Growing up, I was always a fan of the elegant, magnetizing Princess Diana. My mother had a thing for royal history, and she spent hours waxing poetic on Diana’s charm, relatability and what she meant to people during her too-short time on on this earth. When I—like so many others—became addicted to binge-watching The Crown in 2016, I knew sooner or later I’d get to see how the show would tackle the royal icon and her complicated story. With the debut of Season Four came Emma Corrin as the late princess, and while I was interested in her portrayal, I was even more intrigued by her wardrobe. It didn’t take long for me to notice that Princess Diana’s fashion in The Crown was used, among other things, to convey the royal’s emotional growth and struggle.
How did some sweaters and day dresses manage to do all this? The answer has to do with color. While some well-known outfits are tied to specific occasions, costume designer Amy Roberts had a little more freedom when it came to outfitting Corrin in other scenes, and it’s clear to me that she was highly intentional about the colors of Princess Di’s wardrobe. Her clothes start off cheery and pastel, growing brighter and bolder as she glows in the public eye and getting increasingly darker as she becomes unhappy with her marriage and her role in the royal family.
Diana’s story is that of a young, doe-eyed girl thrust into a world she cannot handle, and Roberts expertly uses color to convey her experience. “This season is really taking a journey with this young teenager,” Roberts said in an interview with Bustle. “She’s 18, 19. She’s shy, she’s not particularly fashion-conscious, and it’s [about] taking that girl on this momentous journey.”
Below, I’ve rounded up what I believe are the key symbolic colors in Princess Diana’s The Crown wardrobe, and the list takes us all the way from Corrin’s first scene to the season finale. “When you think of the first time that we see Diana—when we very first look at her dressed as this crazy little fairy, all covered in leaves—and the last time you see her, it couldn’t be more different,” Roberts shared with Bustle. Similarly, Diana herself has grown into an entirely new and different person, and her closet tells the tale.
When Prince Charles and the viewers first encounter Diana, she is clad in costume—and perhaps this in itself foreshadows her future willingness to put on a brave face and hide her inner pain from her adoring public. She’s down to play pretend, wear a mask and costume and be perceived as different than who she really is. This makes her seem like a great pick for the royal family, who expect any wife of Charles’ to take on her assumed background role without any issue. That doesn’t end up being the case for Diana, but it’s easy to see why Prince Charles was intrigued right from the get-go.
More importantly, teenage Di is dressed like a tree, covered in green leaves. The green is a quite literal representation of how green Diana was herself. She was naive; a child romanticizing any idea of being a princess. Green also represents jealousy; as we know, Prince Charles was originally dating Di’s sister, who asked Diana not to speak to him. She did it anyway, as any jealous teen girl might do to piss off her big sister.
The green tree costume worn in Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ The Crown meet-cute scene is not true to life; there was no costumed run-in at the start of their actual love story (whatever love means, as Charles might say). Putting Diana in not only a costume, but a green one feels too intentional to ignore.
In many of her early scenes after their original meeting, Diana wears shades of pale yellow. It’s the perfect hue, one she wore in real life often, but perhaps not as often as she does in The Crown. To Roberts, it’s possible that the shade represented many things: Diana’s innocence, her sunny disposition, her youth and vibrance. The Diana we meet in her first few episodes is cheery, childish and sweet, and her wardrobe colors and choices reflect this.
When we reminisce on some of Diana’s greatest looks, many are reminded of ~cooler~ ensembles, from her scandalous Revenge Dress to her off-duty bike shorts and sweatshirts. Young Diana doesn’t dress like this; she wears overalls and patterned sweaters and sweet, pale yellow frocks.
As we see Diana come into her own on The Crown, she wears the shade most people associate with her: blue. Princess Di’s blue eyes are often hailed as her most striking feature, and she wore the color in real life quite often to compliment them, even choosing her engagement ring based on her fondness for the hue.
Diana doesn’t wear baby blue, as a child might, nor navy, as the queen often does in her downtime. The only time she wears royal blue (Which, as a royal, perhaps should be her favorite? I’m joking, but still.) is when she and Prince Charles announce their engagement, when she is indeed meant to look as royal as possible. For the most part, she wears sky blue, serene and calm but still beautiful and eye-catching.
As Diana gains adoring fans, she also struggles behind the scenes—disagreements with Charles, rumors of cheating and a battle with bulimia leave her largely depressed. It’s more than a case of the blues, but the phrase feels fitting. Blue can represnt happiness or sadness, and Diana often experienced both in extremes.
Corrin’s Diana only wears red in a few scenes—and these are all scenes in which Prince Charles is unhappy with her for stealing his spotlight. Diana is bold, fiery, passionate; the kind of red Taylor Swift sings about.
She wears a red patterned ensemble when she steps off the plane while on tour and is greeted by adoring fans (who Charles thought would be busy fawning over him, as in years past). She wears red again when she unintentionally steals the show during Prince Charles’ speech at a dinner, a stunt that gets them in a screaming match later that evening. Our eyes always go to the lady in red, and in embracing the vibrant hue, Diana sent the message that she was comfortable in the spotlight, regardless of who didn’t want her there.
As she ages and her style matures, we begin to see her in more structured silhouettes. Gone are the pale yellow day dresses, and in their place are on-trend ’80s streamlined suits with shoulder pads that evoke a more confident woman. A more take-no-B.S. woman, at the very least. She rolls up to the Queen’s home for the holidays in the red ensemble on the right looking 110 percent over it, and the royal family definitely notices.
While Diana does step out in bright red when she wants to make a statement, her overall wardrobe grows darker and darker (much like her disposition) towards the end of Season Four. In the final scene, she wears a jet black tuxedo-style gown that Roberts definitely intended to foreshadow her iconic Revenge Dress, the LBD we’ll get a peek at in Season Five. While the Revenge Dress was scandalous in silhouette, Roberts notes that the color (or lack thereof) was an equally rebellious choice.
Why didn’t Diana wear a red dress for the family portrait, or after Charles and Camilla’s affair reached the public? “It was absolute defiance,” Roberts shared in an interview with Bustle. “Because [the royal family doesn’t] like you to wear black—Charles never liked Diana to wear black.” While red might’ve symbolized to the world that she was fiery and bold, black sent a clear message to the royals that they could not tame her. Of course, it also aligned with her darkening mood. No depressed mother wants to frolic in a sky blue gown or pale yellow sweater.
Season Four of The Crown is over, but Diana’s story is not. I look forward to seeing how Roberts tackles the icon’s wardrobe in Season Five and I have no doubt that she’ll continue to use color as a storytelling device. Princess Diana is beautiful, and so are her clothes—but both the woman and her wardrobe are more than meets the eye.