Who comes top in the royal style stakes?

As ‘The Crown’ re­turns, its cos­tume de­signer lifts the lid on the royal fash­ion tenets. Bethan Holt re­ports

The Daily Telegraph - - Style & Features -

The trailer for the sec­ond se­ries of

The Crown be­gins with a shot of Claire Foy, as the Queen, at the stu­dios of Nor­man Hart­nell, the royal cou­turier. She is con­tem­plat­ing a line-up of mod­els each wear­ing a con­fec­tion froth­ier than the next. “They look like cakes,” says Jane Petrie, the cos­tume de­signer on the se­ries. “I used a box of French fan­cies as my ref­er­ence.”

It’s a scene that in the first se­ries might have de­noted the glam­our and deca­dence of the young Queen’s po­si­tion and her need for the most meringue-like dresses Hart­nell could rus­tle up. But in a world on the cusp of the Swing­ing Six­ties youthquake, its mean­ing is less clear-cut. In pe­riod dra­mas such as The Crown, the clothes of­fer an an­chor to time and place, but sar­to­rial mean­ings shift like never be­fore as se­ries two, which is re­leased on Net­flix to­day, takes us from the end of the Fifties to the mid-six­ties.

“Fash­ion mag­a­zines are never usu­ally a good start­ing point if you’re re­search­ing,” says Petrie, whose team made dozens of cos­tumes from scratch in cut­ting rooms at El­stree stu­dios. “Most peo­ple don’t look like they in­habit a Vogue shoot, but they do in this.”

In style terms, this sea­son there is a trio of pro­tag­o­nists – the Queen, Princess Mar­garet (Vanessa Kirby) and Jackie Kennedy

(Jodi Bal­four) – each epit­o­mis­ing a dif­fer­ent take on the chang­ing style of the times.

“Mar­garet was very fash­ion­able and glam­orous be­fore she met Tony Arm­strong-jones, so it was try­ing to find a way to move her style into some­thing which felt a bit cooler and re­flec­tive of ev­ery­thing that was start­ing to be­come ex­cit­ing about Lon­don at that time,” Petrie ex­plains. Es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures would pour scorn on the Queen’s fash­ion­for­ward younger sis­ter as she broke away from tra­di­tion to ex­per­i­ment.

“When is Princess Mar­garet go­ing to be her age [then 26] and be­have like a mem­ber of the Royal Fam­ily, in­stead of a half-baked jazzmad Teddy Girl?” asks gov­ern­ment of­fi­cer

An­thony Heap, in a let­ter quoted in Craig Brown’s book, Ma’am Dar­ling: 99 Glimpses of Princess

Mar­garet. “It be­gan too late and ended too soon,” was the re­mark of one French male guest in re­gard to Mar­garet’s dress at a din­ner hosted by Lady Glad­wyn, wife of the Paris am­bas­sador, in 1959. Nancy Mit­ford, who was also at the din­ner, added that her “whole ap­pear­ance was ex­ces­sively com­mon”. Such vit­riol only fu­elled Mar­garet’s an­ti­fusti­ness fire as she moved into sim­pler lines, shorter skirts and styles that chimed with the bo­hemian cir­cles that Arm­strongjones had in­tro­duced her to. “She was con­nected to the fash­ion ether and was re­ally on the cusp of the times,” says Petrie. In The

Crown’s 10 new episodes, we will see her dance around her bed­room in her un­der­wear, get mar­ried in one of the most pared-back royal wed­ding gowns and be­come vexed about the fussi­ness of her dress on a Ce­cil Beaton photo shoot.

But Petrie says that Mar­garet’s best fash­ion moment is one of the se­ries’ most un­der­stated. “There’s a scene where she’s rid­ing through Lon­don on the back of Tony’s mo­tor­bike wear­ing a re­ally sim­ple black coat with a crash hel­met. It says what she’s about. All we needed was the right pair of sun­glasses to go with that hel­met. You can over­think some­times, but there, the story just tells it­self.”

Jackie Kennedy, who ar­rives for a visit to Lon­don in 1961 (it was the next stop af­ter France, where JFK had de­clared: “I am the man who ac­com­pa­nied Jac­que­line Kennedy to Paris”), is the other ma­jor fash­ion ag­i­ta­tor of the piece, with her “clean, fresh and icy” style.

If Mar­garet was all Carn­aby Street cool, then “the Amer­i­cans brought an­other wave of style with them be­cause they were just so wealthy”, says Petrie. The piv­otal Kennedy scene is the state ban­quet, for which the Queen wore Hart­nell while Jackie had a sleek Givenchy-es­que dress by Oleg Cassini, her per­sonal cou­turier. “The Queen looks dustier and dowdier, like she’s wear­ing a dress from the Fifties,” says Petrie of a sto­ry­line that sug­gests a note of jeal­ousy on the Queen’s part. “In her world, she was glam­orous and fash­ion­able, but Jackie Kennedy is Paris fash­ion.”

Even if it sounds like the Queen

‘When is Mar­garet go­ing to be­have like a Royal, in­stead of a jazz-mad Teddy Girl?’

might be trail­ing be­hind in the style stakes here (and she prob­a­bly was, for a while) then, never fear; it is re­ally she who has the last laugh. Af­ter the Kennedy visit, Petrie shows how she be­gan to sharpen and up­date her look into a ver­sion of the uni­form that she still wears to­day.

“She stuck with the box­ier look of Six­ties fash­ion which worked well for her, es­pe­cially while hav­ing her chil­dren. Add to that the func­tional as­pect to her clothes – they have to stay put; her hat would never lift in the wind and she looks im­mac­u­late at all times – and my feel­ing is that they nailed that in the Six­ties.”

Among The Crown’s most en­thralling as­pects are the do­mes­tic scenes it imag­ines, such as Prince Philip rub­bing the weary feet of his preg­nant wife. The cos­tumes for these – from the stock­ings to the night­ies – had to be en­tirely a fig­ment of Petrie’s imag­i­na­tion. “We have a fan­tas­tic royal ad­viser in Ma­jor David Hunt. He used to be re­spon­si­ble for look­ing af­ter the royal art col­lec­tion, so he knows them and the work­ings of the palace. If I was wondering if some­thing was right or ap­pro­pri­ate, I didn’t feel it was pos­si­ble to go off course with him around.” She was on surer ground with the scenes at Bal­moral and San­dring­ham, where the Queen wore much the same coun­try look that she had as a lit­tle girl and still does to­day.

“That’s when they re­ally are at home, re­laxed with their fam­ily,” says Petrie, whose team made up sev­eral pleated tar­tan skirts and had knit­ted twin­sets made in Scot­land.

“One of the few orig­i­nal items we used in the se­ries is a mac we found. It still had the ticket and the Rain­mate hood in the pocket, and had never been worn.”

Be­tween Mar­garet’s cool and Jackie’s in­ter­na­tional chic, the Queen in a sturdy rain­coat is a re­as­sur­ingly Bri­tish fash­ion state­ment – and one that still makes her a style icon to­day.

Se­ries two of The Crown is avail­able to watch on Net­flix from to­day

Sar­to­rial shifts: Princess Mar­garet (Vanessa Kirby), main and be­low; above, Claire Foy’s Queen; and top, Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Bal­four) with the

Queen

Swing­ing Six­ties: Matthew Good and Vanessa Kirby as Tony and Mar­garet

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