Costuming The Royal Family: The Crown

The fourth season of The Crown has captured the attention of a worldwide audience with its glamorous and trendy costumes.

With a high budget (the production of the fourth season spent 13 million U.S. dollars per episode), The Crown has been telling the contemporary and intimate royal story of England from the 1940s until contemporary times. The fourth season, released in November 2020, focuses on the crucial period between 1977 and 1990.

Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, chapter 1: Gold Stick. Queen Elizabeth II in official parade in commemoration of her birthday.

The first image we want to talk about is a photogram of the first scene in the first chapter of the fourth season and is presented in the promotional trailer. As Commander-In-Chief of the British Armed Forces, Queen Elizabeth II (performed by Olivia Colman) is portrayed in the English uniform called the Trooping of the Colour (also known as the riding habit) to celebrate her birthday. The present costume shows the historical accuracy this show is known for. This costume involved four wardrobe fittings with the actress Olivia Colman due to its complexity. It is composed of a long dark riding skirt, the uniform of the Scottish Guard, a tricorn hat with regimental plume, and white gloves. Above the six medals, she is wearing the Order of the Garter star. This image transmits a feeling of strength and power in the royal family and fervent English patriotism.

Season four adds two iconic female figures of this particular era: Diana, Princess of Wales, and the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The presentation of these two emblematic figures in the show reflects on their character, with it will evolve in different manners for both of them during the season. 

Princess Diana:

the crown s4 picture shows princess diana emma corrin and prince charles josh o connor filming location ragley hall
Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, chapter 1: Gold Stick. First appearance of Diana Spencer.

The first encounter between Diana Spencer (performed by Emma Corrin) and Prince Charles (portrayed by Josh O’Connor) has a level of fantasy, mystery, and playful flirt kept throughout half of the season. The 16-year-old teenager is hiding with her ‘mad tree’ costume for a school production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, composed of a green leotard and a mask, both covered in green and yellow leaves. Costume designer Amy Roberts talked to Dezeen magazine about Diana’s first appearance in the show: “The first sighting of Diana is very unexpected. We start off seeing her as a young girl with very little fashion sense. She’s a plump, shy, charming, very appealing girl, and then she’s sort of grabbed by the palace.”

Watch Emma Corrin, as Princess Diana, Singing The Phantom of the Opera's  'All I Ask of You' in The Crown Extended Clip | Playbill
Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, Chapter 9: Avalanche. Princess Diana performing The Phantom of the Opera for Prince Charles.

We can compare the intention behind the previous costume with the one appearing in chapter number 9: Avalanche when Princess Diana performs for Prince Charles in a recording of The Phantom of the Opera. She blends with the set as if she always belonged to this fantasy world. Princess Diana appears wearing a spectacular period dress decorated with yellow stones and small pink roses, partially covered with her Christine Daaé seafoam green hooded cape. The costume shows her soft, naive and young self. The qualities that once captivated the prince now are increasing the gap between them. This becomes evident when we see him laughing and cruelly mocking the princess’ gift in the next scene.

Diana’s color palette was chosen among the actual garments the princess wore. The costume design department decided to isolate her colors from those of the royal family to emphasize the narrative of ‘her’ vs. ‘them.’ Usually, when Diana is wearing red, black, green, or purple (her primary colors), the rest of the Windsor’s family is dressed in a different color or shade.

Margaret Thatcher: 

Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, Chapter 1: Gold Stick. First appearance of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Margaret Thatcher (performed by Gillian Anderson), on the other hand, is presented with her iconic 70’s suit in a bright blue color and her signature pussy-bow blouse underneath, after being elected as prime minister, and starting a new era for the country and the rest of the world as well. Even though the first impression of Thatcher in the present show is an iconic image, borderline stereotypical, her wardrobe, in general, reflects herself beyond politics and helps the spectator get to know a different side of the ‘Iron woman.’

The countryside as a place of unity for the royal family:

The Crown Season 4: Why "The Balmoral Test" Is the Best Episode Yet
Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, Chapter 2: The Balmoral Test.

