It’s every girl’s dream: hunching over the toilet bowl in your bespoke Chanel princess dress, with the bow to boot, puking up all the dreams and expectations you had for yourself.
While many lauded Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of the people’s princess, Diana, in “Spencer,” the garments and what they represent managed to make a statement larger than the actress herself, with fashion once more becoming a tool of rebellion and, even at some stages, protection— and not just against the bitter English cold.
Early on, she finds a friend in the old jacket of a scarecrow, which she strips bare, claiming it once belonged to her father, talking to it like a patient would to their psychiatrist at times, finding solace in the memory the tattered old thing holds.
Chanel, on the other hand, serves as her guardian angel, hiding her eyes behind huge shades of the interlocked C’s a la Karl Lagerfeld, who once said: "You hide behind your sunglasses because you don't want to be observed. I don't want everyone to be able to see my facial expressions.”
This Diana also hides her tears behind a Cruella DeVil-like black veil as fashion offers her the freedom to weep by the very act of concealing her.
By switching around the order of her outfits and the events she’s supposed to wear them at, Diana’s wardrobe in Spencer is a sort of “up yours” to the crown itself, a silent protest of her imprisonment, enhanced when her curtains are literally sewn shut, constricting her to the stifling world of impervious clocks and deadlines, with her very own little white rabbit always there to remind her that time is a-ticking.
Her clothes are marked P.O.W— Princess of Wales, no doubt— but, as the title of a New York Times article points out, she is no more than “Prisoner of Windsor” House.
It’s her small act of rebellion. Not your way, she says, but “mine” as she hits back at the Queen of Hearts, reclaiming the narrative by tearing the curtains open with a pair of wire cutters, her room once more strewn with light.
Diana was notorious for her fashion choices, particularly the off-shoulder “revenge dress,” which even has its own Wikipedia page, the day Prince Charles announced that he had been unfaithful to her to the whole world in a televised appearance. She looked like a million dollars in her evening gown, speaking volumes, as she brought out the dress she had been “hiding in her closet” for over three years because it was too “daring.”
In the movie, the clothes spoke louder than Stewart did— quite literally; in fact, her voice was so raspy with effort, one has the urge to offer her a cough drop every time she deigns to open her mouth.
The movie ends as it had begun, with a nod to the scarecrow, who is now dressed in a yellow sailor’s suit complete with its pirate hat that Stewart previously wore, giving the final finger to those trying to control Diana: I will not be bedecked, neither in the garments you so carefully choose, nor in the role you’re trying to cast me into, she says.