By recreating the royals outfits and ramping up the glamour, the hit TV drama constantly blurs the line between fact and fiction. That is what makes the show so compelling
All publicity is good publicity, they say, but the royal family is the exception that proves that rule. And recent television coverage of the royals has been to put it mildly a mixed bag. The new series of The Crown launched on Netflix within hours of that Prince Andrew interview. One was dependably glorious, which is precisely what royalty is supposed to be. The other was, well, a car crash seems to be the go-to analogy, although I cant help feeling car crashes are slightly bad-taste imagery when it comes to describing royal PR disasters.
The upshot of all this is that the third series of The Crown will be required to do more heavy lifting than the previous two, in making us fall in love with it a burden that falls in large part upon the wardrobe department. Clothes, jewellery, hair and makeup are an essential part of The Crown. From the beginning, the series has made the royals more beautiful and more glamorous than their real-life counterparts, and invited us to fall under their spell. The Crown has given the senior royals a newly glittering backstory: here, we see the Queen a spirited young beauty; Prince Philip golden-haired and square-jawed.
But fashion in The Crown does a lot more than sprinkle stardust. Clothes are strategically employed to blur the line between fact and fiction. The third episode of the new series covers the Aberfan tragedy of 1966, which killed 144 people, 116 of them children. Serious and careful, the episode feels almost like a standalone piece. It leans heavily into the Queens delay in visiting the village, her absence from the funeral, and subsequent change of heart. The story is imbued with hindsight you cant watch it and not be reminded of the Queens reluctance to return to London after Dianas death 31 years later, and how that delay reverberated through British culture and changed so much. But the outfit worn by Olivia Colman is an exact replica of what the Queen wore in 1966: the side-buttoning red coat with a fur trim to pick out the matching hat; the darker brown leather gloves; the handbag. This is more than clothes being used to bring a character to life. This is clothes being used as primary evidence, to make the particular version of the story being told look like the truth.