The first episode of The Crown’s sixth season begins with two notable events unfolding in quick succession. The first is the tragic car accident that killed the real Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed, a scene tastefully shot from a distance. The second image shows the Princess of Wales donning a colorful swimsuit and smiling at her two boys.
This ominous contrast between the grumpy and the cheerful is intentional, according to the costume designers and the show’s star. But styling Elizabeth Debicki in Princess Diana’s iconic swimsuits was no easy task.
“I have to be honest, it wasn’t that much fun because swimsuit designs have changed since the ’90s,” Debicki told TheWrap.
Debicki joked that these swimsuits were her “cross” and acknowledged that they were “extremely important, extremely iconic.”
“I remember standing in the fitting room and thinking, ‘Hmm, I really feel like we changed the line for a reason,'” Debicki said. Swimsuits from the 1990s can be recognized by their high cuts, which often completely expose the hip bones.
To prepare for these scenes, costume designers Amy and Sidonie Roberts originally turned to Gottex, the manufacturer of the real Diana swimsuits, for advice on how to design these garments or where to source them.
“They said, ‘We’ll do better. “We make them for you,” said Sidonie Roberts. “They literally recreated them for us and all we really had to do was adjust it to fit Elizabeth so she was comfortable, because in the ’90s they were very thigh-high.”
“They had to be done because Elizabeth is so tall, right?” Amy Roberts added, noting that the actor is 6-foot-3. “She has a very long torso.”
Both designers were aware of how “revealing” it is to wear a swimsuit in the film. “The only changes we made were to kind of find a balance of what was right in terms of the period but also what would make Elizabeth feel good,” Sidonie Roberts said.
“It was difficult. But it’s also kind of fun. When you put on a swimsuit, you feel like a kid again,” Debicki said. As for the actor’s personal favorite suit, that honor is reserved for a pink floral print swimsuit.
“Can I say that I don’t think anyone has ever looked better in this than the real Princess Diana,” Debicki added.
Even the evolution of swimsuits throughout the season was very deliberate. The first swimsuit Debicki’s Diana appears in is a neon green and purple dress with a sarong. The garment arrives while Diana is vacationing with her sons William (Rufus Kampa) and Harry (Fflyn Edwards).
“There’s something playful about it. I call it ‘mother-worthy,'” Sidonie Roberts said. There’s also a sense of “practicality” incorporated into the look, right down to the sunglasses Diana wears in these scenes. The glasses she chooses are designed to look relatively inexpensive so that she “won’t be completely devastated if she drops them in the water.”
This care can also be seen in the Adidas shirt that Diana wears over her aquamarine swimsuit while eating ice cream in a later scene. “We had a conversation with Christine [Schwochow] about whether or not she would change,” said Sidonie Roberts, referring to the director of episodes 2 through 4. The outfit choice reflects a moment in which Diana tries to maintain some semblance of a private life amid the paparazzi onslaught to maintain. According to the designers, Schwochow wanted the oversized shirt to “feel like a continuation, almost as if she was trying to find out how far she can go in pedestrian clothing without being discovered.”
“Looking at her wardrobe, for us she was just at the beginning of this discovery and this new life,” Sidonie Roberts said.
The character’s clothing selection in Season 6 is intentionally smaller than in previous seasons, showing “how smaller her wardrobe is becoming because her life is tiny now,” said Amy Roberts. She noted that this season marks a departure from the “loads of clothing” she had in Season 5. “There was a suit that she traveled in and a jacket and pants that she died in… I think the amount of clothing made that clear.”
This smaller wardrobe includes intentionally worn shirts and more comfortable fits when Diana interacts with her sons. “She’s a mom who makes pizza for her kid at home,” Sidonie Roberts said. “It changes the way they dress. It had to feel casual, and it had to feel accessible and tactile and playful to them.”
“I was always so relieved and grateful when I had scenes with the kids because it felt like the center of attention for me,” Debicki said. “I was happiest when I had her in the scene… I let life reflect art or art reflect life, whatever that may be, I was just happier when I was around her.”
Debicki praised Kampa and Edwards’ performances, calling them “the most beautiful boys.”
“They are such wonderful natural actors and working with them was just wonderful,” the actor said. “It was so important for me to really explore that this season. This is what brings peace and the feeling of being completely yourself. She could really have a lot of fun with them. It was imperative for me to embrace these things and do everything I could with them so that the audience could feel that.”