskirt on to exaggerate the hips and make the waist look smaller.” While it was on-trend back in the day, on screen it looked stiff. Instead, Ms. Markworth-Pollack used pleating at the waist to achieve the same result. It also turned out to be a savior, so actors engaging in sword fights and riding horses wouldn’t be weighed down with pounds of costuming.
Adelaide Kane as Mary (left) in a Vintage Gown from Shrimpton Couture. (Photo: Sven Frenzel/The CW)