We think of the Royal family as a cultural symbol of Britishness and a hallmark of traditionalism, but it may surprise you that they have often been the trailblazing pioneers of popular trends. This is emphasised by Netflix’s The Crown, which is currently in its third series with Olivia Colman taking over from Claire Foy to portray the Queen from 1964 to 1977.
This series is a must-see for its casting and portrayal of key events such as the Aberfan Disaster, the Apollo 11 moon landing, the tenure of Harold Wilson and Edward Heath as prime ministers, as well as the deaths of Winston Churchill and the Duke of Windsor. Nevertheless, reviews and recommendations continually mention the appearance of characters such as Princess Margaret and the accuracy of the fashion trends they employ throughout the series.
We think of royal dress primarily in association with royal weddings such as those of Princess Diana and Meghan Markle, but what we see on The Crown is a glorious recreation of outfits worn by older generations of the royal family. Meghan and Kate may have brought in a more sustainable, forward thinking approach to royal dressing, but the structure of their outfits is firmly inspired by the older monarchs. The Queen and Princess Margaret were notable for introducing headbands, statement accessories and luxuriously textured hats to accompany monochromatic outfits, as seen most. Clearly with The Crown’s depiction of Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother and Princess Anne.
The outfits worn by the characters reflect their personality; we see the Queen introduce her trademark pastel skirt suits during this era, whereas Princess Margaret’s boldness can be seen through loud prints and colourful attire. She often upstages the Queen not only in terms of her behaviour, but also in her personal style. We also see the Queen’s dynamic wardrobe through the activities she pursues during the most recent series-she is in her element as a keen horse trainer, as well as in her day-to day combo of jumpers and tweed skirts.
We also see mens’ style represented just as much as those of the female royals on screen, particularly through the characters of Prince Philip and Antony Armstrong-Jones. The many guises of royal masculinity are conveyed through their costumes: sharp suits, full military regalia, but also in more casual wear with an impressive array of sweater vests. Series Three charts the rise of Prince Charles into adulthood and we therefore see a more emotional side to the male royals.
Series Four promises to span the late 1970s to the early 1990s, and as such will feature the tumultuous relationship of Charles and Diana, as well as the tenure of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. Michele Clapton, the costume designer for The Crown’s earlier series’, described the process, consisting of working with historians by analysing archive footage and then replicating similar outfits on screen. Evidently there are continuous concerns about depicting a living monarch and her family onscreen, but this indicates the production’s commitment to precision, and perhaps is an example of its popularity.
Illustration Credit: Sophia Constantinou