Knight In Gold Velvet: Costume in The Green Knight

I had to take a break from my BREAK because I was so wowed by the costumes in The Green Knight!
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1 – Hey folks! It’s a surprise #threadtalk on the medieval theme of the moment: #TheGreenKnight! I just had to come out of hibernation to talk about what I saw in the theater.

Velvet! Crêpe! CROWNS! Pentagrams! I’ve got you covered. Well, at least *partially*. 📗🪓

Dev Patel as Sir Gawain in The Green Knight fro A24 Films. A man with dark hair and a mustache holding an axe with a velvet stained cloak and trees in the background; all is washed in golden yellow.

2 – Yes, we’re starting with that cloak & color choice. Keeping things spoiler-free here, Gawain is seen wearing a golden velvet cloak very early on.

It’s quilted, so nice & warm. It’s golden, but also a bit ochre–yellow can mean golden, but also… well, cowardice, y’know?

Dev Patel as Sir Gawain in The Green Knight by A24 Films in a yellow cloak of velvet, standing by a horse. He is by a stone building, the horse is brown. He is greasy-haired and scowling.

3 – Velvet is a perfect choice for the nephew of Arthur. It’s HELLA expensive (as we’ve covered; links later). This is SILK velvet. Not polyester crap from the 70s. And it takes skilled labor beyond reasoning to make.

But it also *absorbs light*. I feel like this is essential.

Dev Patel as Sir Gawain in the Green Knight from A24 films. On horseback at the beginning of his adventure, a white lime road behind him, staring out. He wears chain mail and the same yellow cloak.

4 – Everything about this film is about light. And almost all of Gawain’s outfits *absorb light* rather than reflect it.

Everyone else, including the Queen (Guinevere we presume) are blinged out. Even Gawain’s initial court costume is super matte.

No sparkles for you, sir.

Dev Patel as Sir Gawain; in a grey doublet, holding a sword, looking up, against a black background.

5 – Velvet gets super dirty super fast & my first thought seeing that bright saffron was that it was going to get grimy & IT DID.

Which made me happy because I’m odd. But, thankfully, there’s enough color for shots like this (from the trailer) to stand out. ::chef’s kiss::

A figure walking across a bog, yellow cloak across shoulders. From The Green Knight.

6 – Yellow makes sense historically & you can tell that the filmmakers & designers spent a lot of time with illuminated manuscripts. It’s an easy dye to attain.

Here’s a great example of similar hues from the Roman de Brut, a 14thC copy of King Arthur’s tales. Look familiar?

Knights gathered around King Arthur dressed in robes of gold and saffron, ochre and brown. Very similar aesthetic.

7 – Of course, colors feature significantly in the poem — & Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the few manuscripts we have that’s got an ILLUSTRATED version, not just illuminated (Cotton Nero MS A x, 1400)

Check out this gorgeousness! More later, but just LOOK 👀👀

I'm not sure how to describe this because there are kings and people with swords, and the Green Knight with his head cut off, and Gawain, presumably, with the axe like WTF, wearing red.

8 – Onto more fabric, though. Crêpe silk was everywhere. Especially on the Mother character played by Sarita Choudhury (💚💚💚) & her handmaidens.

Lots of pleating, folding & accordion work, which you can see in this promo poster (alas, very little I could find elsewhere).

A woman in profile in a blue and yellow crêpe silk head veil. Her eyes are covered in linen. Her hair is long, and she wears an amulet of some kind. This is the Mother of Gawain played by Sarita Choudhury.

9 – Crêpe/folding also shows up in the trailer in some other Gawain stills, like this one. The texture really enhances the sun ray elements we see throughout the film, I think, & it’s a counterpoint to the crowns.

Again with the more muted tones, though. About those crowns…

Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, looking down with a high-necked chained cape and chain, multiple textures in grey.

10 – I am OBSESSED with the CROWNS. Even if the king and queen look like zombies, I’m okay, because OMG. The HALO crowns. Are. Glorious.

