Would you dare to reinvent a fashion icon’s wardrobe? Spencer costume designer Jacqueline Durran was tasked with representing Princess Diana’s style in the new film starring Kristen Stewart, but not recreating anything precisely (a la The Crown). For a celebrity whose looks are so legendary they require little description—the wedding gown, the revenge dress, the black sheep sweater—obscuring her outfits so that they are a dreamlike version of themselves is no small feat, even for a costume designer who has two Oscars under her belt.
“Before our first meeting, I went through hundreds and hundreds of photos of Diana’s outfits from 1988 to 1992, when the film takes place. The hype is not overblown by the way, she really was chic. I began to identify what she gravitated to the most, like bright colors, contrasting lapels, and asymmetry. Then I began to rebuild based on those motifs,” says Durran.
The costumes in Spencer work hard, as Diana’s intimate life revolves around her dresser Sally Hawkins adorning her for events in the public eye. When her reality unravels, the clothes do as well: a tattered jacket plucked from a scarecrow and a pearl necklace that cannot be destroyed, even as Diana spoons the pearls out of her soup and eats them. “There is a contrast between the clothes that Diana is dressed in for her public events and what she chooses to wear herself,” says Duran. “The clothes on the racks for her to wear represent the rigidity of the royal household, whereas in the flashbacks and in the final scene, the clothes are a representation of herself; the contrast underscores the deeper meaning of the film.”
Duran worked with fashion houses to really deliver on cinematic magic. Although there have been rumors that Diana avoided Chanel (due to the double Cs that are said to also represent Charles and Camilla’s initials), Durran’s research proved that that wasn’t entirely true. “Although she wore Chanel more frequently later in the ’90s, she certainly wore it during this period as well.” It didn’t hurt that Stewart, who portrays Diana in the film, is a Chanel ambassador, but more importantly for Durran, who has worked with Chanel in the past, the fashion house is a reliable partner, game to let the designer peruse their archives and alter pieces to fit. The vintage cream dress that became Spencer‘s main image, for example, was too delicate to be filmed in and Durran had initially wanted a dress with sleeves. “But it was such a standout when Kristen put it on that Chanel remade it for us. The dress really won its place in the movie,” says Durran. The same can be said, it seems, for all of Spencer’s costumes as well.
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