We’re back, darlings. Back in a world practically awash in drab browns of disappointment and dutiful, uniform-like blues. It can all get a little dreary at times. Fortunately Bitter, Drunk Princess Margaret will be along shortly to model shiny, strapless things and roll her eyes at tradition.
Shall we, then?
As we noted last week, the use of certain colors in the costume designs almost certainly come down to historical accuracy (since so much of Elizabeth’s actual wardrobe has been photographed over the last 70 years), period accuracy (browns and muddy blues were semi-popular shades in the late fifties), and simple filmmaking practicality (Claire Foy, blue-eyed brunette, looks great in blues and earth tones). Even so, there remains a deeply consistent motif of these two colors repeating throughout the first three episodes depicting the increasing strains and growing separation of the Windsor marriage and family. What’s interesting in this third episode is how the costume design moves from oppositional (Elizabeth vs. the ballerina, Philip vs. an aggressive reporter) in tone to one that’s more synchronous among the members of the family. Elizabeth and Charles are dressed in the same colors, and those colors happen to be the main ones in the decor. This ties them to each other as mother and son, but also ties them both to their role as monarch and heir. They are one with each other, but also one with the palace itself.
You could take a more pleasing route and claim that Elizabeth is dressed to match her children and their nursery, evidencing her strong role as a mother, but that would actually play against what the script and story wind up saying about her.
Here we have costume that’s both sympatico and oppositional, underlining several different familial bonds. First, Elizabeth and Philip are bridging the miles in matching, dutiful, militaristic, role-playing blues. Elizabeth and her mother are dressed identically (albeit in different colors), which is evidence of their mutual understanding of the role and how it should be approached: in an unfussy manner with a uniform on. Note that her mother is not wearing pearls while Betty’s got a triple-strand. They both come from the same understanding, but only one of them actually wields the power. And finally, note just how hard Margaret works to dress nothing at all like her mother or sister. The pants are evidence of her modernity and the scarf is an “I don’t need your damn pearls” affectation. While we wouldn’t claim short sleeves are somehow racy (even in the context of the times), Margaret’s serve as a response to the matronly covering up of her mother and sister.
Blue and brown. Very, very consistent. We take the blue (as we did last season) of a symbol of her role and duties:
It’s her most consistent costuming motif in these episodes and it tends to bridge many different sorts of scenes, since it serves as a work uniform for her and since her professional role and private life are largely indistinguishable from each other at times (which is the heart of all the drama in this series; duty vs. love and family).
The brown remains an underlining of her disappointment with the people around her. In this case, Philip’s shenanigans are about to blow up in her face.
Note the bright pop of slightly uncharacteristic yellow, which depicts her in a light, flirty mode, even as the scene shows her being deeply disrespected without her knowledge. It makes a nice bridge…
… to Eileen Parker’s vivid yellow rage-sweater. Note that this is the exact costume she was wearing when she got hard evidence of her husband’s infidelity (and a ticket out of her shit-marriage).
Plaids seem to be the choice of disaffected, disappointed and rage-filled wives everywhere in this world, by the way:
Anthony Eden’s no-doubt long-suffering wife doesn’t get to say anything in this story, so her costumes tend to fade into the background, unlike the acid-colored Eileen Parker, whose words and actions reverberate throughout the realm – literally.
Elizabeth arrives in her Coat of Disappointment, which she removes to reveal her Dress of Duty; all the better to face Mrs. Parker as a fellow wronged wife to ask her to do her duty to the crown. Of course Eileen’s not having it, even if she is dressed in the muted tones of the disappointed wife. Unlike Elizabeth’s, however, her clothes are practical and modern. Note again the use of short sleeves to draw a distinction.
Eileen Parker burns it all down:
… leaving the two living symbols of the monarchy to eat their breakfast dressed in duty and disappointment, respectively. The Queen Mother is far more concerned with the palace’s public response whereas Elizabeth is simply hurt and embarrassed.
In the end, everyone does their duty for the good of the crown. Elizabeth straps herself into the most blatantly militaristic coat at her disposal to greet Philip on his return home:
While he stands there in the tie he was ordered to wear; the tie that sums up his entire role in costuming. Hearts on a blue background. As the Queen’s Consort, that is his primary and only duty: to love the Queen. The costumes are sympatico (note her red hat picking up on his hearts), but in this case it’s somewhat ironic in tone. They are most definitely not on the same page at the moment.
And speaking of ironic costuming…
Both men are doing their duty; Mike by banishing himself and Philip by settling down behaving. Both are dressed in the colors of duty. What’s ironic is just how much Mike’s outfit mimics Elizabeth’s daywear: a blue cardigan over a simple collared shirt. This, while he has the nerve to criticize Elizabeth’s parenting to Philip.
