How The Great's Fashion Plays a Pivotal Role in Season 2's Storytelling

The Great's team of costume designers and hair-and-makeup artists play a large role in Catherine and Peter's ever-changing court.

By Cydney Contreras Nov 21, 2021 8:00 PMTags
Watch: "The Great" Star Gillian Anderson on Playing a Lighter Role

It's the subtle details that make the greatest difference.

In the sophomore season of Hulu's The Great, power is changing hands as a very pregnant Catherine, portrayed by Elle Fanning, is establishing her reign over Russia. 

As a result, people are rising and falling in rank, with Sacha Dhawan's Orlo and Phoebe Fox's Marial taking on a higher status because of their alliance with Catherine. In the process, their drab clothing from season one has been thrown out like yesterday's trash and replaced with apparel more fitting of a noble.

And though clothing may seem inconsequential to the average viewer, Dhawan and Fox said that costume designer Sharon Long's work had a major influence on their ability to portray these characters.

"She's really brilliant at making the costumes looks spectacular for both men and women," Dhawan praised in an exclusive interview with E! News. "But they also feel really contemporary as well."

For Dhawan, he felt that Long nailed Orlo's corduroy ensembles, saying it helped him be "a bit more confident in himself."

The Great: Season 2's First Look Photos

"She's really good at not necessarily respecting the etiquette of how he's supposed to wear this," he continued. "If you want to wear your tie in a certain way, you want to loosen your buttons or put your hands in your pockets—she really embraces that. It just works perfectly for the time of the show."

Fox was just grateful to have her character Marial in something other than a peasant's outfit. As she put it, "It was amazing. It was so exuberant."

"The first costume I wear has this massive hot-pink sash with a bow on it—[Sharon] really didn't hold back at all," Phoebe said, noting that she paid the price for the glam wardrobe update.

"As ever, the reality is the shoes hurt. They pinched and they were too small," Fox explained. "And you wear these beautiful dresses but the reality of wearing them for 12 hours a day is just it's absolutely brutal, because like a corset—you know, these were tools of oppression, and you really feel that wearing it."

This became clear to hair-and-makeup artist Louise Coles throughout her own research, which encouraged her to show the toll that past beauty regimens had on people of the time.

"There's one character in the show, Tatyana, where we really went into the beauty processes of the time and how disruptive they were because whenever she takes off her hard-fronted wig, underneath she's got thinning hair, which we would apply a bald cap to Florence [Keith-Roach], the actress, because obviously she's got incredible, lovely hair underneath," she explained, "We would add a thinning wig to her to try and tell the story of what it meant to follow the beauty processes that they had then."

For Catherine's mother, Princess Joanna (Gillian Anderson), Coles and makeup supervisor Sarah Nuth decided to make her appearance "quite structured" as she's an imposing force in Catherine's life.


Gareth Gatrell/Hulu

Long took a similar approach with her styling, dressing Gillian in a black dress with pops of color. Long reasoned that Joanna is a "very, very strong character," so by placing her in the black it helped her to "take up quite a lot of room" and display that power dynamic.

Long added, "She had to make an impact because she's quite a terrifying figure."

To hear Gillian's take on the overbearing princess, check out our exclusive interview above!

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