When E!'s royal family throws a ball, you better believe that they’re going to dress the part. And on last night’s episode of The Royals, "Unmask Her Beauty to the Moon," the costumes certainly didn't disappoint. Hosted by Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), the palace's annual masquerade-themed soiree was one that we’ll never forget—especially after seeing the leading ladies’ gorgeous gowns.
“We focused on three main jewel tones to keep the costumes from becoming too overwhelming in such an opulent room,” the show’s costume designer, Rachel Walsh, tells InStyle. “Obviously, some of the costumes are over the top, but we felt within that palette it would look tasteful and elegant.” For inspiration, Walsh looked to the Venetian masked balls and the Met Ball, as well as a few of her favorite designers. “I love Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, so those were my influences for the ideas for the frocks,” she says. Below, she gives us the deets on each of the jaw-dropping gowns from last night’s episode.
Hands down, the biggest fashion moment of the night went to Ophelia (Merritt Patterson). “I wanted this to be her Cinderella moment, and for everyone to look at her and gasp when she walked into the room,” says Walsh. “She’s the girl next door who can’t compete with Eleanor and Gemma—she’s not an it girl and doesn’t have a lot of money. So when Eleanor lets her borrow the dress, she gets a chance to slightly upstage Gemma and for Liam to look at her and just go, ‘Wow.’”
Adding to its wow factor, the gown was designed by Elizabeth Emmanuel—the same designer who created Princess Diana’s wedding dress. So, understandably, Patterson didn’t want to take it off on set. “Merritt was running around the fitting room screaming and squealing, ‘I feel like a princess!’ says Walsh. “She loved it—she didn’t want to take it off.”
We saw a totally different side of the queen in last night’s episode, when she let down her guard for the first time all season. “Elizabeth [Hurley] wore a beautiful gold Dolce & Gabbana gown, and we took away the structure of the power dresses that she usually wears,” Walsh says. “It’s the only time you’ll really see her in something quite fluid and romantic.” A move that was intentional, Walsh explains. “This is her moment to feel truly happy without the weight of who she is on her shoulders, and for just that one night she can be alone with her lover, Alistair—so even though it looks like she’s dressed for the ball, she really dressed for him.”
Having passed on the “frou-frou” gown that Ophelia ended up wearing, Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) went a darker route. “Whenever Eleanor is in the room, you know there’s going to be danger,” says Walsh. “The inspiration for this was that she’s like a phoenix, so I wanted to use feathers.”
Designed and made by Walsh in only two days, the bespoke piece was inspired by Alexander McQueen’s past creations. “He used a lot of those feathers in some of his collections, and it just looks edgy and dangerous.” But not every princess could pull off such a look. “Only she would walk in wearing something like that, a dress that’s completely backless,” says Walsh. “And obviously she has no underwear on, but she just doesn’t care—that’s her character.”
Also designed by Walsh, the gown worn by Gemma (Sophie Colquhoun) finished off the episode’s wardrobe color palette. “I wanted her in purple, and I couldn’t find a dress that I really loved,” she says. “We took a short shift dress in duchess silk, and then we created this huge long bustle on the back of the belt.” The look—which channeled some of Vivienne Westwood's designs—was also the final shape that Walsh wanted to include. “Ophelia was in a big gown and Eleanor was in a backless one, so I wanted Gemma’s legs out,” she said. “To me, it created three beautiful shapes to look at in the room.”