Aside from all the gripping palace intrigue, The Crown is perhaps best known for its sumptuousness, the royal family's lavish surroundings and their iconic wardrobes meticulously recreated for the award-winning Netflix series.
So far, the costume department is three for three in Emmy wins, and they should perhaps make room for a fourth. Defending champs Amy Roberts and Sidonie Roberts are nominated again, this time with Giles Gale, for Best Period Costume Design for their painstaking work on season four, which resumed the action in 1977 and introduced a teenage Lady Diana Spencer into the fray.
Overall the show was nominated for 24 Emmys in 2021 and, ahead of the Sept. 19 ceremony, has already won four. But for anyone who followed the hype, you know that this season had a little something extra.
And the world didn't not talk about her fashion choices, from the cardigans she sported as a kindergarten aide to the blue suit she wore in her engagement portrait to the ideal-for-every-occasion ensembles she became known for as the decade progressed.
"We almost see Diana's entire journey throughout season four," assistant costume designer Sidonie Roberts said in a press kit interview. "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 five."
Sidonie, who joined the production in season three and shared the 2020 Emmy win for Outstanding Period Costumes with costume designer Amy Roberts and costume supervisor Sarah Moore, continued, "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."
Emma Corrin, 24, had her work cut out for her as the privileged but wide-eyed teen who first catches Charles' eye while he's dating her older sister and, after a whirlwind courtship that included only a handful of private dates, becomes his bride and increasingly unhappy wife. And from the beginning, the British press—and, soon enough, the world—scrutinized everything about her, including what she wore.
Corrin, who won a Golden Globe for lead actress in a drama series and is nominated for an Emmy, "completely understood just how integral clothes are to Diana's character and therefore the importance of her costumes for season four and our work," Sidonie said. "So, with that said, from the very get-go she was so invested in the most excited, enthusiastic and committed way that it was a real joy for us working together with her."
Some items that Diana wore in real life, such as her voluminous wedding gown, just had to be reproduced for The Crown because of how iconic the images became in real life, but overall the costume department set about interpreting her style rather than copying every outfit. Not least because the big-budget Netflix series is all about showing you the personal moments behind the glossy façade.
"I think the biggest conversation for us regarding Diana was, as someone so well documented, how we negotiated what she really wore versus what or how we designed for her," Sidonie explained. "There were key moments where we adhered to recreating iconic looks she wore." At the same time, she added, "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."
She continued, "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."
Whether the fashion is ripped right from reality or tweaked to suit the moment for The Crown's behind-the-scenes purposes, nary a stitch feels out of place.
Seasons one through four of The Crown are streaming on Netflix.
(Originally published Nov. 17, 2020, at 4 a.m. PT)