And maybe that’s the point. As I’ve said time & again, as an Arthurian scholar meself, the Arthur tales aren’t happy fun rainbow squee.

Sean Harris as the King in The Green Knight. He wears a crown that has a regular crown and then a HALO CROWN PIECE. He has a cloak with bits of embossed metal on it (like medals) and a chemise under, with a pentacle pendant.

11 – Yes, the halos are definitely angelic and gorgeous, but they MUST also refer to the Wheel of Fortune. No, not Vanna White.

I mean the Rota Fortuna, like in this 12thC manuscript. The TL;DR: Fate is a bitch. Which, y’know, *scans*.

A man on top of the wheel being happy, man on bottom being crushed. Golden wheel in the middle.

12 – Back to the bling. Arthur & Guinevere are both covered in metallic medals of all sorts, like a 90s charm bracelet explosion.
This made me immediately think of Anglo-Saxon hoards we’ve found that include sword decor & shield bosses. British Museum below R for comparison.

13 – I mentioned this in my review earlier, but Arthur’s pentagram pendant isn’t a nod to New Age or whatever. The original poem has the pentacle on Gawain’s shield, and Much Has Been Written, so I won’t go into it too much.
But here’s a good shot of Sean Harris’s pendant.

Sean Harris as King (Arthur) and his shiny pendant. All the shiny.

14 – Now, there are some SHINY silks. But I can’t get into that too much without spoilers. I will also say, be on the lookout for BLUE. Blue is very interesting.

If you’re familiar with the Gawain MSS, you’ll find this outfit & hairdo… amusing. She’s also in velvet.

Alicia Vikander in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, wearing teal velvet and sheers. Her hair is up in an intricate braided bouffant. Light is on one half of her face, her brown eyes are almost caramel.

15 – We can’t NOT talk about green. Green is so important in the film & poem. But it’s not a vibrant, living green. It’s a green we’ve spoken about before: verdigris!

Yes, there’s trees and forests. But our Green Knight, and even Gawain? I mean, look below to see what I mean.

16 – Green is like that Wheel of Fate: it’s fickle. It’s life, & it’s death. Verdigris begins as brilliant copper, then fades to a grey green hue.

And I don’t need to tell y’all about poison green dresses, right? Or poison ivy? Or radium girls?

From the Nero Cotton MSS, a knight in a green blanket, sleeping.

17 – Personally I love that there were a wide-range of influences on the costumes, from Anglo-Saxon to Indian to what might have been Norse? There were even some plaids!
Malgosia Turanska did an incredible job for what I feel is a truly iconic costume drama.

Gawain in a green doorway, lit in yellow, axe in hand (still wearing his yellow cloak)

19 – More reading, you say?

More on pentacles: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41801929

More on the Cotton Nero Manuscript: https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2018/05/the-legends-of-king-arthur.html

Full HD Trailer of the film:

20 – Some relevant #threadtalks:

That Eldritch Hue: https://www.nataniabarron.com/2021/06/02/that-eldritch-hue-green-poison-passion-and-privilege/

Velvet: https://www.nataniabarron.com/voluminous-velvet/

Timeless Taffeta:

21 – For more about Gawain himself, some of my thoughts as an author who writes Arthuriana, and a mostly spoiler-free review:

22 – And finally, here are some versions of the poems:
For a close LITERAL translation: http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/ready.htm
Modern English: http://alliteration.net/Pearl.htm
Tolkien’s (Middle English): https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=cme;idno=Gawain
Modern (non poem): http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/sggk_neilson.pdf

(cc @monicabyrne13)

23 – Thanks for coming to tonight’s unplanned squee-fest #threadtalk. I may add more later when the spoiler ban is lifted and we get MORE IMAGES online.

For now, go forth and adventure. Watch out for that Wheel of Fate, though!

24 – also I’m very bad at self promotion, but like I wrote a whole award-winning book about Gawain’s mom.

Originally tweeted by Natania Barron (@NataniaBarron) on August 3, 2021.

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