I am hooked on the Netflix series The Crown, which I find a marvellous accompaniment to my knitting project (the Lore jumper for my MANSWAP). I more or less know the story so it doesn’t matter too much if I lose concentration. But when I look up I see glorious 1940s/1950s vintage outfits of the highest quality, English countryside and castles, world events, and the wonderful soap opera that is the British Royal Family. A series that cost $100m to make is something, and the crowd scenes and major re-enactments are sophisticated and convincing. The actors are generally first class and I would heartily recommend the series.
The sub plot which has fascinated me the most has been the Group Captain Peter Townsend and Princess Margaret story (I had previously found the Bertie and Mrs Simpson vignette, the more compelling tale). I remember my mother going on about how Princess Margaret should have married her first true love rather than the unsuitable Antony Armstrong Jones. While in the series the attraction of GCPT is obvious (16 years older, a decorated pilot, funny, sexy and caring) HRH was also one of the most desirable women in the country. The series shows not just the difficulty with the issue of divorce in royal circles in the 1950s. It also examines the issue of snobbery (Peter? That Peter?) about marrying a man who was effectively a servant, the eventual unwillingness of Margaret to give up her title and income to marry him, and his discomfort, mirroring that of the Duke of Edinburgh, in being essentially subordinate to a woman.
Anyway, despite being well acted, you have to look at the original photographs of Townsend to see how suave his was, and how excellent his style. I love his look and have suggested to Gus that there are aspects of his style that might appeal to him. Let’s look first at his most formal garments.This morning suit would have a tail coat a light coloured waistcoat and would have been worn in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. The way he had tied his tie with a tight knot and made it stand proud shows his interest in fashion and his appearance.
The first picture shows a lovely jacket/tie/shirt combination. Stripes, spots and peaked lapels. Subtle, but with a twist. The second and third photos are him in 1955 just before Princess Margaret ended their relationship. The caption from the newspaper refers to his “light check sports suit”, a term that interested me as Gus’s jacket is called a Sports jacket. I think it might be a Prince of Wales (or Glen) check fabric. The trousers are voluminous, probably caused by front pleats, and feature turn ups. His shirt and tie are light – possibly white and light blue – with a white pocket handkerchief. He is carrying a “brown leather jerkin and two books”.
Let’s have a look at his casual wardrobe. This lovely jumper (probably light grey or beige) was used, with beige jodhpurs, for horse riding, and also for country walks. Next we have him in Plus Fours – shorter trousers worn for country pursuits such as golf, shooting and walking by the upper classes. The idea of the style is that the flappy ends of your trousers stay out of the wet. Usually tailored in tweed or similar fabrics they would be worn with a sports jacket, shirt and tie, thick knee socks and sturdy outdoor shoes.Also look at the macintosh – it is probably a Burberry or similar. In the last picture he is older and married to Marie-Luce Jamagne, a young, wealthy Belgian woman, half his age and with a similar look to Princess Margaret. And finally GCPT in sunnies.
Now I am not proposing to make these items for Gus – far from it. I just offer them up as inspiration pictures of a man who knows how to dress and feels comfortable in his clothes. If you watch the old Pathe newsreels of the scandal you will see him in motion, walking along comfortably in his suits and jerseys. No one would seriously wear plus fours or tailored jodhpurs today. Modern stretch fabrics make sportswear comfortable and easy to clean. Very full Oxford bags (pleated trousers) look ridiculous to our eyes and would have probably required braces to hold them up. But the stylish Morning Suit, the cabled cashmere sweater and the raincoat could all be worn today.
GCPT is now one of my male style icons. If you are thinking why does she like this snobby, upper class English style – the answer is that it is the very best that we Brits can do in clothing terms. These sort of outfits are absolute classics, beautifully tailored by dedicated and highly skilled craftspeople (weavers of cloth and tailors), and they look elegant and sexy on a confident man. What do you think?