When I first heard Princess Diana would be introduced in season four of The Crown, I was worried.
Portraying real people on screen is no easy task and while some people get it right, à la Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, others get it very, very wrong (à la the cinematic tragedy of Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in Urban Myths).
Thankfully, the Crown crew has knocked it out of the park. Newcomer Emma Corrin is a delight, carrying a careful characterization of the late princess with poise, helped—not least of which—by the incredibly detailed work of the costume department.
The series’ lead costume designer, Amy Roberts, said: “What I think is fantastic about The Crown is the journey of Diana from this kind of girl that’s not particularly fashion[able], and she’s shy, wearing these bobbly jumpers.
“It was so amazing to go from that and take her into this fantastic, streamlined, extraordinary woman.”
And so she did, over the course of ten episodes, thrusting a generation of Netflix-bingers through the ten-or-so years that made Princess Diana a fashion icon.
She has a new look in almost every scene, either faithfully recreated from the real moments they mirror or adapted to express the princess’ progression to—and through—royalty.
As most the series takes place in the 1980s (arguably one of the most gaudy decades in fashion history), it’s a rather vivid trip down memory lane, too.
Case in point:
Princess Diana’s Polka Dot Gown
Princess Diana first wore the red and gold gown to the premiere of For Your Eyes Only, the Bond film, a month before her wedding in 1981. A year later, she wore it again for an evening at the Royal Opera House, paired it with a dramatic black cloak and a gold and diamond necklace in the shape of the Prince of Wales feathers.
In The Crown, Corrin accessorises the Bellville Sassoon creation with the Royal Family Order (shown on the yellow ribbon, above), awarded to members of the family whom the Queen trusts.
Diana was relatively quick to get hers, wearing it on tour in Australia by 1983. By comparison, the Duchess of Cambridge had to wait seven years after joining the royal family to get hers.
Princess Diana’s Yellow Dungarees
While it’s more of a creative interpretation of the original ensemble, Corrin wears Diana’s infamous yellow dungarees with a patterned cardigan to the Badminton Horse Trials in the new series.
The real Diana wore a similar outfit, complete with dungarees and Peter Pan collar, at a polo match at Windsor in 1981. She was just 19 at the time, and recently engaged to Prince Charles.
Princess Diana’s iconic sheep jumper
When Princess Diana wore her “black sheep jumper” to Windsor Polo in real life, many took it to symbolize her outsider status within ‘The Firm’ (aka the Royal Family).
In The Crown, she wears it for a lonely night in, watching TV at Buckingham Palace.
According to ‘80s knitwear label Warm and Wonderful, she loved the original jumper so much that she asked if they could repair it when it was snagged.
“We always imagined her enormous engagement ring caught in the threads,” Sally Muir, the label’s co-founder, told The Telegraph.
“It was sent back to us with a very charming letter from her secretary, saying how much she loved it and could we mend it. We decided that rather than cobble together the damaged one, we’d make her a perfect new one.”
Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress
The second Diana took her vows in a gown with a 25-foot train, it became one of the most iconic wedding dresses in history.
The silk taffeta gown was hand-crafted by David and Elizabeth Emanuel at the time, and The Crown’s costume department consulted with the Emanuels to ensure the replica dress—worn for just a few seconds in the series—was as similar as possible. The original designers even gave them its patterns.
“We were filming the scene when you first see her in the wedding dress—I think it was Lancaster House in London—and I had a team of about ten people helping me put it on, because it’s massive,” Corrin told British Vogue.
“I walked out and everyone went completely silent. More than anything else I wear in the series, it’s so…it’s her.”
Princess Diana in Paris
Over the years, the Princess of Wales’ style became increasingly refined and glamorous, reflecting the changing tides of clothing culturally.
For a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 1988, she wore a cream silk dress with beaded embellishments by Victor Edelstein and a matching bolero.
Perhaps more so than any other outfit in the series, the confidence of Corrin, and the costume designers, speaks volumes here. It is perfection.