Art of Style

How The Crown Showcases Princess Diana’s Iconic ’90s Style

Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki as Charles and Diana in season 5 of The Crown

Season 5 of The Crown catapults Netflix’s hit into the ’90s, with costume designers challenged to create wardrobes that reflect some of the royal family’s most intimate, unseen moments. Here, KARA KIA explores the influences that inspired the looks


“When you’re deep in the present series, it’s very hard to think back,” says Emmy- and Bafta-award-winning costume designer Amy Roberts, who is in the middle of filming the sixth and final season of The Crown. In season 5, we follow the royals as they move into the 1990s and early 2000s. Queen Elizabeth II (played by Imelda Staunton) becomes aware that she is losing relevance, and the impending divorce between Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and Charles (Dominic West) is central to the plot.

“There are so many world events taking place in season 5, and in Queen Elizabeth’s own story,” says Roberts. “The British empire is shrinking; that whole world that she represents is shrinking. Her family life is a mess, and all the children are divorcing. So, with her character’s palette this season, we went for very autumnal colors, to kind of portray a melancholic, middle-aged older woman looking back – we needed to point that out by deepening the colors.”

According to Roberts, there is a historical element to The Crown, but there is also a cinematic and operatic quality to the series that blurs the lines of fashion and art. A vast amount of research goes into every season, and the team references mood boards that trace the evolution of each of the main characters’ individual style throughout the decades. At that point, Roberts believes that “you have to throw it all away and find your vision of it, bring your view of it, of the period and those core people”.

There are moments in The Crown where the costumes are near-replicas of significant outfits, but as we move towards the present day, Roberts was able to add contemporary pieces, too. “Particularly knitwear – the odd piece that you find that’s so perfect,” she says. “But there is a lot of making, so you can control the color palette and complement the fantastic set design by Martin Childs. There is also a lot of the story that Peter Morgan writes about, where we don’t know what happened, and that’s what makes it so interesting to design for.” One such moment was Diana’s style in her private life, which is more relaxed than the colorful ’90s suits and voluminous ball gowns that fans are familiar with.

“My associate designer [Sidonie Roberts] worked on Diana’s wardrobe. It wasn’t the obvious Diana – there were those moments of suits and gowns – but so much of it was us thinking about what she would have worn just hanging around the flat with the boys, or when she’s in cloak-and-dagger mode, going to see her brother or Martin Bashir. There’s not much reference to that, so Sidonie really had to dig deep. That’s a lovely thing to see in this season, and it is a very fashionable thing, that high-waisted jean and tucked-in shirt. It’s interesting how all the young people on the show love that look – it’s very relevant.”

Imelda Staunton, as the Queen, and Elizabeth Debicki, as Diana, in season 5 of The Crown
As a designer, you’re always pulling something from a hat, and you can’t even remember how it got there. I go to movies, galleries, go for walks, and then bring all that into the picture
Costume designer Amy Roberts
A vast amount of research goes into the costume design for The Crown, focusing on the evolution of the Queen and Diana’s individual styles throughout the years

Meanwhile, costumes for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Alex Jennings and Lia Wilson), which feature in flashbacks to the 1940s and ’50s, were some of Roberts’ favorites to design. “They are always fun to do because they are so stylish and cool,” she says. “We kept creating more and more costumes. We would say, ‘Oh, I think they would change to have a cup of tea… I think they would change to have a glass of wine’, just so we could do more looks for them. They were fantastic!

“As a designer, you’re always pulling something from a hat, and you can’t even remember how it got there. I go to movies, galleries, go for walks, and then bring all that into the picture. I don’t think it’s just costume, it’s got to be something else,” she explains, painting a picture of a design process that is an organic bricolage of inspiration. “People on the bus, as well as going to a lovely play at the theater; it’s everything. That’s what is so brilliant about the job – you bring everything into it.”