"A Royal Night Out": The Look
The production team went to great lengths to authentically replicate what is known about V-E Night and life in 1945, both inside Buckingham Palace and outside, throughout London. They used photographs, cine-reel, newspaper archives and oral memories to research the period.
“There are so many iconic images of all the cheering crowds on Trafalgar Square that it’s important we replicate it within the constraints of our budget and really give the audience recreation of that night,” says Bernstein. “It is a very important aspect of our film so people can look back at it and be re-educated and those that may have lived through it get re-excited by it.”
As most of the photographic and cinematic references are black and white, with just a few that were tinted, the costume design-team had to make a few decisions about the colours in which to dress the Royal Family. “I began with the imagery of the fairy-tale princesses and balanced that with the reality of the wartime restrictions. The Royal Family really did adhere to that in terms of the amount of fabric they put into their dresses, ” explains costume designer Claire Anderson. “For example, Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress, although it was many years later, was still affected by fabric rationing.”
Anderson and her team were also influenced by Cecil Beaton’s famous black-and-white photographs of the Royal Family, which although released publically in 1946, are understood to have been taken in April 1945. “The shimmer and sparkle and the net and the fine tulle and fabric in those dresses were all an influence,” she explains.
Another well-known influence on what the Princesses wore was their mother, the then-Queen Elizabeth. “She and her daughters had taken a real turn away from the Wallis Simpson look, which was very stark and dark and very stylish,” says Anderson. “I think the Queen of the time instead wanted to look more soft and comfortable and wore pastels so she could always be seen in a crowd - especially during the War in the East End of London. It meant she was able to be picked out in a crowd in her fresh, clean bright pale blue of soft pink.”
Crucial though they were, the costumes for the Royal Family were limited as the film is set over the course of just one night. However Anderson was kept busy by the sheer number of extras she had to dress, which provided a fantastic visual opportunity.
“There is such an exciting, different variety of extras,” she explains. “We have got very wealthy, aristocratic people at The Ritz and socialites at the Curzon Club. Then we’ve got the working class and the ordinary, everyday people in Trafalgar Square, celebrating, with the off-duty military people who are celebrating. It’s such a broad slice of life, and such an amazing cross-section of society to look at. People didn’t have new clothes. They did look tired and exhausted and elastic was very hard to come by. All those things informed how people wore their clothes. They wore things that were very worn out. They mended things and made do.”