Cara Delevingne Explains the Significance of Her Corset on Carnival Row

Even though she plays a fairy, there's a lot of real-world meaning tied up in her restrictive outfit.

Cara Delevingne Carnival Row
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Since Game of Thrones ended, we’ve been looking for a show to fill its seven kingdoms-sized void — and reviews have hinted that Carnival Row might just be it. After all, the new Amazon series (which has already been renewed for a second season) has a lot in common with the HBO hit: it's a fantasy (though it does take place in Victorian times), it involves mythical creatures (fae, AKA fairies), and it has an intense storyline (it’s part murder mystery, too).

Of course, if all of that doesn’t draw you in, there’s also romance. Cara Delevingne and Orlando Bloom play forbidden love interests on the show. Bloom’s character, Philo, is a police officer, and Delevigne’s Vignette is a fae who has to deal with some extreme prejudice during a refugee crisis. According to Delevingne, that's the part of the show that will hopefully make people think, and perhaps relate Carnival Row back to real life.

"I just hope the show opens people's minds up to the refugee experience and make them ask questions," she tells InStyle. "I've been passionate about the subject for a very long time, and I'm just glad I've been able to work on a show which is kind of trying to expose it for what it is."

Despite touching on heavy topics, the show does have a lot fun elements, too. Delevingne excitedly filled us in on all the interesting facts she learned about fae, and also discussed her style, both on-screen and in everyday life.

InStyle: This show is mystery, fantasy, and a love story all rolled into one. Is the genre of this show something that you enjoy watching as well?

Delevingne: I love all genres, especially with TV. There's no line going through any of the things that I watch; they're all very, very different. But something I do really enjoy are shows that have a certain social commentary, where it’s slightly dystopian in some way — Handmaid's Tale is kind of like that. With this show, [Carnival Row], the social commentary is just ... I mean, it's horrifying, but obviously great. At the same time, because it's set in this kind of fantasy, but also Victorian, past world, it seems fitting for this kind of stuff to be going on then. But the fact that it's happening now, in the real world, is just insane. I think that’s the part I really, really enjoy. And then obviously the love element and the kind of thriller mystery is also something I really enjoy, too.

You’re a fairy in this show. Were you actually wearing wings or were they CGI?

When I'm flying they're CGI, but when I'm walking around, they're prosthetics most of the time. It was probably like three, four hours [in makeup] depending on if I had wings or not. Obviously, I couldn't wear the wings when I wasn't working, but I wanted to feel what it would be like, the weight distribution of having wings on my back, so I would wear a backpack with books around a lot. But then your weight distributes according to where you hold weight, so it didn't really make a difference.

Cara Delevingne Carnival Row

Can you tell us bit more about your costumes from the show?

Well, I’m a fae, so I'm a fairy, and sometimes I'm wearing what I would be wearing if I was still living in my land. But then sometimes I'm wearing what I'm wearing in Carnival Row, which is where I'm brought to from my war-torn land, where I've become a servant. So I'm then in a corset. Corsets — there’s a commentary on corsets, obviously, because women wore corsets, but it was also designed to kind of keep women tied in, and not be able to breathe properly, and kind of a thing of control. Whereas in this show, if you wear a corset, it's also about fairies not being able to fly. They strap their wings down. To me, it's just kind of another commentary on how women were suppressed, too.

How would you describe your style in real life?

It's kind of like describing what's your personality. It's like — I don't know. It is what it is. I kind of think people describe style better when they're not talking about their own style. I would say it's masculine, feminine, comfortable, chic. I mean, it's everything that it's not, because sometimes I just wear stuff I'm comfy in and sometimes I dress up a lot, so it kind of changes. It always has to somehow be a little bit comfortable, because I can't be uncomfortable for fashion. When something is uncomfortable, I can't think straight, and I need to be able to use my brain all the time.

Do you find that you stick to like a color pallet at all?

I like black a lot. It just works with everything. And white. And gray. I'm so boring.

Cara Delevingne Carnival Row

Did you learn any facts about fairies while you were starring on the show?

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but fairies aren't real... Joking! They are real. Fae are Irish, in my opinion. That could be completely wrong, but that's where I first learned about fairies, Ireland, and that's why, for the show, I really wanted my character to have an Irish accent. For me, fairies, the way they speak and what they say is very lyrical, and they talk with a lot more sensitivity. It just made sense to me that my character was Irish. And the word fae is Gaelic, I'm pretty sure, so it made sense. Also, my name is Gaelic, so I feel like I'm an Irish fairy, anyway — I wish I was an Irish fairy.

There are so many questions about fairies that I haven't really figured out. Are they more insect or are they more bird-like How do they have babies? Do they lay eggs? Do they have butterfly, cocoon-type things? Do the men have children? I don't know. But, my whole thing was like, the fact that they're all fluid. They're not bisexual, they just love who they love. Men and women are the ones that procreate, but they live in communes and bring up children altogether, and sex and love is all kind of free and beautiful.

Cara Delevingne Carnival Row

Going back to your character, have you, yourself, ever felt unfairly judged?

I think everyone is unfairly judged. I don't think you're human if you're not unfairly judged at some point. That's more of a commentary on humans judging too much. People judge people far too quickly, because no one would really hate each other if anyone really knew each other that well. People are so quick to judge other people and less about actually figuring out their own shit.

Carnival Row is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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