During the entire season, numerous scenes are occurring in Scotland, at the Balmoral castle. An earth color palette composed of green, brown and beige, the use of tartan pattern, waxed Barbour jackets, and garments for hunting are elements that the audience only see in this particular context of royal leisure, and as an attempt to blend with the Scottish culture and landscapes. This scenario is where the royal family appears to be closer to each other and relaxed.

In chapter 2: The Balmoral Test, we can appreciate the differences between the two outsiders getting closer to the royal family and testing before becoming part of their intimate circle: Thatcher and Diana. When we compare their arrival and first conversation with the castle staff, we notice that the Prime Minister brought exclusively indoor shoes. At the same time, the future princess of Wales packed only outdoor shoes. This small detail can pass unnoticed, but indeed is a pure reflection of their character and expectations.

Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, Chapter 2: The Balmoral test.
Thatcher Balmoral Test: Inside the real royal initiation shown in the Crown
Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, Chapter 2: The Balmoral test.

When comparing the two images presented above, the character of both female figures is strongly emerging. With her bright blue coat and the scarf tied around her neck as a style decision instead of covering her hair as practicality, Thatcher is portrayed as an outsider. She does not fit with the countryside activities. The substantial differences she and her husband encounter with the royal family’s costume drive them to cut their stay shorter and push her to take more decisive political decisions when she arrives in London. Thatcher makes a critical breakthrough concerning her leadership style.

On the other hand, Diana is blending in with the Windsors. She appears to pass all the tests that are presented to her. She looks like she always belonged there. But, as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. They tell only a fraction of the story. While the prime minister chooses to go to a different path from the royal suggestions early, Diana will encounter the differences between her and the royal family in an advanced stage, when she is already married to the crown and has royal responsibilities.

Prince Charles:

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Tie Accessories Accessory Human Person Suit Coat Overcoat Jacket and Blazer
Photogram of The Crown. Season 4, Episode 4: Favorites. The Queen goes to visit Prince Charles to his new house.

Prince Charles’ wardrobe for The Crown is worth mentioning due to his specific style. As Roberts says it at an interview for GQ, the prince “has that classic ‘boy at university who hasn’t found himself’ look.” He wears to perfection his vast collection of Savile Row suits.

What caught my attention was not the bold and fashionable wardrobe choices, such as the linen double-breasted suit and a short-sleeved patterned shirt that he wears in an intimate scene with his aunt Princess Margaret (performed by Helena Bonham Carter). I was more impressed by the little details, such as the color choice for the pocket square. When the end of the season is approaching, and the Prince starts to give up on his marriage and fight for his love for Camilla, we can notice the presence of her color -burgundy- in small details in his wardrobe. As he says in a heartbreaking fight scene with Princess Diana: “Camilla is who I want. That is where my loyalties lie. That is who my priority is.” His pocket square changes from light tones of blue or even white to darker tones, such as patterned black or the burgundy color as mentioned above. His transition to a more mature phase is reflected in a way in his pocket squares.

Josh O'Connor, Olivia Colman and 'The Crown' Showrunner Discuss Season 4 |  Esquire
Photogram of The Crown. Season 4.

This season has many emblematic costumes, from original pieces created by the costume designer Amy Roberts in imaginary private scenes to perfect historical recreations. For more information on Princess Diana’s wedding dress, see the linked article by  Mariana Sandoval. This article is going to finish with a reflection from Roberts about the fourth season’s general mood. She says that the aesthetics are more solid than in the other three seasons. She further explains: “There’s a steadiness with [season] four, there’s a darker palette. Everybody’s kind of in their middle; middle age, middle ground. Anne is married, there are children… The Queen is more settled in her role, her marriage.” The exceptions, the curiosity, and interesting elements are brought by Thatcher and Diana. They are like “a breath of fresh air” for the spectator, as Roberts says. 


Reference list:

“The Crown: Watch Emma Corrin’s Sweet, Cringey Phantom of the Opera Performance”. Vanity Fair Magazine. August, 2021.

“The Queen and The Crown”. Virtual exhibit, organized by Netflix and the Brooklyn Museum.

IMDB.

