If you haven’t heard of the Netflix hit series The Crown, I suggest you get in a binge watching session now. For the British nation obsessed with the Monarchy, The Crown doesn’t disappoint. The series first began with an ‘inside look’ at the early reign of the Queen, who ascended the throne at age 25 after the death of her father, King George VI. As the decades go on, personal intrigues, romances, and political rivalries are revealed all of which played a big role in events that shaped the later years of the 20th century. The second delivered an another amazing triumph in historical storytelling, it blends the private and public events of the Royals so well through it’s dramatic episodes. One of the big features of the series is of course the costumes, which had to be as much historically accurate as they were creative.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to an exclusive QandA at Heals in Tottenham Court Road London,with Jane Petrie , costume designer for the second season of the Crown, to celebrate it’s release on DVD. Jane worked closely with the actors to collaborate on the design process to create costumes that felt authentic to the essence of the character. For the first time in the UK, costumes from the second season of the acclaimed series, The Crown, are now on display exclusively at Heal’s Tottenham Court Road.
Of course I was eager to find out just how much of it is vintage and how much is handmade, and where they source such incredible pieces from. Costume design played a vital part in the storytelling of Season 2 and it gave costume designer, Jane Petrie, the opportunity to explore and reflect a transitional time in Queen Elizabeth’s life and marriage. The series plays out throughout the early 60s, a time when fashion and social attitudes were widely changing and the ‘out-of-touch’ monarchy had to adapt. Season 2 of The Crown definitely brought some iconic fashion moments into focus with some of the era’s most stylish women taking centre stage – Wallis Simpson (Lia Williams) makes a return, and we get the first visit from Jacqueline Kennedy (Jodi Balfour) as well as inside look into Princess Margaret’s (Vanessa Kirby) royal wedding. These are included in the costumes featured in the window display.
The costumes featured in the display at Heals were:
Wallis, Duchess of Windsor
Metallic silver dress with statement necklace, worn by Lia Williams in episode 6. Necklace is from Janes personal collection.
Jane on the costume: ‘The necklace was from my own personal collection, previously used in an early Black Mirror episode, it just felt right-it’s actually not period at all!’
Edward, Duke of Windsor
Dark green velvet smoking jacket silk bow tie and velvet shoes, worn by Alex Jennings in episode 6, focusing on the Duke of Windsors search for a new purpose in life.
Queen Elizabeth II
Pale blue lace and silk organza dress with matching bolero jacket, from episode 7, this was a close copy of Norman Hartnell’s original design for the Queen’s outfit for her sister Margarets wedding at Westminster Abbey in May 1960.
Jane on the blue dress: ‘When do you copy and when do not? You can’t have Margaret wear a copy of her wedding dress and the people around her not. I was really pleased with the colour of that, it came out beautifully’.
Matching skirt and jacket with black silk blouse and suede gloves worn by Vanessa Kirby in episode 7. The fabric was sourced from London.
Black cotton and yellow silk evening dress with black gloves worn by Jodi Balfour in epsiode 8. Jackies costume is a close copy of the black and silk satin yellow evening dress designed by Chez Ninon that Jackie wore to a White House state dinner in 1961. She actually wore white gloves, but Jane decided to give her black ones in The Crown as it added more drama and looked better for the story they were trying to tell.
Me with the costumes in the Heals window.
‘The best thing about getting the Emmy was it was a team award. There’s so many people that work so hard to pull it off. We all work incredibly hard and I was so well supported.’
I sat down with Jane for a one to one interview before the QandA to ask a few questions about the costumes.
How much of it is vintage and how much is hand made?
‘All of the costumes are tailor made to the characters and we used vintage accessories, hats bags, gloves to add that authentic touch. We sourced these from all over from Etsy to Portabello market.’
How long does it take to work on a series of The Crown?
It takes around 7-8 months to film with a full team of costume designer/makers with two cutters and six makers. They source fabric from London, textile workshops and even get printed in house patterns to be as authentic as possible. I had about 20 weeks of preparation before filming started to study the script and get prepared.’
How do you plan for a series as historically important as the Crown?
‘Start from the world, really research how you want to tell the story and the mood of what you want it to be. Rules about colour, get to know your world really well and the passage of time in that world’
So what happens to the costumes afterwards?
‘A lot of the archive is currently on tour, in places such as Heals, and as far as Philidelphia and LA. It’s also featured in museums all over the world, and a lot of crowd costumes get sold to different productions.’
Jane with the costumes in Heals.
The pieces will be on display in Heals Tottenham Court Road London until 21st December.
The Crown is produced by Left Bank Pictures, in association with Sony Pictures Television, for Netflix.