Why The Crown’s Season Six Costumes Are Some of the Series’ Best

“All the emphasis has to be on the story,” costume designer Sidonie Roberts tells me, when I ask her about the sixth and final season of The Crown, which she worked on alongside her mother, Amy. Letting the story shine through is both the guiding principle for Netflix’s beloved historical drama—which tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and the British monarchy during her reign—and the single greatest challenge to coming up with clothes for it.

The issue is, we know too much about royal fashion. More than 25 years after her death, we still write stories about Princess Diana’s enduring personal style, curate museum exhibits of royal outfits, and dissect everything Princess Kate wears as soon as it crosses our Instagram feeds. When audiences are this familiar with the source material, every choice to replicate real life or not looks feels like an artistic statement.

With a mix of facsimile costumes and original creations, the Robertses have achieved precisely that. There are many familiar looks we know and love: Diana’s scoop-back bathing suits and boxy 1990s blazers, Prince William in rugby shirts and university attire, the queen in her sparkling regalia. But, Amy and Sidonie tell Bazaar in an exclusive interview, the quiet moments of behind-closed-doors drama are where we get to observe a more human side of the world’s most famous family. In season six, we see things protocol would never permit the public to see in reality, including pajamas, hospital garb, and even—gasp!—bare royal feet.

All told, season six features costume design at its absolute peak. The Crown’s success has obviously made it possible to spare no expense—so the gowns are more lavish, there are more extras, and the details are more infinitesimal than ever before. But more importantly, the Robertses’ work on this final season achieves something truly special: When audiences watch this show, the costumes disappear, allowing for nothing but the performances to sublimate through our screens. Everything feels so natural and real that we don’t realize the specialness of what we’re witnessing or the sheer volume of work that’s gone into it—until, just as the crown passes from one sovereign to the next, it’s already gone.

Scroll on to read our interview with the Robertses.

Daniel Escale/Netflix

The members of the British royal family are some of the most watched and well-known people in the world. When do you decide to copy their clothes exactly, and when do you take creative liberties?

Amy Roberts: I think it’s fairly straightforward, in that the scripts will tell you if there’s a wedding, a funeral, a big military display, or the queen is talking at a significant speech—so we know about standout, familiar pieces that will need to be made.

Sidonie Roberts: [Showrunner] Peter [Morgan] writes many of those kinds of scenes, but he also does many scenes behind closed doors, and that’s where we can take those flights of imagination. We build the trust with [the audience] with those familiar moments of re-creation, and when we bring people into our world, they’ll more happily come with us. It’s the best of both worlds.

luther ford as prince harry, ed mcvey as prince william credit justin downing

Justin Downing/Netflix

For those flights of imagination, what is your process like? How do you decide what a royal might have worn in private?

SR: With Diana, for example, I liken that process to “the Diana algorithm.” It’s like when you’re shopping for a pair of trousers, and the internet will tell you for two weeks later about other trousers based on the ones you bought. You build up your own taste, a kind of understanding of what this character’s taste is. So when you look at other things we may not have seen [the actual person] in, we still understand that they might have worn them.

AR: It’s something you build up when you work with these characters over four years. That’s the difference between doing a long-running series like this, as opposed to a one-off theater piece or a film. You just have this instinct and it builds a deeper understanding and hopefully that comes across.


Keith Bernstein/Netflix

Tell me about the clothes themselves. What was built, and what was sourced?

AR: I absolutely love the term “built.”

I had never heard of it until a costume designer used it with me recently, to describe clothes that are commissioned for a specific production, as opposed to purchased in a store.

AR: Gillian Anderson [who played Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in season four] always said “building clothes.” For all of our main principal royals, plus Margaret Thatcher, 99 percent is made. We might buy the odd cardigan. I think one dress of Margaret Thatcher’s was Saint Laurent. But otherwise, everything has to be made because we want that control—like how the colors will work with [production designer Martin Child’s] sets.

I imagine your process goes back to that “algorithm”—you’ve worked with these characters for so long that you have an innate sense of what they might wear, down to the fabrics.

SR: One of the loveliest things happened for me this year, and it was the first time it happened. We found this beautiful silk wool fabric, and we put it on the queen [in episode eight, “Ritz”]. It’s a beautiful fabric. And then we found a photograph of the actual queen wearing the same fabric. Her dressmaker had done it in a different style dress, but it was the same fabric.

the crown

Justin Downing/Netflix

The algorithm worked! Help me understand how much “stuff” is involved in costuming a production of this scale.

SR: In this season alone, we had 297 speaking parts. So that’s 297 actors that Amy, me, and our design team dressed. And if you think, the queen never wears anything more than once publicly, [so] it’s an enormous amount of clothes that we’re making. In terms of numbers, we never really hold that information in our head, because it’s quite overwhelming. We work from these “bibles,” which are when we break the script down into shooting days, and we can look through a particular week and see that you’ll have eight or nine costumes in that one week for that one character.

AR: But also what’s going on is the support artists, the crowd. You have some scenes with 350-400 people in the crowd, and every person is fitted. Whether it’s a postman, the queen, a bus driver, a soldier, Prince Philip—everybody is meticulously fitted to get the story right.

It sounds like an extraordinary amount of detail.

AR: Alison Harvey, the set decorator, said that even in the desk drawers for Prince Charles they put things that he would have read. We can’t cheat on anything, because otherwise it will put a dent in the whole piece. I can’t bear it when people say, “Oh, those shoes are wrong, but we won’t see them.” Because I’ll see them! I sound like a diva, but it’s quite important.

a group of people posing for a photo


SR: We got a call from Imelda Staunton because we had made a shirt and fitted it. It was this beautiful green floral shirt, and she said, “For goodness’ sake! Anybody else would have put normal round buttons on, but you used these pearlized green leaf buttons that are individually scored with leaf marks!”

Which was the toughest look to get right?

SR: In terms of making it right from a duty perspective, it was Diana’s last outfit. Not because it was tough to get technically right, but it felt really important to get it right. That was really vital.

AR: The Camilla wedding outfits, too. She wore two—one to sign the registry and the other for the lunch. We jiggled with that one for a while. The construction was quite difficult to re-create, and when you see those pieces as an image, versus deconstructing them to build it as a costume, you realize there’s more to it than meets the eye. It wasn’t impossible, but it gave our brilliant workroom a few headaches!

dominic west as prince charles, olivia williams as camilla credit justin downing

Justin Downing/Netflix

Which of your actors had the most opinions about what they wore?

AR: Dominic [West] and I would argue every morning about the choice of pocket square and tie. His clothes would be put in his [trailer], and then I would count to 10, waiting. It would be a point of order about why we should do this one or that one. But on the whole, this group was so brilliant to work with.

SR: Most people’s opinions happen in the first fitting. That’s when Amy, the actor, and I hash out our ideas of the character, and by the end we’re hopefully on the same page. The only time anyone said “Please, please, please no” was Elizabeth Debicki for these salmon shorts!

AR: But otherwise we try to make the actors feel like they’re a part of the process.

Was there anything your actors tried to steal from set?

SR: Emma Corrin wanted an Yves Saint Laurent bomber jacket from the ’80s, but I did not let them have it!

AR: I can’t tell you, because I’m seeing him tomorrow, and then he’ll be mad at me! My lips are sealed.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Todd Plummer is a Boston based journalist covering culture and lifestyle. He is a seasoned entertainment reporter, travel writer, and is an alumnus of McGill University and St. John’s University School of Law.