The White Queen follows the dramatic and exciting story of three determined women as they strive for the throne. The costume design was an essential part of recreating the world of 15th century England and on hand to do the job was costume designer Nic Ede. Ede has previously received an Emmy nomination in 1999 for his work on Dash and Lilly.
He had never designed for this particular period before and it was a daunting but welcomed task. “There’s nothing like a challenge to start something new,” said Ede. He began diving into the era, which was “the swan song of the romantic medieval era before the stiff and formalized Elizabethan era,” by studying paintings of the time. He also looked at textiles that still exist in museums, despite the fact that whole pieces were scarce. He explained that it was fascinating to discover the sophistication of the textiles.
Most of the clothes in the series were designed by Ede. The color palette was utilized in full in the design process. Each household was assigned a predominant color. “We did it mainly to help the audience as much as anything because it is the most complicated time in history,” he said. It was particularly tricky to tell the story which spans over the course of 20 years and keep the costumes appearing distinct on a limited budget. He overcame the difficulty by concentrating on the silhouette. “It’s always about shape and color and the sheen so you get different textures to the textile,” the costume designer explained.
Ede created over 100 costumes in all. “They take a long time to make and they take a lot of fabric. Each of the women’s dresses take 10 yards.” The 10-part series was shot four episodes at a time. Ede had to know the script very well and be able to anticipate what was coming next. Last-minute casting was also a strain he had to manage. Some of the actors were cast and three or four days later they were on set. The designer worked tirelessly to prepare and dress the latecomers with such little time.
Ede’s favorite moment was walking onto set into the cathedral, waiting for the coronation of the Queen with all the principals and extras in place. “I think it was a truly fabulous moment. It’s that moment when you see all your designs come together and you see it harmonize. The colors worked and the most important thing with clothes is when you see a body inside them. The body moves and the clothes move with it and if they’re harmonious, you’re really on the right track.”
The effect is a menagerie of spectacular creations that dazzle. “It was such a great experience for me. I really wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”