It's here... season four of The Crown by Netflix
The awaited fourth season of The Crown, a Netflix original, releases worldwide on 15 November, 2020. The season begins with the 1970s drawing to a close. Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and her family find themselves preoccupied with safeguarding the line of succession by securing an appropriate bride for Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), who is still unmarried at 30.
Britain is feeling the impact of divisive policies introduced by Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson).
Prince Charles’ romance with a young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) provides a much-needed fairytale to unite the British people, but, as we all now know, behind closed doors, the Royal family is becoming increasingly divided. Making a return this season is Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Tobias Menzies as The Duke of Edinburgh and, Erin Doherty as Princess Anne.
Fellow lovers of movie costumes may be interested to read this interview below by Netflix with Amy Roberts, the Costume Designer for this season, and Sidonie Roberts: Assistant Costume Designer and Head Buyer. Amy Roberts is an award-winning Costume Designer and has worked on notable shows including Call the Midwife for which Amy received a BAFTA nomination, BBC’s Oliver Twist, The Virgin Queen and An Englishman Abroad. With each of these three productions Amy won a BAFTA award.
How do you begin work on a project of this size? What is the research / preparation process?
AMY: Everything starts from the scripts, the stories that are going to be told, you read the stories, immerse yourself in them, see where the arc of each episode goes and the journey of each character.
There is a wealth of photographic image to be had on our lead characters – the Royal family, the politicians etc and so, to start, we look at all that, online, in books and magazines. We have a huge wall in our studio and on that goes a pictorial journey for each main character. Having that big visual up there all the time really focuses us and it’s a great starting point for all our actors and directors.
I do tend to do a mass of research, absorb it then “forget about it” and just get on with DOING it. Those images, colours and period details do stay in your mind but it’s good to be free of them to put your own stamp on things. A key part in preparation is sourcing and buying fabrics as most of the clothes are designed and made from scratch in our studio workroom and with freelance costume makers.
Do you have a specific colour palette for each principle character?
AMY: Pretty much, two clear examples are Elizabeth who has moved away from last season’s palette of 1960’s clear pinks, lilacs and blues to slightly more sombre, “middle aged” colours. These reflect both her age and a settling into her role as monarch as much as to a general move away from the optimism of that time to the now ‘broken Britain’ of the 1980s. Princes Margaret’s colours are much darker indicating the real tragedy and loss of direction her life has now taken. As for the Queen mother she remains in her moth shades of lilac, sky blue and rose hues showing her unchanged position within the monarchy.
With Thatcher at Balmoral it was very much the use of colour, to make her look as far away from the natural country look as possible. When she goes stalking with the Queen, she’s in the most vivid synthetic blue dress and coat with heels.
SID: With Diana the colour palette we chose was governed by (as with most of the decisions) what she really wore as a point of departure. However, for Diana we decided to isolate the colours she wore that the other royals did not and make that her particular colour scheme to further emphasise the narrative of ‘her’ vs ‘them’. So, with that we introduced a lot more red and black as well as a typically 80s shade of green and purple into season 4.
What has evolved in terms of fashion since season 3?
AMY: Shapes are a big difference, wider shoulders, bigger, more loose tops, narrower skirt and trouser shapes. Towards the mid-80s, the power suits hinted at more confidence for women in the workplace, they were very fashionable as seen on Margaret Thatcher.
Can you talk us through vintage shopping in Paris / London? Where else do you source your costumes?
SID: We source fabrics, clothing, buttons, jewellery, accessories etc from a wealth of places, ranging from dealers, fabric fairs and shops, costume hire houses and markets both antique and car-boot. Now that we’ve moved into the 80s, I have been able to buy far more original clothing for this season seeing as there’s still vintage pieces out there in immaculate condition which obviously for the Royal family they need to be.
Along with all the reputable places like one particular fabric shop in Paris we go to that buy original Hermes, Fendi, Versace fabrics etc both vintage and contemporary, I stay very open to finding things in lesser expected places too. I think coming across things by chance is always a buyer’s bonus. It’s a real mixture of the two. One of my favourite buys as an example of this was an original 80s Guy Laroche coat in such beautiful condition, perfect for Princess Margaret that I found when rummaging in a junk shop in Paris for a fraction of the price it’s worth.
What has been the most challenging costume to source / create?
SID: I’d say actually the most challenging thing was sourcing the correct type of fabrics specifically for Diana on her and Charles’ Australian tour. The reason being the dresses Diana wore here were so specific to the 80s in terms of the particular weight of the fabrics, which were mainly silks, and therefore how they drape on the body. As well as weight they were very distinctively 80s in colour and shade also. As with everything in fashion fabric trends move on too meaning the specificity of those particular fabrics was harder to source in contemporary fabric shops. However, through a combination of sourcing vintage fabric, dying existing ones and having it made as well as continuing to hunt for it we made a collection authentically fitting to the rest of Diana’s season 4 wardrobe.
Talk us through the private looks of the Royals at Balmoral and Sandringham?
AMY: I think these are the places the Royal family feel most at home and at ease in. It’s where they stalk and hunt, ride, fish and walk their dogs. The clothes are comfortable and practical, made of tweeds and wools, raincoats and Wellington boots for the English weather. Knitwear. Kilts at Balmoral. Headscarves for the women caps and deerstalker hats for the men. They aren’t here on show for the public, they are “off duty” and doing the things they feel supremely at home with and the relatively casual clothes reflect that, mud and all.
How much artistic license have you had with Diana?
I think the biggest conversation for us regarding Diana was as someone so well documented how we negotiated what she really wore vs what or how we designed for her.
There were key moments where we adhered to recreating iconic looks she wore. For example, the wedding dress, which with the unprecious generosity of David Emmanuel (the original designer) we went about recreating. Or the ‘off the rack’ engagement suit Diana bought from Harrods. Allowing for moments like this also meant that we then had scope or more creative license when it came to the lesser known public moments or quieter private spaces she inhabits in the story
Given how much we know of her and her image, there were of course moments where we consciously decided to stray from what she actually wore and design something more in keeping with the costume story or journey we were telling. It was of course always with an essence of truth in mind but adapted for the purpose of ultimately telling a story rather than making a documentary.
Could you give a rundown of her looks, inspiration and why you think she may have dressed in that way?
SID: We almost see Diana’s entire journey throughout season 4. We start at the very beginning and see her evolve from a young girl living with her friends in Sloane square to the makings of a princess, then actually becoming the ‘People’s Princess’ to finally the beginnings of the end which we will see more of in season 5. I think despite the obvious changes there is a real sense or arc of the same person throughout all these stages in terms of how she dresses. There is and always was a sense of playfulness, an openness and with that a vulnerability that connects her to her image.