Award-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan faced severe strictures of time and money in clothing royals and commoners for The King’s Speech, the audience-pleasing film set in the 1930s about the struggles of King George VI (Colin Firth), to overcome his stammer with the help of an Australian speech instructor (Geoffrey Rush). “I only had five-and-a-half weeks of prep and we had very little money in our budget,” says Beavan.
For research, she resorted to the Internet. Especially useful was video-site Youtube, which offers a number of newsreel clips that document events and figures from the period. Beavan also had photos from the family of Lionel Logue, the real-life speech teacher, and access to Windsor family photos not in the public domain.
One of her top resources was Cosprop, the London costume house known for its trove of original period clothing. The shop is run by costume designer John Bright, who has collaborated with Beavan on a number of films. The store was able to supply everything from full royal regalia to less formal gentlemen’s wear for “Bertie,” as he was known before he ascended the throne, and some of the charmingly dowdy outfits for the monarch’s steadfast wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter).
“Without using Cosprop, the costumes for The King’s Speech couldn’t have been made on time and within the small allotted budget,” says Beavan. “It also worked because even the Royals would wear the same clothes for years and then pass them down, so they were rarely brand new.”
Beavan is no stranger to designing costumes for English period dramas. She won an Oscar for A Room with a View (1987) and received another seven Academy Award nominations for such films as Sense and Sensibility (1996) and Gosford Park (2002).