Inside the Queen's wardrobe: Take a look at the royal couture in Delaware

The Winterthur Museum

The Winterthur Museum  

Love the regal costumes that the characters wear in The Crown? Winterthur Museum in Delaware showcases the entire collection at an ongoing exhibition. Plus reasons why you should holiday in Delaware

It took 350 women, seven weeks to design Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown, back in 1947. For the series, The Crown, it took a team of six embroiderers seven weeks, working 10 hours a day, to make a replica of the same, said Michele Clapton, costume designer for Season 1 of the Netflix series.

Best five on display
  • 1. Dress worn by Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret at Ambassador’s residence (Season 1, episode 8)
  • Designed by Michele Clapton
  • Six people worked on this dress for six days and nights. Clapton said, “This was a dress that I fought for because we didn’t have time. I loved the idea that the dress had pockets. There was something very ‘swaggery’ about that. Vanessa loved this so much. It gave her confidence as an actress.”
  • 2. Dresses worn by Claire Foy and Jodi Balfour as Queen and Jackie Kennedy respectively at Buckingham palace (Season 2, episode 8)
  • Designed by Jane Petrie
  • Claire Foy’s dress is a close copy of Queen Elizabeth’s dress, but the design of Jodi Balfour’s dress was changed to better fit the actress. Petrie said, “I wanted to sell the idea of a perfect couture gown made by someone with an eye on the woman’s figure, so you have to adjust for the actress’ shape.”
  • 3. Dress and shoes worn by Lia Williams as Duchess of Windsor at Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s house in Paris (Season 1, episode 5)
  • Designed by Michele Clapton
  • The Duchess of Windsor wore items that were on the cutting edge of fashion. This dress features a hand-painted leaf design. Clapton said, “They start in spring and end in autumn. It was the idea of a fading woman. I felt there was a deep sadness in that relationship, and I was trying to evoke that feeling.”
  • 4. Dress worn by the Queen at the televised Christmas speech, Sandringham, 1957 (Season 2, episode 5)
  • Designed by Jane Petrie
  • For this occasion, the queen chose to wear a dress by English dressmaker Hardy Amies. Because this was a public occasion, Petrie had to create a replica for the crown.
  • 5. Wedding dress worn by Claire Foy at the Royal wedding on November 20, 1947 (Season 1, episode 1)
  • Designed by Michele Clapton
  • Clapton worried that the dress might not be appealing to contemporary eyes. The design did not fit Claire Foy well, it had to be altered around the arms. “Sometimes I suppose you are trying to sell the idea of what the woman meant to people then. As a designer, you have to make the decision to do it completely correctly, or adjust it slightly so that we with a modern eye understand how glamorous the woman was at the time. This is not a documentary, it is a drama. And we are trying to tell the story of this woman.”

Garment designed for The Crown

Garment designed for The Crown  

The gown is on display at Costuming The Crown, a show at Winterthur Museum in Delaware, USA. Clapton and Jane Petrie, designer for Season 2 of The Crown, flew from London to Delaware, for a panel discussion at the show’s opening in March this year. The award-winning designers (Clapton won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-fi Costumes in 2018 for Game of Thrones, and BAFTA award for best costume design in 2018 for the same series; Petrie won the Costume Designers Guild Award for Outstanding Period Television Series in 2018 for The Crown) said that since most of the events of the royal family were widely photographed and published, they had to put in hours of research, referring images of periodicals from the 1950s, so they could replicate the looks accurately. “I felt by doing so we could gain the respect and confidence of the viewers, which would then allow us to make creative decisions to aid in the storytelling of the private, undocumented side of the family,” said Clapton, who also designed the costumes for Game of Thrones.

On display is the dress worn by the Queen during the first televised Christmas speech (in season 2), besides the one that Princess Margaret wore for her birthday portrait by British photographer Cecil Beaton, among others.

Plan to visit Delaware? Check these off your list
  • Firefly Festival: Headlined by Eminem, Bob Dylan, The Weeknd, Foo Fighters among others, in the past, the annual festival in Delaware capital, Dover, this year, featured Travis Scott, Post Malone, Kygo, DJ Snake among others. The festival takes places annually in June. For details, log on to www.fireflyfestival.com.
  • Shopping: There is no sales tax. And for this reason, shoppers from near (such as Pennsylvania where there is a 6% tax) and far (such as California where there is an 8% tax) flock here to shop. Check out the outlets by Rehoboth Beach, the stores in Christiana Mall and the boutique shops in Wilmington, Newark and Milford.
  • European architecture: Hagley, Winterthur and Neymours — the three mansions built by the du Ponts, one of the richest American families since the mid-19th Century — bring in the European charm with their 18th-Century French furniture, endless gardens and grand mansions. As you stroll around, look out for remains of gunpowder mills, which was the primary business of the du Ponts in the 1800s when they landed from France.
  • Beaches and breweries: Play a game of frisbee, hit the waters, nap on the sand. When you are done, take a long walk on the spacious boardwalks of Rehoboth, Bethany and Dewey beaches, and maybe get a cone of ice cream, a slice of pizza and some fries. While the night is still young, head to the multiple award-winning Iron Hill Brewery and order a stout or ask for a low-calorie beer at Dogfish Head Brewery.

For the designers, the responsibility went far beyond the clothes. “You have to work with actors and guide them and help them to be able to create these characters, especially when they don’t feel that they actually look like that character. It is about finding proportion, and giving them the confidence to actually be the character,” said Clapton.

For instance, in real life, John Lithgow does not resemble an elderly Winston Churchill at all. Lithgow is 6 feet 4 inches tall and slim. Churchill was 5 feet 6 inches. In order to make him look like Churchill, Clapton and team developed a padding to add weight. Similarly, while making the replica of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, Petrie, who also designed costumes for Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace, said she had to re-proportion it to fit Vanessa, who is seven inches taller than the princess.

While the directors changed with every episode, the only constants through the entire length of the series were the costume designers. They had to think of the flow of the script. Guarantee continuity. Each season, according to a display at the exhibition, had hundreds of speaking parts, thousands of extras, and required more than 20,000 costumes, many handmade by the designers and their teams.

How to get to Delaware
  • The nearest airports to Dover (Delaware), are Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI). Rent a car from the airport, and it is just over an hour’s drive. From John F Kennedy International Airport, New York, it is a three-hour drive.

According to Petrie, during the course of production, everything was done so fast that she often created very quick sketches, sometimes on scraps of paper, or on the back of the day’s shooting schedule. She carried with her a notebook in which she kept clips of the shooting schedules, notes, inspirational photos, fabric swatches, and sketches. She referred to this book as her bible. Petrie said, “The communication has to be clear and quick. There is no time for watercolour or pastels. This is the reality of the job compared to what I thought it would be when I was in school. You have to move so quickly that you have to go with the courage of your convictions. But you have such a big strong team of people around you that you have the opportunity to just about do it right.”

The exhibition is on at Winterthur Museum till January 2020. The new season of The Crown will air on November 17, 2019.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 4:46:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/inside-the-queens-wardrobe-take-a-look-at-the-royal-couture-in-delaware/article29777513.ece

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