“The Crown Season 4: a glimpse inside the wardrobe”. Financial Times. November, 2020.

The Crown’s ‘Balmoral Test’ Barbours Are Not Just Jackets”. Vulture, New York Magazine. December, 2020.

“The Crown costumes move ‘from forensic accuracy to flights of fancy’ says Amy Roberts”. Dezeen Magazine. November, 2020.

The Crown Dives Into the Powerful Mediocrity of Royal Style”. GQ. November, 2020.

“The Crown’s costume designer on the challenges of re-creating royalty”. GQ. November, 2020.

“A love letter to Prince Charles’ suit collection in The Crown”. GQ. November, 2020.

Recreating Royal Wedding Gowns: The Crown

Featured Image: Emma Corrin as Princess Diana. Netflix: The Crown, Season 4 Episode 3. Photo: Des Willie/Netflix

The Royal family has always used fashion for power, control, entertainment, traditions, new trends, or just to enjoy the pleasure of having the nicest fabrics, trims, and accessories to adorn themselves as they please. Among these different uses of fashion, the ones that caused the most impact in British society were: The sumptuary laws during the Tudor dynasty, the Masques organized by the Stuarts, the extravagant court dresses of the Georgians, and Queen Victoria’s ivory wedding gown, which imposed the still present tradition of brides to wear white on their wedding day.

Throughout the years, the Royal wedding has always caught the entire world’s attention, allowing us to witness how grand and exquisite these wedding gowns have been. For many of the past monarchs, we only have paintings to admire and learn from. Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth’s II reign has been portrayed on the acclaimed Netflix series The Crown, where the production team has made outstanding work to highlight the beautiful and delicate fashions that belong to the Royal family. In many of the cases, they have recreated outfits, while other times they have combined period silhouette with character interpretation to create some impeccable designs. The costumes of The Crown, designed by Michele Clapton in season 1, Jane Petrie in season 2, and Amy Roberts in seasons 3 and 4, have been incredibly amazing and are a huge part of what has made this series as astonishing as it is.

Each one of these designers has been in charge of making the wedding gowns for Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana, and the result has been magical.

Right: ‘‘Queen Victoria in her Wedding Dress’ by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1849. Photo: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

In the first episode of the series, we have the delight to see Princess Elizabeth’s and Philip’s wedding. The production of The Crown made it feel as if history was happening all over again. Every single detail mattered, and everyone on the team made a tremendous effort to portray how important this day was in Queen Elizabeth II’s life.

Her gown, originally designed by Normal Hartnell, maintained a 1940’s silhouette, princess style, with a tailored bodice, high neckline, long sleeves, and full skirt made of ivory satin. The latter was all embroidered by hand with a floral design that included 10,000 seed pearls and crystals. Since the wedding occurred during the post-war period, clothing was rationed. So, the materials for Elizabeth’s dress were purchased with rations coupons, some given by the government, and some donated by brides-to-be from all over the country.

“We were keen to create a small number of costumes as exact copies or to make them as close as possible, particularly the pieces that were well known and well documented. I felt by doing so we could gain the respect and confidence of the viewers, which would then allow us to make creative decisions to aid in the storytelling of the private, undocumented side of the family.”

Michelle Clapton, Costume Designer

Left: Claire Foy as Princess Elizabeth Netflix: The Crown, Season 1 Episode 1. Photo: Netflix

Michele Clapton (Costume Designers Guild Award Winner), knew the importance of the gown for Princess Elizabeth, and hence the importance it was going to have for the series, so every single detail had to be right. For the same reason, Clapton was given an unusually large budget, which allowed her to maintain all aspects that involved recreating the gown. From choosing the right fabric and materials to embroider the entire gown by hand with a team of very talented people. “It took approximately six to eight weeks for us to re-create the dress, with a team of six embroiderers working on the train throughout this time. Another team worked on the dress skirts, and my key embroiderer worked on the neckline. We had a cutter and two makers, and it required a number of fittings”, shared the designer in an interview. The result was stunning, and not only the dress and production design but the marvelous performance of Claire Foy in this episode contributed as the appetizer to begin telling the fascinating life of Queen Elizabeth II on the series.

