Ahead of the premiere of The Crown Season 4 on Netflix tomorrow (November 15), we spoke to award-winning costume designer, Amy Roberts—who worked on the third and fourth seasons—on her creative process, the characters, and of course, in-depth details on the making of Princess Diana‘s wedding gown.
When designing or planning costumes for a show, where do you begin?
Amy Roberts (AR): I always read the script first to understand the whole story. Know that when they shoot a show, it’s not necessarily in order. For this season, they shot a lot of scenes starting with episode two—it’s all location-led, really. You need to be on top of the whole 10 episodes and look at it like an enormous opera. I need to know the journey that every character is going to take, what is going to happen at the beginning, the middle and at the very end—that’s very important.
Was there an immense pressure designing for the Princess, who was and is very much a style icon?
AR: I had to not overthink that, otherwise I probably couldn’t do the job. I removed myself from the fact that it was Diana. Season 4 for me was about illustrating the journey of a shy, young girl who’s not particularly fashionable.
She gets engaged to a handsome prince and begins her journey in this otherworldly society where everyone dresses her up like a doll, to eventually finding her own voice. At the end of the season, we just see a hint of the woman she’s going to become—more confident, externally, at least.
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All eyes are on Princess Diana this season. For her wedding gown, how close to the real thing did you want it to be? And exactly how similar were they in the end?
AR: We were really lucky as David Emanuel, one of the fashion designers who designed Princess Diana’s wedding gown in 1981, met up with myself and Sue (who was going to make the dress for the show). I was very concerned about the colour of the dress because when you look at photographs and films of the dress, they all look slightly different. So we brought out all the silk taffetas for David and he just immediately pointed out at one. That helped us kick start things quickly, with the right colour and weight.
The lace we used was recreated by the son of the original lace-maker who made the lace for Princess Diana’s gown.
I’m not in the job to make a spot-on copy. The key was to give the audience a sensation of the dress, all the memories of the amazing dress. But that being said, we were pretty accurate.
Princess Diana had a wardrobe that really shaped fashion as we know it today. What do you think are the 3 key outfits that really told her story?
AR: Firstly, it would be when she was a young girl in a pink jumper and corduroy trousers. She was just a normal teenager living her life in London.
The second would be the blue-silver dress Princess Diana wore on their Australian tour. It was that moment that you could tell that they were truly happy—it was romantic, and you know that she felt confident. There was something about her in that dress that made you feel like she was going to grow into something appealing.
Lastly, the dress she wore when she went to New York City on her own, which was a huge thing for her. That heavily embroidered oyster-satin evening dress, which was hugely glamorous and stylish, was very important in the sense that it was a tragic moment when you realise that she’s desperately unhappy, scared and lonely, despite having this amazing dress on.
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You’ve mentioned before that Princess Alice was your favourite to dress in Season 3. Who was your favourite character to dress this season?
AR: Probably Princess Anne. Nobody really gives any attention to her style, but she’s actually got such a cool look! Margaret Thatcher was also amazing to design for because, politics aside, she was incredibly important for women during that time.
Not many people talk about Prince Charles’ wardrobe, but Josh O’Connor (who plays the prince) mentioned the amazing suits he wore on set. What was it about his style did you want to bring across in the show?
AR: He’s got a lovely, understated English look. You know, with very clever little touches with the neckties, pocket squares and so on. The Prince has got very interesting choices when it comes to details, but it’s always a good classic English tailoring.
The Crown airs on Netflix on 15 November, 4pm.