The Queen’s Gambit: A Timeless Account of Mod Fashion

Mod style is a fashion movement during the 1960s that represented class, sophistication and success. The Queen’s Gambit, starring the effortlessly talented Anya Taylor- Joy as Beth Harmon, is a witty show that brings the best of mod style and a pop of colour to the mundaneness of the world as we know it today. 

In a male-dominated society of the 1960s, The Queen’s Gambit defies the stereotypes that only men can hold powerful positions in society by exemplifying Beth, a young, strong chess prodigy protagonist with an even stronger sense of style. 

In this limited series with just seven episodes, viewers become immersed in Beth’s life as a chess prodigy, a struggling addict, and a fashion icon with her chic outfits worn throughout the show.

The costume designer of the show, Gabriele Binder, said she intentionally made Beth’s outfits reflect her character, the story, and society at the time in a Vogue article

The show begins with Beth’s early childhood in the 1950s. At this point, Beth hasn’t established herself in the world yet and her outfits show for it. She is doubted since she does not have a rank, and of course, because she is one of the only women there. Her style is simple and bland until she finds her footing in the chess realm and begins wearing outfits with a check pattern, the pattern of the chess board – something she is already so confident and familiar with.

Beth Harmon in her first check patterned dress graphic (Ryerson Folio/Sara Marsetti)

Just like today with many different fashion aesthetics to choose from, the 1960s was a period in fashion where many people adapted their style to subcultures of the time. Mod got its start in London and was popularized after the war when jazz-loving baby boomers who had wealthy parents gave them money to wear some of the best tailored outfits. Eventually, this style made its way to other parts of the world who shared similar interests in common as well. 

Hippies, rockers and punks are a few examples of different fashion movements people modelled their own style after. Though these are all very different, the similarities shared in common is the desire to rebel against society, their parents, and make a fashion statement while doing so. 

As the show progresses into Beth’s young adult years, her fashion begins adapting into mod style, also known as modernist style, consisting of tailored garments, bold colours, prints, shapes and lines. 

Mod fashion drew a lot of inspiration from ‘60s style icons such as actress Audrey Hepburn and English model Twiggy. 

Model Twiggy in a mod style outfit graphic (Ryerson Folio/Sara Marsetti)

Though the check pattern design that Beth keeps wearing is seen in multiple instances, as she goes to more chess tournaments, she starts experimenting with more feminine styles. Once Beth makes it to the big leagues, her outfits embody the status shift and allows her to become more sophisticated. She starts to wear designs and garments of the time such as turtlenecks, velvet, belts, collars, jackets, and bows.

The first dress seen in the series is at the start of the first episode when Beth rushes out of her hotel room because she is late to one of her competitions.

Beth Harmon in a green pussy-cat bow dress graphic (Ryerson Folio/Sara Marsetti)

This bow on Beth’s dress, known as the pussy-cat bow, has been around for decades. This bow is a perfect reflection of the mod era, which embodies female success, power and sophistication with some added flare. This bow also draws attention to Beth’s face during this intense match.

Tying together her mod aesthetic, Beth even showcases the boldness of her character when she wears mod makeup. This simple, yet eye-catching makeup look consists of false lashes, lines under the eye made with black eyeliner and pale lips.

Beth wearing Mod Style makeup graphic (Ryerson Folio/Sara Marsetti)

As the show draws to a close, Beth goes to Russia to compete in her final chess tournament. Once she wins, Beth is on top of the world in the chess realm and society. It is no coincidence that costume designer Binder decided that Beth would embody the look of a piece on the chess board. Wearing an all-white outfit consisting of a wool hat and jacket, gloves, tailored pants, and sleek boots, this outfit screams “checkmate.” 

Beth’s final all-white outfit graphic by Sara Marsetti