An interesting phenomenon that has come up during this pandemic is that of modeling our style after the shows we’ve been watching—after all, the typical daily parade of wildly and poshly dressed strangers in New York hasn’t been around, so we have, consciously or unconsciously, been outsourcing inspo from TV shows. With The Crown’s highly anticipated introduction of Princess Diana, it comes as no surprise that most viewers (including myself) skipped the first 3 seasons to catch the stunningly accurate portrayal of our beloved Lady Di and, of course, her many iconic looks. Similarly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw electric blue taffeta dresses, printed neckerchiefs, and houndstooth pea coats come back into the mainstream either.
This is part of a series dissecting 4 shows that have been defining the recent interest in “Regency-core”, this particular article will focus on stylistic motifs and concepts found within Netflix’s The Crown. (We’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)
Dressing for the Occasion
It was hard to miss Margaret Thatcher’s faux pas at the royal’s castle in Scotland. We learned through the embarrassed hushes and not-so-subtly condescending glares the Prime Minister was met with after showing up to tea in an evening dress, that being overdressed is not at all the same as being well-dressed. There’s a reason we can’t go to the office in ballgowns—although it would be very fun—if we bust out the gown for work, what will we wear to commemorate a special event? We saw this informal dress policy reflected in the royals themselves. When they’re on holiday, there’s not only the expectation of different outfits for different occasions (as usual), but the wardrobe changes entirely for the context of “being on holiday”. Note that The Queen’s tea outfits in Buckingham differ vastly from those she wore at Balmoral, same goes for the ensembles worn by Prince Charles and Princess Diana in Australia. This is certainly a more traditional approach to styling oneself, but it is one that keeps your outfits grounded and organized.
Margaret Thatcher and her husband, Denis, showing up to tea in a berry-colored ruffled dress and tuxedo, respectively. Below, notice the stark difference between Thatcher and the rest of the folks at Balmoral. (Note to self: if the Queen isn’t wearing heels to go hunting, neither should you.)
An SAT Flashback: Haberdashery and Millinery
Many of you already know what haberdashers and milliners do—sell or make small accessories/notions and hats, respectively. If we learned anything from season 3’s styling, it’s that we have completely underestimated the power of a good hat or snappy tie. The light taupe, pearl-encrusted, brimless cloche that Queen Elizabeth wore to the investiture of Prince Charles? Left me speechless. And the wispy Seussical grass-colored bonnet donned by the Queen Mother? Fiercely energetic, inertia in a hat. The milliner culture today is, admittedly, not so widely appreciated, but could come back to the mainstream if we give it a playful and avant-garde upgrade like the ones rocked by The Royals. In terms of haberdashery, Charles is almost always sporting a pocket square—which varies depending on the occasion, like a mood kerchief—at times he goes for the tightly packed, classically white and formal option, and when on holiday, he often opts for the playfully folded printed accent. When your wardrobe can’t be too wild (maybe because of work, school, or royal duties), you can always let your individual style peek through by using thoughtfully curated details such as cuff-links or a jewel-encrusted headband.
Above: a fun collage of the many bonnets, fascinators, and pillbox hats worn by the women of The Crown. Below: Prince Charles sporting a newsboy cap paired with an informally folded rust pocket square (and bold pattern mixing).
Can Traditionally Femme Looks Be The New Powersuit?
As someone who is in a perpetual on and off tomboy phase—my preferred workday pieces being wide-leg trousers, noisy loafers, and oversized white button-downs—I’ve always subconsciously equated masculine clothing with assertiveness and, well, power. (In my defense, I don’t find that the snow or COVID inspires anyone to be in pencil skirts and Manolos, but I digress.) In light of seeing the portrayals of Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth, however, I can say I no longer believe that is the case. Perhaps traditionally more feminine looks will be considered the standard of emboldenment from now on (has classic menswear being the go-to symbol of leadership run its course?). There’s something so delightfully paradoxical about seeing the two most puissant individuals of that time hash out the state of the British economy, the people, and the commonwealth and do so dressed impeccably in dresses and heels. These Regency shows with strong female leads and period costuming kind of contradict what we’re used to seeing powerful women wear. Which is typically suits, pants, and blazers, or pieces that have traditionally been worn by men. Redefining outdated womenswear wear motifs to be symbols of assertion and sharpness for everyone could make for an interesting next few years of fashion. (Hoping to see JVN wearing pleated skirts in Congress soon.)
Above: the real Marg Thatch and Queen Liz, the two most powerful women of England, wearing pearls and embroidered dresses. Right: JVN showing us that a dress is one of the most empowering garments a person can wear.
Lady Dye and Prints Charles
The classic prints and fabrics were another motif that we’re hoping will become more prevalent in trends today—houndstooth, tartan, checks, fleece, brocade, argyle, taffeta, heavy knits—we love to see it. A personal favorite is Philip’s countryside costuming (so timeless yet so particular to that era), it’s what we in America call “Ivy prep”. Through fisherman sweaters with collars peeping at the top, windbreakers at the stables, and short-sleeved button-ups paired with tortoise glasses, both Philip and Charles manage to look incredibly put-together and, at the same time, not too precious. Lady Di’s use of conflicting colors and prints were another interesting theme. The show’s costume designer, Amy Roberts, touched upon these choices in an interview with Dezeen by saying she was “trying to convey that kind of messiness of her beginning. Like a teenager who hasn’t quite got their look.” If you watch closely, you’ll notice that, in her nascent phases, Diana wore bright, nearly neon colors with off-key classic pairings—pink and white checkered trousers, for example, paired with a white button-down and fuchsia V-neck sweater. Funnily enough, I think Lady Di’s earlier looks will resonate with folks today who similarly have one foot in the door of minimal WFH fashion and one foot out into the new world of exuberant garb.
Left: moody wool and tartan galore, courtesy of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. Above: a young Diana encompasses conflicting styles: bright ‘80s checkered prints, roller skates, and classic prep motifs.
That wasn’t so many spoilers, right? Let us know which themes you’re excited about and which fabrics/prints in The Crown you’ve drawn inspiration from!