Everything You Want to Know About the Mary Queen of Scots Costumes

This month Josie Rourke made her feature film directorial debut with Mary Queen of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth. The story is a visually captivating experience that retells the turbulent story of Mary Stuart. For those who need a brief history refresher, Stuart was born a Catholic in Scotland at a time of religious tension and was sent to live in France. She married the heir to the throne at 15, became queen at 16, but was widowed at 18. Rather than remarrying, she returned to Scotland to reclaim the throne despite the Protestants gaining control. Her cousin Queen Elizabeth faced pressure to marry and produce an heir to the English throne. To make things all the more tumultuous (that's how it goes with monarchs, right?), Mary had a rival claim to Elizabeth's throne. Pretty juicy stuff, and though there's so much more we could say about the film's story, we're focusing on one component that we find particularly enthralling: the costumes.

We had the immense pleasure of speaking with the film's Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne. She grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon (yes, Shakespeare's hometown) and has worked on Elizabethean films before; she won an Oscar for her work on Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Continue scrolling to hear about Byrne's creative process and decisions for the film and to see images of Robbie and Ronan in their roles.

On making the men "sexy":

"Having done this period before, I knew how daunted the men were by the Elizabethan era and so the challenge was to make the men sexy," Byrne quips. The transformation of the actors once they put on and worked in the denim was "a very rewarding journey. They all felt quite strong and good in their clothes," she says.

Interested in costume design? Pick up a copy of the Costume Designer's Handbook to get started.