In 1960, Princess Margaret married Anthony Armstrong-Jones, which we witness in season 2 of The Crown. Although the episode doesn’t show a lot of what the actual wedding was like, her gown captures the audience’s eyes and it undoubtedly becomes the protagonist of the moment. Just as her sister, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret’s wedding gown was designed by Norman Hartnell. In this case, the Princess asked for a rather simple gown, without any kind of embroidery or appliqués. The dress consisted of plain silk organza with a fitted, tailored bodice, long sleeves, and a full-length, voluminous skirt with a small train. Its cut followed the 1950s New Look silhouette by Christian Dior. A long veil of matching silk organza and the magnificent Poltimore Tiara were the ultimate details for the wedding outfit.

In season 2 of The Crown, Jane Petrie (Costume Designers Guild Award Winner), had the challenge of recreating this iconic gown which still continues to inspire thousands of brides from around the world. Even though it was a simple gown, that made it more challenging since every single detail had to be absolutely accurate. The dress was made in a week, and due to lack of time, Vanessa Kirby didn’t have a fitting. The key to achieving a successful gown is always the fabric and the pattern, and in this case, it was a complete triumph.

“It’s iconic, so there was no point in changing it, we just needed to try and capture the details accurately. We used the same quality material to capture the weight and the feel”

Jane Petrie, Costume Designer

Right: Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret. Netflix: The Crown, Season 2, Episode 7. Photo: Alex Bailey/Netflix

Finally, in season 4, we have the privilege of reviving Lady Diana and Prince Charles’s love story. Diana became not only an important icon for the Royal family and British society but also a fashion icon in the ’80s, hence all of her outfits and designers were always carefully chosen. For her wedding day, Diana wore an ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel. The dress had bouffant sleeves, a V-neck front with a taffeta bow, and a full skirt which expressed the bride’s taste for romantic styles. The train was 25 feet long (8 metres), making it the longest train in a royal wedding and one of the most important features of the dress. And, on top of its size, it was hand-embroidered with sequins and pearls.

As mentioned above, during this season we see how fashion plays an important role in her personality and transformation in becoming a Princess, both for Lady Diana and for actress Emma Corrin. The wedding dress, designed by the brilliant Emmy-Award Winner Amy Roberts, is one of the most precious pieces from the season as it captures the magic and spirit of the original dress, without being a replica. For Amy, it became absolutely important to portray the essence of the actress and to revive the audience’s feelings on the young couple’s wedding day.

“It’s the colour, the big sleeves, the big skirt and that massive long train. It’s almost like a kind of Walt Disney Princess… I think we just had to be true to the spirit of the dress. It was just to give you a big impression of it… That amazing moment when she came out, and that’s what I think we tried to do”.

Amy Roberts, Costume Designer

Left: Emma Corrin as Princess Diana. Netflix: The Crown, Season 4 Episode 3. Photo: Des Willie/Netflix

Since the beginning of the design process, David Emanuel was absolutely collaborative with Amy Roberts and provided her with essential elements she incorporated from the original design. “He (David) was not precious about it, he sort of gave it to us”, shared Amy Roberts in an interview with Netflix. The lace from the original dress was made in Nottingham and the costume department for The Crown used the same company for the production. The dress was made in four weeks and 600 hours, and 95 metres of fabric and 100 metres of lace were used. The train was actually 30 feet long, and there were 5 fittings needed to tailor it to perfection.

The process of recreating history is always an arduous path which includes a lot of research on every single aspect of the period. When recreating fashion for the Royal family, the details matter even more because every piece has meaning through symbolism. Being accurate to the period goes beyond copying the silhouette. It has to do with fabric, embroidery, lace, trim, and when talking about a wedding dress, the feeling to it. For every bride, royal or not, the feeling can be a mixture of excitement, pressure, anxiety, joy, and nervousness. These same feelings are those that the designers of each one of these iconic gowns had, and that it is passed over to the production team in charge of recreating the life of the Royal family. So, for the actress to embody the character of each one of these Princesses, the costumes, in a team with hair/makeup, contribute and make it possible.