Okay, one more interesting visual motif in this episode before we dive into Margaret’s Messy Melodrama.
The Queen asks every man to assess himself before coming to see her. Note how each man reacts to his own assessment:
Eden primps. MacMillan smugly regards himself after taking a piss. Philip performs an act of penance. And Michael more or less does as ordered. It’s implied that she requested he shave it, which indicates how she associates facial hair with disappointing men.
And now, the Misadventure of Margaret.
It’s a fairly hideous look in a modern context, but the satin and dusty rose color practically scream “romance.” Margaret tends to wear her yawning need to be loved for herself on her (short and often non-existent) sleeves. Her mother and sister dress for duty, but Margaret always dresses for love.
Note her jewelry. Even in good-girl church clothes, she tends to pick showier sorts of pieces than her pearl-wearing sister.
Speaking of which…
Elizabeth is matronly and settled; reading books about horse breeding in simple cotton night gowns while her sister, dressed in diamonds and blush-colored satin, drunkenly recalls her latest sad attempt at a romantic connection. That’s about as oppositional as costume design gets.
Another example of a costume working ironically. Margaret couldn’t look more over-the-top romantic, which is punctured by her smoking and derisive facial expressions whenever she can get away with them.
Note how colorlessly almost everyone else is dressed. They all tend to fade into the background from Margaret’s perspective.
For her engagement announcement, she dresses in a familial blue, but with a very Margaret-like silver shimmer to it, to set it apart from Elizabeth’s stately blues. Note how Vanessa Kirby uses things like wraps, bags, and gloves to indicate how depressed and beaten-down Margaret is inside. They tend to hang off her, as if their weight was too much for her at times.
Three different royal blues. These women are connected, but very different. Note how the Queen Mother is dressed to completely hide any sense of her body or skin. A woman of that generation and station -especially a widow – was expected to render herself sexless.
Also: note who’s got the biggest damn tiara on. That thing looks like a wedding cake on her head.
Her breakdown robe has a very modern print in a very un-royal color scheme of black and yellow. The wildness of the print and the jarring colors underline her own frantically deteriorating mental state.
Mummy comes in, dressed in the colors of duty, to get her out of her funk. Note again just how matronly the QM’s clothes have become.
In response, Margaret accepts a party invite of the kind her mother would certainly disapprove.
This costume is nicely centered and attention-grabbing without singling Margaret out too much. In other words, it looks great on her and photographs well, keeping her distinct and at the forefront of each scene, but it doesn’t stand out all that much from the other women’s clothes. She’s slightly more dressed up than some, with more ostentatious jewelry than most. It’s a modern, stylish look that situates her as a person who belongs in this setting, even as she shows herself to be more unsure and defensive than we’ve ever seen her. The chevron pattern tends to reinforce her own nervousness.
And like so many of her costumes, it can go sexy at the drop of a hat – or a jacket, in this case. Note again how her color scheme has shifted away from the family colors. She’s in yellows and greens now.
This is kind of a cute scene, as they gossip and bicker while paging through magazines, like any couple of sisters might. Elizabeth is sporting a shocking pair of short sleeves, which would indicate a level of sympatico with her more skin-baring sister, but of course she’s literally buttoned up and in a queenly blue. Margaret’s blouse is floaty, with a barely tied sash, giving her a freer, sexier look. And again, she’s choosing these sorts of autumnal colors that set her apart from her family.
Pretty much the quintessential Princess Margaret “I am NOT my sister” look in the context of this episode. It’s drop-dead stylish, boldly graphic, and rendered in autumnal tones.
Tony zeroes right in on something we’ve seen in Margaret’s clothing since the first season: it’s designed to look like it comes off easily. All those strapless, sleeveless, open necklines she’s been sporting to differentiate herself from her sister led to this character-defining moment of seduction and rebellion.
And is there anything less Windsor Woman than a sleeveless sheer lace top over a bustier? This is both a call for romance and seduction and a massive act of defiance, all wrapped up in a simple costume.
Also, note how tight Tony’s clothes are; how much of his body is centered in the scene.
It’s sexy and sweetly romantic in its own way. Margaret never looked more modern and less royal than she does on the back of motorcycle, sporting cat-eye shades and dressed all in orange. There’s a slight sense of sadness underlying the scene, partially because Tony isn’t on the same page as her, but her costume speaks of a boldness and defiance that, for now, is almost as good a feeling as being in love.
[Photo Credit: Netflix – Stills: Tom and Lorenzo via Netflix]
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