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The Meaning Behind Beth’s Final Outfit


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The Queen’s Gambit protagonist Beth Harmon wears outfits that represent her narrative arc; here’s why her final ensemble transforms her into a queen.

In the final scene of The Queen’s Gambit, Beth Harmon is wearing a memorable all-white outfit that represents the end of her narrative arc, transforming her into a queen. The Netflix miniseries is a character-driven drama that follows the rise of chess prodigy Beth Harmon. The show is critically acclaimed, receiving praise for its tight storytelling, fully developed characters, and rich symbolic content — such as its ability to communicate Beth’s inner world through her clothing choices.

The Queen’s Gambit follows Beth Harmon’s rivalry with Russian chess Grandmaster Vasily Borgov. The show begins with her humble — and tragic — beginnings as an orphan who learns to play chess from the janitor at the orphanage, Mr. Shaibel. When Shaibel observes her natural talents, he fosters her abilities and encourages her to pursue playing competitively, even though it’s a male-dominated sport.

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Related: How The Queen’s Gambit Ending Challenges The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Trope

When Beth is a child in The Queen’s Gambit, she’s played by Isla Johnston (and in the earliest flashback sequences, Annabeth Kelly). For most of the series, however, Beth is played by Anya Taylor-Joy. The passage of time is represented by Beth’s transformation from a gawky, awkward teenager into a polished, sophisticated woman. While her growth is represented in part by Taylor-Joy’s subtle gestures, the evolution is more obviously signified by the change to Beth’s outward appearance — especially her chess-inspired wardrobe.

The Queen's Gambit Beth

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As a young teenage woman, Beth shows an interest in fashion, using her chess winnings to buy herself clothing. The black and white dresses (and shoes) are a clear reflection of Beth’s love for the black and white pattern of the chessboard — in fact, one of her favorite dresses appears to be the checker print one she wears to competition. Other times, she wears ensembles with two distinctive colors. When not in dual tones, she often wears items with geometric prints. Yet, in The Queen’s Gambit final scene, her outfit takes on a whole new meaning: the white hat (with its distinctive shape), A-line coat, pants and boots, represents not the chess board, but one particular piece: the queen.

Beth’s silhouette in her final scene is similar to that of the queen chess piece to symbolize her achievements. Having just bested the current Grandmaster Borgov in his home country, Russia, Beth has achieved the highest ranking for a player, similar to how the queen is the most powerful piece in the game, and its capture is worth the most points (other than the king, of course, which ends the game). Beth’s all-white look also reflects how she’s matured as a player. Her narrative arc in The Queen’s Gambit ends with her victorious — over not just the game, but also her own addictions and self-doubts.

Next: How The Queen’s Gambit Fixes The Strong Female Character Problem

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Updated: November 18, 2020 — 10:24 pm

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