When casting for the third season of Netflix’s The Crown was announced, everyone marveled at how the royal saga was taking big leaps in shaking up the actors portraying Elizabeth, Phillip, and Margaret. Some people, however, may not know that a lot of crafts got a lot of new faces as well. Costumer designer Amy Roberts takes over from Jane Petrie, and she splashes the royal family with color throughout the swinging ’60s.
Whenever Roberts was able to incorporate color into the characters’ wardrobes, it smacks you across the face with its vibrancy. Things are changing in England, and this is no longer a time for stuffiness and stodginess. The clothes worn by Helena Bonham Carter’s Princess Margaret will make you gasp and beg for more. And the hats. There are so many curiously constructed caps throughout this third season. It’s delightful.
Roberts dressed the royal family by keeping their emotional arcs in mind. We don’t see these people all the time, so how do they dress themselves whenever we don’t see them? When they are going through private emotional turmoil? They may present a certain ideal to us in front of the camera, but Roberts’ gorgeous and intricate designs make us want to see more of how the other half lives.
Awards Daily: I read in an interview that you said you felt you didn’t feel restricted in costuming for The Crown or that you didn’t feel like you needed to recreate it down to the last button. I’m not quoting directly, of course, but was there a piece that you felt you needed to get right?
Amy Roberts: Perhaps Prince Charles Investiture. Any uniform has to be spot-on—that has to go without saying. The royal women in that scene, especially the Queen with her slightly strange medieval hat and the incredible colors that Margaret, Queen Mother, and Princess Anne wore were so startling and amazing and it was a big deal. I needed to be pretty authentic. In a lot of these stories an event serves as a bookend like the Queen going to Aberfan—I think that would’ve been disrespectful to not have gone for the look she had there. Every episode, there’s a key moment when I think that something is important. There’s plenty of opportunities to be freer, and the bits in the middle are the moments to be bolder and use my imagination.
AD: I am obsessed with the hats at the Investiture. It’s probably my favorite thing in the season.
AD: Yeah! I had no idea that that was a real thing.
AR: Isn’t it marvelous? I love the royal family. They do crazy things with color. How brilliant that they can get away with it.
AD: Maybe it’s the time period where she is wearing a lot of hats? There’s that blue one that Anne wears or the one that Elizabeth wears in the final episode.
AR: Which the director really ran with, didn’t she? She really focused on that hat with that journey.
AD: I really need to make a Top 10 of just the hats.
AR: Well, just wait for Season 4.
AD: You’re going to kill me. (Laughs) In Season 1, Elizabeth is a lot younger when she takes the throne, but now we get to see younger people in Buckingham Palace. What was it like to design Charles and Anne in the early 1960s?
AR: That was lovely because, in a way, the women like the Queen and Queen Mum stick to the look. They aren’t movers and shakers in terms of fashion. With Anne, in a fairly modest way, we could say that this is the 1960s. Youth is becoming more powerful—their taste in music and clothes. They are suddenly the thing. You aren’t wearing a scaled-down version of your mom’s clothes anymore. You have your own fashions now. We were able to do that, and I think that visually pulls is into the ‘60s. It was a lovely guide into that time period and gave us some clues.
AD: I wonder if Anne takes more risks and responsibility in her clothes whereas Charles doesn’t. When he goes to Wales for school, he could probably fit in more with the faculty because he is a bit more buttoned up.
AR: Completely. He’s a bit uniformed and almost hiding behind those classic, English, middle-aged men clothes. He is very stylish later on—he wears amazing stuff! He was very different from Anne who I think is feisty and bolder. I think you’re right.
AD: When he starts courting Camilla, he even relaxes in what he wears. Like he might be trying to impress people in a different way.
AD: The relationship between Elizabeth and Margaret is such a beautiful thing to see from season to season, and this year it drives a lot of the narrative towards the end.
AR: It’s fun, isn’t it?
AD: The differences in their clothes are so interesting. Maybe Elizabeth wears a lot more solid colors and has settled into her role but Margaret has a lot more patterns and color. I keep thinking of the pink and white dress that Margaret wears when she visits the US and she meets LBJ. I imagine you can tell what clothes belong to whom if you just have them side by side?
AR: Absolutely. Just reading the scripts, those characters jump out so clearly in terms of color and where they are in the period. We could really push the color away from the muted palate of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Suddenly it’s the ‘60s and there’s a lot more vigor. What I felt with Margaret is that she’s the bad sister. It’s like a bit fairy story or an opera. You have the handsome prince and the good sister and the bad sister. If you were illustrating that fairy story, that’s exactly how I feel with their clothes. Margaret is more out in the world and more sensuous, you know?
AR: She’s very sexual and out there with her relationship with her husband. It’s becoming to be more toxic. There were lots of maroons and olives, and I thought of her a bruised person. She is finding her way whereas Elizabeth is steady. If she has problems in her marriage, they have settled and she is the matriarch of Great Britain. Since Margaret is more of a loose canon, her colors need to express that.
AD: And Margaret knows how to wear clothes better. She knows what she accentuates.
AR: Oh, yes. You’re right.
AD: That final episode is a smorgasbord of clothes. I love Margaret’s flowing birthday dress and there are a lot of caftans and there are a lot of patterns on everyone’s clothes. We meet Roddy Llewelyn, too.
AR: Well, there her marriage is really starting to fall apart. I wanted to play up the age difference between the two of them and slightly wanted to make her more matronly and more sober. She’s pretty damaged from her marriage going wrong and then the attempted suicide. I felt that it all needed to be more sober and less extreme perhaps, you know?
AD: Yeah. She hides behind her glasses a lot, too.
AD: What’s the key to men’s fashion at this time? There has to be an art to tailoring the men of the royal family.
AR: Everything was tailor-made. Tony Snow is a more modern feel with his scarves, shirts, and that suede jacket. He’s quite cool. They are all immaculately made. You look at these royal men, Phillip particularly, and they are just extraordinary. That’s the benefit of being tall, I guess, but these long-lined jackets were just a loving English fabric. Those soft, easy looks. It’s just as important but routinely overlooked. If the fabric was wrong and the tailoring was wrong, you’d know it. It’s all English and classy that balances the women.
AD: A lot of the men of The Crown are sturdy and dependable and the clothes really reflect that.
AR: Yes. And then you have people like Harold Wilson who aren’t necessarily elegant. The actor adopted a particular stance and it was nice to make his suits quite differently. Quite real. He’s a socialist from Northern England, so it’s a different feel, I think.
AD: In the Aberfan episode, I love how the emotions are reflected in the clothes. It’s a mining town, but you can see there colors are a lot darker and the fabrics feel heavier.
AR: Yeah, the whole tone had to be much more dour. Absolutely. Working class and not a lot of money. The fact that Elizabeth comes into that in that brick red coat with the hat made her stand out. You’re aware of her and she’s lost in that sea of grief. That’s not me, but it’s what she wore.
AD: She’s really the center of that moment when the people come out to meet her. What can we expect to see in the fourth season?
AR: You’ll enjoy the hats!
AD: Oh, thank goodness!
AR: You’ve got two very powerful women competing with the Queen. There’s Margaret Thatcher and, of course, Princess Diana. She has a massive journey from a slightly awkward girl to the beginning of the Diana that people know. It’s women visually becoming more powerful with how they wear their clothes. You’ve got lots of exciting things coming out.
The Crown is available on Netflix.