The Trickiest Costume Design In The Crown Wasn't For A Royal

When you're creating a series about a larger-than-life dynasty, you're bound to run into a few challenges — especially if the royal family in question tries to block production whenever possible. From choosing the juiciest plotlines to constantly recasting amid time jumps, there's plenty of work to be done. But surprisingly, the most difficult costume to create wasn't some elaborate ballgown or detailed outfit. Rather, costume designer Amy Roberts struggled the most when creating the relatively plain outfit worn by Michael Fagan (Tom Brooke), the intruder who broke into Queen Elizabeth's bedroom in 1982.

Though no one knows exactly what Fagan and Queen Elizabeth talked about that night (Fagan has changed his story a number of times, so we'll probably never have a solid answer), Roberts saw his on-screen counterpart as an opportunity to explore the social troubles of the Thatcher era in the United Kingdom:

"I so wanted to get the character of him right ... I didn't want to fail what he was about and what a broken Britain was about."

As a result, Brooke was dressed in a shabby-looking jacket, layered shirts, and dark pants — an affordable and durable outfit. They were the type of clothes worn by someone wise enough to value practicality above all else, making Fagan's struggles a direct opposition to Thatcher's insistence that everyone could be successful if they only pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.

No stone left unturned

Even though "The Crown" took creative liberties when portraying the meeting between Fagan and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) – the show has never promised historical accuracy and Fagan himself said that the on-screen conversation was fictitious – Roberts nevertheless paid extreme attention to detail when creating the intruder's outfit. Relatively dark colors and easy-to-clean materials run abound; the outfit couldn't be farther from the show's numerous expensive costumes, ultimately making the contrast between the working class and royalty feel all the more stark.

But the most interesting detail about Fagan's outfit is also the easiest to miss. The cuffs on his jacket are scuffed, with loose threads hanging out in mid-air. Given the fact that Fagan's jacket is some type of nylon or plastic as opposed to a woven material, the thread is likely from a seam — so either the jacket is new and Fagan can't even afford a properly finished garment, or it's beginning to fall apart, suggesting further financial strain in the man's future. Either way, the loose threads hint at the precarity of Fagan's situation — but they're a blink-and-you-miss-it type of detail that's hard to appreciate upon first watch, showcasing just how committed Roberts was to nailing every detail (even when she could've phoned it in with little consequence).

Like Oliver, but with a Twist

Creating an outfit for "The Crown" is no small feat. As Amy Roberts told British Heritage Travel, she begins by meticulously choosing (and frequently customizing) fabrics in order to ensure they fit the style and drape of real-life royal outfits. However, when it came to Fagan's outfit, things were a bit different. Luxuriousness was no longer the goal; showcasing "inner turmoil" was.

Fortunately though, Amy Roberts already had some experience with creating outfits that hint towards British struggles. Two of her biggest credits include creating costumes for the miniseries "Oliver Twist" and "The Virgin Queen" — both of which crucially feature social issues in the backdrop. And even though Fagan wasn't mad about Britain suddenly adopting Protestantism as its official religion, the lack of options for the poor during the beginning of Queen Elizabeth I's rule certainly would've resonated with 1980s working class Brits. While we can only imagine that Roberts never considered putting Fagan in a 16th century tunic, we certainly hope that her experience in prior period pieces helped as she designed his costume.