Preparing to dress the new character of Princess Diana for the upcoming fourth season of “The Crown” on Netflix, costume designer Amy Roberts pored over film footage along with newspaper and
Preparing to dress the new character of Princess Diana for the upcoming fourth season of “The Crown” on Netflix, costume designer Amy Roberts pored over film footage along with newspaper and magazine photographs of the iconic British royal.
She wanted to re-create Diana’s famous frou-frou wedding gown, but found herself faced with a perplexing issue while analyzing the coverage of the aristocrat’s ill-fated 1981 marriage to Prince Charles.
“It was quite difficult to gauge the color choice as, in every image of that dress, the color changes,” she told The Post about the challenge.
Undaunted, the veteran costumier drafted in David Emanuel, who along with his now ex-wife Elizabeth, designed the original showstopper.
“He approved the color choice and basically said: ‘Just get on with it and enjoy,’ ” recalled Roberts.
To construct the replica, her team needed 310 feet of fabric and 330 feet of lace including an almost 30-foot-long train. Roberts even had the lace trim made by the same small English company that manufactured the real thing almost four decades ago.
Emma Corrin, the actress who plays Diana, looks familiarly — and eerily — vulnerable when she is first seen in the dress on “The Crown.”
The scene was filmed in a re-creation of a room within Clarence House, a royal residence in London where the real-life, virginal 20-year-old got ready on the morning of her wedding day.
Production designer Martin Childs revealed that the fictional bride-to-be was deliberately dwarfed by soaring ceilings to parlay a sense of dread as she joins the stuffy institution of the House of Windsor. She was also positioned in the middle of a circular-patterned carpet so she looked like “the bullseye of a target” and “absolutely on display.”
In a later vignette, the somewhat lonely newlywed is shown roller-skating through the corridors of Buckingham Palace, her casual outfit completely at odds with the formal setting.
“It shows her trying to find some liberty in a place where she had no freedom,” added Childs. He went on to explain how he drew inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie “Rebecca,” in which a young and naive second wife feels haunted by shadows inside a vast English mansion.
Roberts, meanwhile, used her costumes to reflect Diana’s transformation from fresh-faced nursery school teacher to the “People’s Princess.”
“We started with Diana as a young, casual, not particularly stylish girl, dressing her in scuffed flat shoes, bobbly jumpers [sweaters], casual shirts and jackets,” she said. “Then she moves to the palace where her look becomes more manufactured.”
She sourced most of the earlier clothes from vintage stores, eBay and thrift shops. The outfits the character later wears were made in Roberts’s fashion workshop using finer fabrics such as taffeta and silks.
“I wanted her clothes to be light and fresh against the more formal color palette of the palace ‘prison’ and the more subdued palettes of the other royals,” Roberts said, adding: “A butterfly caught in a spider’s web if you like.”
During the period from Diana’s engagement up to her 1983 tour of Australia with Prince Charles, she is dressed in “pretty doll-like clothes” including the red polka-dot evening gown with spaghetti straps that first got an outing a month before her wedding.
“She still has a child-like fragility to her [at the time],” explained the costume designer. Toward the end of the season and Diana’s solo trip to New York in 1989, her silhouette is more streamlined.
“[We] created a more powerful, ‘armored’ look to illustrate her growing realization she would need to fight to survive,” said Roberts. “All these more tailored looks made in bolder block colors in wools and crepes were made in our workroom.”
As for Diana’s signature hairstyle, hair and makeup designer Cate Hall told The Post that natural brunette Corrin, 24, wore three different wigs for Season 4 of “The Crown.” They each reflect her character’s innocence, coming-of-age and ultimate sophistication in terms of the tone of the blond as well as the processing and cut.
“The first wig was cut in a page-boy style. The bangs drew attention to Emma’s eyes which is something that Diana used instinctively when positioning herself for the media,” Hall said. “She liked to look up and out from under her hair, and this, together with her eye makeup, helped her connect with people emotionally.”
As part of her research into the princess’s image, Hall interviewed people who knew Diana and unearthed an interesting fact about her reliance on makeup, especially as she got older.
“She used blue eyeliner as an armor, applying more, the more she felt vulnerable,” revealed the expert. “We used this strategically to underpin the emotional narrative.”
The team tested multiple blue eyeliners on camera and saved the bolder ones for “when Diana is trying to gather herself and behave more powerfully” such as the visit to a Harlem hospital to meet young AIDS patients.
Of course, the most explosive moment in history during which Diana used dark eyeliner to wield power — her controversial, life-changing BBC tell-all interview in 1995 — will be portrayed in the fifth season of “The Crown.” For that, we will sadly have to wait until 2022.