For five-and-a-half seasons, “The Crown” has dazzled viewers with its depictions of glamor, from the regal elegance of the young Queen Elizabeth touring the Commonwealth, to the jet-set chic of Princess Margaret and Princess Diana’s parade of iconic looks. But with sixth and final season spanning the late ’90s and early 2000s — a period that coincides with the deaths of Diana (played in this season by Elizabeth Debicki), Margaret (Leslie Manville), and Mary, the Queen Mother — the show’s Emmy-winning costume department has readjusted its focus, as the old guard gives way to the new generation of royals.
“You’re thrust into a new millennium (with a) totally different aesthetic than we’ve seen before,” said head buyer and associate costume designer Sidone Roberts, who has worked alongside costume designer Amy Roberts (no relation) on the Netflix series since season three. And at the center of this new universe is the teenage Kate Middleton, played by newcomer Meg Bellamy.
The final season of the Netflix drama drops in two halves. The first, which came out on Nov. 14 and covered the last few months before Diana’s death, was defined (at least in terms the show’s wardrobing) by swimsuits and casualwear in St Tropez. But the second, coming on Dec. 14, is a study in Y2K dressing for Britain’s upper-middle classes.
Take the young Kate Middleton who cruises through St Andrew’s University, Scotland, eyes rimmed with black eyeliner wearing pieces that are as evocative in their authenticity at the brick-like Nokia mobile phone on Prince William’s bedside table: Think bootcut jeans over high-heeled boots, an oversized boho handbag, knee-high riding boots, and a chunky leather belt with massive brass buckle.
Middleton’s fictional campus love rival, meanwhile, struts about with space buns, sparkly skinny scarves, a faux-fur fillet and history’s heaviest smoky eye. “Then you’ve got the boys, Harry and William, in jeans and polo shirts, sort of slightly scruffy and unironed; Harry and his hippie beads, (juxtaposed with) Charles and his double-breasted suits,” Amy added. “It was quite funny really.”
While these costumes may be more familiar to viewers than the bygone finery of past seasons, the costumers’ dedication maintain their approach was the same. “In terms of intricacies and nuances,” Sidone said, “we’re as scrupulous with 1952 as we are with 2002. Because the aim is still the same: we want to get it right. We pay as much attention to exactly where those jeans sit on Kate Middleton —” “—As a waistline did on Princess Margaret in 1962,” added Amy.
Besides: recreating the recent past is harder than one might assume. “A common misconception is it’s easier to do because we buy it all or it’s easier to source,” Sidone said. “In a way, that time is quite tricky in terms of costume in that it’s not period enough for there to be an extensive amount in a hire house. They’ve got masses of ’60s stuff or masses of Elizabethan stuff, but this isn’t far enough away for them to have taken a great interest in it yet, but it’s also not contemporary enough that you can go out and hope that it’s in stores or even charity shops. It takes a certain amount of searching for the right (items).”
Luckily, brands were happy to help. Just as swimwear brand Gottex, charity the British Lung Foundation, and even Harvard stepped in to recreate long-discontinued designs worn by Diana in the series, British footwear brand Penelope Chilvers — who have been worn by the real Kate since 2004, according to their website — reached out to the team directly, offering to contribute boots to the show.
And like so many Gen Z shoppers, their mission brought Sidone to those great online repositories for vintage deals: Depop (a first for the series) and eBay. “I’m quite lucky that there’s a whole kind of Y2K-early 2000s resurgence with young people, they’re all doing that now,” she said.
Scrolling Depop helped source one of the looks Sidone is most proud of this season: not the see-through dress Kate wore in a fashion show during at St Andrews (rumored to have been the moment she first caught William’s attention), but the perfect jeans for the young Kate. A true bootcut, they not only complemented Bellamy’s shape, but also extended just beyond her 34-inch inseam — long enough to drag on the ground and be slowly destroyed by the elements and stabs of a spiked heel. “You always see the bottoms of jeans (from this era) all muddy and a bit frayed because they were slightly too long meaning they touched the ground, or the heel had gone through,” Sidone said.
“There are no close-ups of that detail,” Amy added. “But we know, and you know, they’re there!”
Often, the joy of the perfect find is as much about the effect it has on the actor wearing it, as how it helps set the scene. And wearing the jeans for the first time left Bellamy transformed, “feeling like Kate, and feeling confident to be Kate,” said Amy. “That’s a lot of the job working with actors — you’re there to help not to hinder,” she said.