'The White Queen's' lush, period costumes 'are all about status'

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The lush series that is Starz's "The White Queen," airing Saturdays, has the epic drama expected in the telling of the fight for the British throne: Philippa Gregory's story, the layered history and the acting.

A period piece also requires the right costumes, and the ones here are terrific, coming courtesy of Nic Ede.

"This show was all about the shapes," Ede says to Zap2it. "And on the whole I kept the decorations to a minimum."

"I tried to do formalwear and everyday wear," he says. "When they are at the courts, l kept them simply dressed. All the royals go more over the top where they have court occasions. And as always with these people, everything they do is about status."

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Some of the shots look as deeply textured as a Vermeer painting, such as this of Jacquetta Woodville ( Janet McTeer) and her daughter, Elizabeth ( Rebecca Ferguson). Elizabeth, a commoner, weds King Edward IV.

Here both women wear blue velvet. "It is a cotton velvet, with a slight luster, not like silk velvet," Ede says. "It is almost like what you use for suiting."

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"I completely cheated here and used a cotton jersey," Ede says of this simple dress Elizabeth wears as a widow, transitioning from the black to the gray stage of mourning.

"These frocks all take between seven and 10 yards, and I learned -- to my cost, I have to tell you -- Elizabeth wears a gray dress with fur trim, and it was 10 yards, and I had to change to a silk because it did her back in. It is fine for the first hour."

"You can cover a sofa in 10 yards," he adds.

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Re-creating a 15th-century formal court scene was a direct result of an impulse buy.

"I was in an Indian shop in London where I buy a lot of fabric," Ede says. "I had this extraordinary, very loose crochet gold thread with red sequins. It was an extraordinary fabric. What will I do with it? I bought it on the iffy, and I didn't buy quite enough."

He supplemented the queen's regalia with trim and a bodice made from 1910 embroidery. Ede stitched on all of the pearls.

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"The fun thing about the men's stuff is I treated it as conventional contemporary suit in as much as everyone wears the same shape," Ede says. "It is all about how you top stitch."
Ede, who crafted the men's clothes from corduroy, coarse cotton and velvet, was relieved that the series shot in the winter of Bruges, Belgium.

"This is the last romantic period before the Regency Period," Ede says. "It becomes so much more formal after 1485, when Henry VII comes. And the clothes become more structured and more formal. For me it is the last time that is truly magical and medieval."
Photo/Video credit: Starz