The longest-serving monarch in Britain, and in the world, with 65 years on the throne. The queen of 16 countries. The most-travelled head of state in British history. Queen Elizabeth II has led a record-breaking life that has impacted the world in immeasurable ways, including in the realms of fashion and popular culture. It’s a family legacy that originated centuries ago and lives on unabated—from Queen Victoria, who is widely credited for helping to popularise the practice of wearing black when mourning; to the Duchess of Cambridge, who has the power to sell out a dress after wearing it. On-screen, shows about the British monarchy continue to capture the public’s imagination, fromThe Windsors to Victoria and Abdul, and, of course, Netflix’s award-winning series, The Crown.
With a much-discussed budget of £100 million for the first two seasons, The Crown—with its elaborate costumes, sumptuous sets and meticulous attention to detail—has served to make the royal family real, tangible and relevant to a new generation. In season one, we got to feast our eyes on two of Queen Elizabeth II’s most iconic gowns: Her wedding gown, inspired by a Botticelli painting and featuring 10,000 seed pearls; and her coronation gown, which incorporated the floral emblems of the countries of the United Kingdom and the other states within the Commonwealth of Nations. In season two, which debuts on Netflix on Friday, December 8, beyond the elaborate gowns—like the royal blue tulle ballgown designed by Norman Hartnell that the Queen (Claire Foy) wears to meet Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour)—we also see the evolution of her style.
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Jane Petrie, costume designer for season two, explains, “The ’40s was the start of season one, and going from the ’40s to the ’50s, the Queen was quite youthful. Entering the ’60s, she was still fashionable, but we see the start of the look she has stuck with. Towards our later episodes, we’ve looks that, depending on hem length, you could pretty much put from the late ’60s into the ’70s, even up till the early ’80s.” Foy muses, “It’s funny to say that [the Queen] would be a fashion icon because she has never followed fashion; she’s not a follower, she just is herself.”
Yet, designers can’t seem to help being influenced by the royal family. In 2017, from Balenciaga’s pre-fall 2017 collection, which would fit right into the Queen’s wardrobe for a session at the stables, to Virgil Abloh’s updated takes on some of Princess Diana’s most iconic outfits for Off-White spring/summer 2018, the role of the monarchy in fashion lives on.
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