Pastel tulle ball-gowns, billowing taffeta shawls, and a romantic love affair propelled by lust and desire. No, I’m not talking about Valentino’s latest haute couture collection, but rather the sartorial brilliance that is The Crown. Since premiering in 2016, Netflix’s landmark series has amassed a loyal fan-base from fashion and history enthusiasts to those discovering the shocking dysfunctionality that is the British aristocracy. The series’ head costume designer Amy Roberts strives for historical accuracy while also enhancing the family’s personalities which are so often concealed from the public—remember Princess Margaret hilariously picking out her lover’s itsy-bitsy speedo? Any costume designer of a period drama faces innumerable challenges, most notably maintaining historical relevance while also engaging a modern sensibility that will appeal to viewers. We know The Crown’s costumes are beautiful, but are they accurate of what the royals actually wore?
A main issue that the series’ costume designers face is having to reference often visually altered footage and images. Because the series documents happenings in the mid 20th-century, a time well before Instagram filters and color correction, photos are often misleading in their hue and saturation which makes accurate design even more difficult. Additionally, many of the fabrics popularly used during these decades are susceptible to erosion and fading, making it nearly impossible to match color and texture to a T. Despite these challenges, The Crown masterfully combines artistic liberty and a precise historical accuracy that artfully culminates in the period drama we all love to binge.
Notoriously proper and simple, the history-making monarch often struggled with finding the perfect balance between personal fulfillment and obligatory duty. Nothing captured this essence like the discrepancy between her private and public wardrobe. Behind elaborate gowns, dazzling jewels, and full-length opera gloves, we see an unsure woman struggling to lead her nation. At the onset of the series, Claire Foy (who plays the Queen from seasons 1-2) often feels overpowered by her clothing, weighed down by massive ball gowns and elaborate ornamentation. The coronation scene portrays just that: an apprehensive young woman, struggling to believe the realities presented in front of her. Slight alterations such as the volume of the dress’ sleeves and the increased sheen of the embroidery add to this sense of anxiousness.
The Queen’s outward facade is often at odds with her internal demons, whether that be her struggling marriage or playing second fiddle to her energetic sister Princess Margaret. As the Queen takes backseat to her sister in season 3, Olivia Colman’s (who plays the Queen from season 3 onward) wardrobe becomes more subdued and tense to coincide with the angst she feels towards her sister. Slight stylistic choices such as a more simplified neckline and a muted color pallette contribute to her tense aura during this period.
The Queen’s rebellious sister makes head-waves throughout the series with her royally questionable behavior and bold fashion choices to go along. More than any other character in the series, the costume designers take free rein in shaping Margaret’s costumes around her personality rather than maintaining pinpoint historical accuracy. Take the gown worn to meet then US president Lyndon B. Johnson. In the series the Princess is wearing a sprawling light orange and white floral ball gown as she cheerfully wines and dines with the head of state. In reality, the royal opted for a more mundane pink gown with little to no print or excessive detail. Because this event was not widely documented, The Crown’s costume designers took liberty in shaping their own narrative and did so while keeping the personality of Margaret in mind.
Throughout, as to enhance the aforementioned feud, contrasting tones and silhouettes are utilized by the sparring sisters, juxtaposing their starkly different approaches to royal duty. Dark olives and harsh hues represent Margaret’s faltering toxicity and calm pastels portray Elizabeth’s assuredness and often mundane approach to her reign: The ultimate royal feud.
The newly released fourth season of The Crown features emerging actress Emma Corin as Princess Diana in all her sartorial glory. Arguably the most documented royal fashion-wise, costume designers had endless amounts of candid paparazzi photos, beautiful portraits, and first-hand footage to work with. Director Stephen Daldry knew scrutiny around the season would be heated given the adoration the public has towards Princess Diana, and rightly took a more historically precise approach to the beauty’s wardrobe. In addition, the flamboyant manner and bold colors in which Diana dressed were contrasted with the often sartorial timidness of the royals, further heightening the narrative of Diana as an outsider.
These distinct costume choices highlight Diana’s unique position in the royal family and her forever place in the mind of the public as the quintessential Princess: invitingly graceful, fully relatable, and agelessly beautiful. Throughout the most recent season, Diana is presented in some of her most memorable outfits: her elaborate wedding gown, the beaded New York City Opera dress, and of course, the famous sapphire engagement ring.
What Netflix’s The Crown nails is finding the perfectly appealing balance of historical accuracy and creative liberty in order to complement the complicated realities of the royal Family in their chaotic glory. The series’ bevy of costume designers are not only receptive to historic occurrences but also to the distinct personality of the royals, shaping a realistically tangible, and sometimes unimaginable, storyline that keeps viewers on the edge of their seat. Whether it be Queen Elizabeth’s emotionally revealing wardrobe or Princess Margaret’s energetic gowns and accessories, viewers are in for a sartorial treat with The Crown.END
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createdAt:Fri, 13 Nov 2020 22:36:37 +0000
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