Our reaction to the fashion and makeup on season two of The Great? Huzzah!
The sophomore season of the Hulu series is even more lavish and over-the-top as Elle Fanning's pregnant Catherine takes over Russia and Peter (Nicholas Hoult) gets ready to step into the role of stay-at-home dad to their unborn son, Paul. To reflect the characters' changing dynamics, costume designer Sharon Long and hair-and-makeup artist Louise Coles made some changes to almost all the characters' appearances.
For Catherine, Long decided to do away with the docile and dainty look of season one, replacing it with "powerful, stronger" patterns and adding a "little bit more" jewelry.
In the process, Coles worked closely with Long, as did Elle's personal hairstylist Lorraine Glynn, to ensure that Catherine looked every bit like the "woman in charge." Together, they decided to make Catherine's hair "slightly more elaborate and stricter to the period."
Elle's makeup, applied by makeup artist Erin Ayanian, was kept to a minimum, because, according to Coles, it was all about giving the expectant empress "glowing skin."
"Elle has quite a lot of that anyway," she added.
The biggest change for the team was working with a prosthetic belly. Most of the time, Elle had a fake belly that could be easily removed, but for the scenes with the frog—the 1700s equivalent of the sonogram—the Barrie Gower FX team had to come in and apply a more realistic stomach. This process took a couple of hours, though the end result was well worth it, according to Coles: "It was an amazing natural version of what her stomach would look like if she was actually pregnant, including with the detail of every freckle."
As for Long, she had to balance Catherine's youthful and glowing pregnant appearance with her newfound power, so to avoid anything "too oppressive," she maintained the soft colors that Emma Fryer used in season one.
That was easier said than done, as Long found that expecting mothers basically "went into hiding" way back then. So, the references for maternity fashion for the time were few and far between.
"To be honest, if we stuck to the actual period garment as it was over the pregnant body in that kind of voluminous shape, it would have looked awful on-screen, so you have to sort of adapt it," Long explained, sharing that her team chose a different silhouette to "appeal to a more modern audience."
"I did do quite a lot of reading about Catherine the Great because when she originally came to the Russian court, she was a young woman and she did use clothing as a political tool," Long recalled. "She was never seen in the same dress twice because she said if it made an impact once, it could never make the same impact twice."
Catherine's decision to wear traditional Russian clothing as a power play gave Long the opportunity to create her own luxurious version of the sarafan and a kokoshnik for the coronation scene. Long remembered that moment, saying, "It's a showstopper really. She walks in and looks fantastic."
With Peter, Long introduced more feminine aspects into his wardrobe, explaining that she maintained the "rock and roll" aesthetic while adding a "few frills" and more transparent fabrics. She said, "He becomes ever slightly more dandy-ish because he's got lots of time on his hands now. He's a gentleman of leisure because he's locked up in his apartments and he doesn't have to do any kingly duties."
As far as historical accuracy goes, Long said, "everything has to have some grounding in historical accuracy. Otherwise, it just becomes fantasy."
So, while many of the fabrics and patterns were sourced from antique dealers, Long had a bit of "fun" with her designs.
She was aided in her amusement by the cast, who she described as being "committed and into their characters."
"That was great as well because you're not working alone," Long gushed. "You actually have feedback from people who are really interested and have thoughts about the characters."
To see how Long's and Coles' work turned out, watch season two of The Great, streaming now on Hulu.