The first episode of “The Crown” Season 6 opens with two striking events that unfold in quick succession. The first is the tragic car accident that took the lives of the real-life Princess Diana and her lover, Dodi Fayed, a scene that’s shot tastefully at a distance. The second is the Princess of Wales donning a brightly colored swimsuit and smiling at her two boys.
That ominous contrast between the morose and the joyous is intentional, according to the series’ costume designers and star. But styling Elizabeth Debicki in Princess Diana’s iconic swimsuits was no easy feat.
“I’m going to be honest with you, it wasn’t the most fun, because swimsuit designs have shifted since the ’90s,” Debicki told TheWrap.
Debicki joked those swimsuits were her “cross to bear,” acknowledging that they were “extremely important, extremely iconic.”
“I remember standing in the fittings and thinking, ‘Hmm, I really feel that we changed the line of this for a reason,'” Debicki said. Swimsuits from the 1990s are identifiable for their high cuts that often fully exposed hip bones.
To prepare for these scenes, costume designers Amy and Sidonie Roberts originally reached to Gottex, the manufacturer of the real Diana’s swimsuits, and asked for advice on how to design these garments or where to source them.
“They went, ‘We’ll do you one better. We’ll make them for you,'” Sidonie Roberts said. “They literally replicated them for us, and all we had to do really was work it to fit Elizabeth so that she was comfortable, because in the ’90s they cut them very thigh high.”
“They needed to be made because Elizabeth is so tall, isn’t she?” Amy Roberts added, noting that the actor is six-foot-three. “She has a very long torso.”
Both of the designers were conscious of how “exposing” it is to wear a swimsuit on film. “The only alterations we did was finding a kind of balance of what was right period-wise, but also what would make Elizabeth feel comfortable,” Sidonie Roberts said.
“It was tricky. But also it’s kind of joyful. When you put a swimsuit on, you kind of feel like a kid again,” Debicki said. As for the actor’s personal favorite of the suits, that honor is reserved for a pink swimsuit with a floral print.
“May I say that I believe no one’s ever looked better in those than the real Princess Diana,” Debicki added.
Even the progression of the swimsuits throughout the season was highly intentional. The first bathing suit Debicki’s Diana appears in is a neon green and purple number with a sarong. The garment appears as Diana vacations with her sons, William (Rufus Kampa) and Harry (Fflyn Edwards).
“There’s a playfulness to it. I call it ‘mum-worthy,'” Sidonie Roberts said. There’s also a sense of “practicality” baked into the look, down to the sunglasses Diana wears in these scenes. The glasses chosen are meant to look relatively inexpensive so that if she dropped them in the water, “she wouldn’t be completely devastated by it.”
That care can also be seen in the Adidas shirt Diana wears over her aquamarine swimsuit in a later scene while going for ice cream. “We had a conversation with Christine [Schwochow] about whether she would change or not,” Sidonie Roberts said, referring to the director of Episodes 2 through 4. The outfit choice encapsulates a moment of Diana trying to maintain some semblance of a private life in the midst of the onslaught of paparazzi. According to the designers, Schwochow wanted the oversized shirt to feel like “a continuation, almost like her trying to test the waters of how far she can go out in more pedestrian clothes and not be spotted.”
“If you look at it through her wardrobe, for us, she was just at the beginning of that discovery and that new life,” Sidonie Roberts said.
Season 6’s variety of clothes for the character is intentionally smaller than seasons past, indicating “how small her wardrobe becomes because her life now is tiny,” Amy Roberts said. She noted that this season is a departure from the “masses of clothes” she had in Season 5. “There was a suit she travels in and a jacket and trousers that she dies in… I think the amount of clothing brought that home.”
This smaller wardrobe intentionally includes worn shirts and cozier fits for when Diana interacts with her sons. “She’s a mom at home making pizza for her kid,” Sidonie Roberts said. “That changes how she dresses. That needed to feel casual, and it needed to feel accessible to them and tactile and playful.”
“I was always so relieved and grateful whenever I had scenes with the kids, because it felt like the center for me,” Debicki said. “I was happiest when I had them in the scene… I let life mirror art or art mirror life, whichever way that goes, that I was just happier when I was around them.”
Debicki praised Kampa and Edwards’ performances, calling them “the most beautiful boys.”
“They’re such beautiful natural actors, and working with them was just delightful,” the actor said. “It felt so crucial to me to really explore that in this season. That is the thing that brings peace and a sense of being wholly herself. She was able to really have fun with them. It was imperative to me to embrace those things, make everything I could out of them so the audience could feel that.”
“The Crown” Season 6 Part 1 is now streaming on Netflix.
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