Whether it consisted of replicating every pearl and stitch, in capturing the details accurately, or in interpreting the spirit of it, the three designers that have been working with The Crown had created a spotless work by recreating magical pieces. The bridal gowns are just a pivot point to enhance the beauty of the production, but every single piece designed for this show is awe-inspiring and deserves its own crown for stunning hard work.


The Crown is a Netflix original Series. Season 4 is now available to stream!

To dive in more into The Crown’s Costume Department:

The Emmys 2020 – Winners in OUTSTANDING COSTUMES

Just like that, The 2020 Emmys have passed. This, of course, was an event like never before, and even still, what a great program! Between the live streaming of the Creative Arts Emmys and the live broadcast on Sunday, I really enjoyed it. I believe the Emmys production team deserves so much credit.

Over the past week, many costume designers were recognized for their incredible contributions to costume design for television. If you would like to see the full list of nominees again, please follow this link. Once again, I cannot emphasize how happy The Art of Costume team is for each of the nominated costume designers that were highlighted at this year’s Emmys.

We now know our four winners! Let’s take a look at the Emmy winning costume designers between the four categories, Outstanding Period Costumes, Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, Outstanding Contemporary Costumes, and Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program!


Outstanding Period CostumesThe Crown Costume Designer: Amy Roberts

I am so excited to see The Crown being honored once again for the incredible costume design. Amy Roberts took home the award last week for Outstanding Period Costumes. I am a huge fan of the costume design work for The Crown. The costumes are representative of the time period, following the lines of historical accuracy. Yet, the costume design team found many ways to breathe new life into these characters- making the show feel modern and fresh throughout the season. Congratulations!

Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television. Amy Roberts, Costume Designer. Sidonie Roberts, Assistant Costume Designer. Sarah Moore, Costume Supervisor

Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi CostumesWatchmen Costume Designer: Sharen Davis

Watchmen received a lot of honors at this year’s Emmy awards, and rightfully so! Sharen Davis was presented with this year’s Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes award! Watchmen lead the way with fascinating comic-book-inspired characters, bold colors, and innovative silhouettes. The costumes are one of the most fascinating parts of this show, and I am so happy for the Watchmen team in receiving this great honor!

HBO Entertainment in association with White Rabbit, Paramount Television, Warner Bros. Television & DC Comics. Sharen Davis, Costume Designer. Valerie Zielonka, Costume Supervisor

Outstanding Contemporary CostumesSchitt’s Creek • Costume Designer: Debra Hanson and Darci Cheyne

Oh boy! I have been acting like a disgruntled pelican ever since we received the news about the Schitt’s Creek win! The first sign of the now-famous “Schitt’s Sweep”! This is one of my all-time favorite shows and I am so happy for Debra Hanson, Darci Cheyne, and the entire Schitt’s Creek cast and crew for this incredible win. This show changed my life for the better and it is only fitting that the final season is given a send-off as incredible as this sweep.

Not A Real Company Productions, Inc. Debra Hanson, Costume Designer. Darci Cheyne, Assistant Costume Designer

Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program

The Masked Singer Costume Designer: Marina Toybina

Last but certainly not least, we have The Masked Singer. Marina Toybina took home this year’s Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program award. Such a deserving award. The costumes of The Masked Singer are stunning. At a glance, these costumes are fun, bright, energetic, and inspiring. Yet, the costumes are also so incredibly complex and push the costume design team to constantly challenge themselves. I am such a fan honestly. If you missed my interview with the costume designer, Marina Toybina, follow this link now!

FOX Alternative Entertainment Studios. Marina Toybina, Costume Designer. Grainne O’Sullivan, Costume Supervisor. Gabrielle Letamendi, Assistant Costume Designer. Candice Rainwater, Assistant Costume Designer


That’s a wrap! Congratulations one last time to all of the winners and nominees. Most of all, thank you to all of our readers for following along with us throughout the Emmys season! Stay safe everyone, wear a mask, and don’t forget to VOTE.

If you live within the United States, and have not registered to vote or if you would like more information on voting, please follow this link!