Unlike other recent TV blockbusters like “Game of Thrones,” Netflix series “The Crown” doesn’t demand elaborate CGI or scenes that take months to shoot. But the show still boasts an immense budget: Netflix has been tight-lipped on the overall cost of the show, but, according to The Guardian, as much as £50 million ($64 million) could have been spent per series. And much of that is invested in outfitting Queen Elizabeth II and company, with some of the royals’ most famous – and often controversial – ensembles faithfully recreated in their entirety.
The third season of “The Crown,” which released Sunday, will spotlight some of the royal family’s most memorable fashion – including its finest hats. The Queen, a role taken over from Claire Foy by Olivia Colman, attends her 1977 silver jubilee celebrations in a bright pink hat with matching fabric bells swinging from the back. In real life, the hat faced considerable mockery, with Labour politician Neil Kinnock reportedly describing the hat as looking “like a disconnected switchboard.”
The monarch debuted more famous headgear at the 1969 investiture of Prince Charles, played in “The Crown” by Josh O’Connor. Elizabeth wore a yellow silk coat over a matching dress, designed by royal couturier Norman Hartnell, completing the Tudor-inspired ensemble with a pearl-encrusted hat. In a still from the upcoming season of “The Crown,” Olivia Colman wears a replica of the hat, paired with an appropriately severe expression on her face.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, also went bold for the occasion, wearing a vast, acid-green hat finished with osprey feathers. Costume director Amy Roberts told the Financial Times that the series’ replica, worn by actor Marion Bailey, invited some hilarity during filming: “The director almost wet himself when [Bailey] walked on set,” she said.
Also recreated in the third season is an outfit that the real-life Elizabeth wore to visit the Welsh village of Aberfan, Wales, after 144 people, most of them children, were killed when a slag heap engulfed the village. A costume version of the fur hat and double breasted trimmed coat is worn by Colman on screen, in a somber scene.
In its debut season, a sizable chunk of the series’ budget went into replicating the wedding dress Elizabeth wore to marry Prince Philip in 1947. The original ivory satin gown, also designed by Hartnell, was embroidered with 10,000 imported seed pearls, and towed a 15-foot tulle train behind it. Famously, however, Elizabeth had to pay for the satin herself using coupons – the couple married only two years after the end of World War II, and fabric was still strictly rationed.
Claire Foy, who played the Queen in the first two series of “The Crown,” wore an exact copy of the gown to film the show’s opening episode; it “weighed a ton,” she told the Telegraph. It took costumers seven weeks to recreate the dress, costing a total of £30,000 ($39,000).
“The Crown” also reenacted some of the late, fashion-loving Princess Margaret’s most renowned looks, though two of them appeared to involve very little clothing at all. In the second season, viewers saw Vanessa Kirby’s Margaret pose for her 29th birthday portrait, shot by photographer and future husband Antony Armstrong-Jones. The end result scandalizes the on-screen royals, who argue that Margaret’s strapless dress gives the impression of nudity. The real-life Margaret did indeed bare her shoulders in several royal portraits, though there’s no verifiable word on her family’s response.
In a trailer for the new season, we see the genesis of another famed photo of Margaret, now played by Helena Bonham-Carter. The Queen’s younger sister grins in a bathtub, wearing an elaborate tiara and a full face of makeup. Armstrong-Jones, known after their wedding as the Earl of Snowdon, was also behind the real-life photo, taken as Margaret prepared to go out.
In real life, the royal family has long shown its penchant for fashion. In 2018, Queen Elizabeth even graced the front row of London Fashion Week, sitting next to Anna Wintour. The monarch attended a show by British designer Richard Quinn, dressed in a powder blue tweed dress and jacket. In September, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex launched a workwear line to benefit British charity Smart Works. And just this month, Prince Charles made headlines with news that he would be teaming up with Yoox Net-a-Porter on a capsule collection.