The Queen’s life in fashion: unwavering loyalty, stoic simplicity and of course, unrivalled majesty

Her Majesty The Queen never set out to be a style icon. But quietly and stoically, just as she conducted her reign, our monarch’s wardrobe became just as beloved to the nation as the other typically Queen-like things that would feel so comfortingly familiar: her beloved corgis, that genuine smile, her royal wave.

Undoubtedly, the Queen knew what power her fashion choices could have – though she chose to set a precedent by approaching her clothing as more of a uniform than a fashion statement, above all else. That is, as another means of expressing her sense of duty and continuity.

Royal couturier Norman Hartnell once said of her dress sense: “The Queen and Queen Mother do not want to be fashion setters. That’s left to other people with less important work to do. Their clothes have to have a non-sensational elegance.”

But in many ways, the Queen’s style was the epitome of power dressing. Not in the sharp line of a shoulder pad (though of course, Her Majesty did dabble with them in the 80s, like many) or the androgynous cut of a trouser suit – but in the quietly confident way she let herself be seen.


The Queen had a colourful wardrobe 

Her daughter-in-law, the Countess of Wessex, once made a rare comment about the Queen’s fashion choices during ITV’s documentary Our Queen at Ninety. “Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are two, three, four, ten, 15 deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the Queen’s hat as she went past,” Sophie explained. “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen’.”


The Queen loved a radiant look

The Queen was undoubtedly known for her rainbow hues and matching accessories – chosen for each occasion by herself and her loyal dresser and personal assistant Angela Kelly. In fact, so interested was the public in her colour choices, that it was tradition at Ascot to place a bet as to what shade her hat would be.

Not wanting to spoil the fun, the Queen would lock away her chosen outfits at Windsor Castle, and place decoy hats along the corridor so no information could be leaked. “This will stop anyone catching sight of the hat Her Majesty actually intends to wear and, with inside knowledge, betting a vast amount of money on the correct colour of the Queen’s hat for opening day at Royal Ascot,” Angela Kelly wrote in her book, The Other Side Of The Coin: the Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe.


The royal enjoyed dressing up for special occasions such as square dancing 

In her later years, the Queen’s colourful ‘uniform’ was just that: a formula of tried-and-tested staples that worked, and became synonymous with her in the process.

Her fashion story is one of unwavering loyalty. She expressed it through her almost-formulaic reliance on British brands: her beloved Launer handbags, her Anello & Davide loafers, her Stuart Parvin tailoring, her Cornelia James gloves and Rachel Trevor Morgan hats. The charming way she would, on rainy days, match her outfit with one of her favourite Fulton umbrellas. In world where fashion involves endless choice, consumption and of course, waste, she chose tried-and-tested staples over and over.


The royal wore a dazzling rainbow dress in 1999

But that didn’t mean that she didn’t keep us guessing from time to time. In 1999, the press began to speculate that the Queen was undergoing something of a style change when she stepped out in an uncharacteristic rainbow sequin top and bold yellow skirt at the Royal Variety Performance at the Birmingham Hippodrome. She was not immune to fashion criticism from the daily papers at the time – the outfit was never seen again.

Much more recently, it was in March 2020 when Her Majesty last took us by surprise with another fashion ‘moment’, if you will – choosing a colour-clashing magenta and red dress to receive her Order of St John’s service medal in gold at Buckingham Palace. It was instantly a favourite among royal fans and clearly the Queen, too, who wore it again a few months later.


The Queen’s magenta and cherry red dress was a fan favourite

Like anyone, the Queen’s style evolved throughout her life. And though retrospective reports and documentaries often remember Princess Margaret as the fashion girl of the royal family in the 1950s – all Christian Dior gowns and glamorous parties – to look back on Her Majesty’s early wardrobe is a total joy for any fashion lover.

Nipped-waist gowns, pretty flared skirts and peep-toe heels reflect a more carefree time in the Queen’s fashion life as Princess Elizabeth. But within a handful of years of being married to the dapper Prince Philip, having unexpectedly taken the throne in 1952 at the age of just 25, her style would inevitably mature (beyond her years, perhaps).


The Queen’s Coronation dress went down in the history books 

Still, the fairytale moments you’d expect when a princess becomes a Queen were all there. Her coronation gown, made in duchesse satin with colourful embroideries of the flowers of the commonwealth and the emblems of Great Britain, was undoubtedly a showstopper.

Norman Hartnell, who also designed the monarch’s beautiful wedding dress, wrote in his autobiography that the Queen was very involved in the design of the gown, proving that she had an awareness of how fashion would play a role in her reign from the very beginning – and that she was ready to make her own traditions.

On her choice to have a colourful dress for the coronation, he wrote: “I mentioned that the gown of Queen Victoria was all white, but Her Majesty pointed out that, at the time of her Coronation in 1838, Queen Victoria was only 18 years old and unmarried, whereas she herself was older and a married woman. Therefore, the restrictions imposed upon the gown of Queen Victoria did not apply to her own.”


 Hérmes headscarves were a core part of The Queen’s country attire

The Queen we remember today is one who knew how to stand out when she needed to. But relatably, she had another wardrobe that reflected her more casual, relaxed side – one we were occasionally privy to when pictures would emerge of her holidays in Balmoral, or when she would appear at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in a padded gilet and an Hérmes headscarf, trudging around in her Wellingtons.

Princess Eugenie’s comments on the Queen’s off-duty, welly-wearing life are even more touching now, given that Her Majesty passed away at Balmoral. Speaking during The Queen At Ninety, she said: “I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands.”


The Queen favoured colourful yet comfortable outfit choices 

Be it bundling up in Barbour jackets or stepping out in bright neon hues, the Queen came to charm us – comfort us even – with her wardrobe, rather than inspire or set trends like the countless other royal women that some might argue are more deserving of ‘style icon’ status. Another of her go-to designers, Sir Hardy Amies, famously told the Sunday Telegraph in 1997: “There’s always something cold and rather cruel about chic clothes, which she wants to avoid.”

The term ‘fashion royalty’ gets bandied around a lot. Perhaps it’s not the right fit. Queen Elizabeth II was not a monarch who will be remembered for her lavish labels or her glamorous heyday – instead, she dressed for duty. Exactly as she wanted.

TrendsCHK is formed by a group of editors of different ages, ethnicities and countries that seek every day to bring relevant information about fashion, beauty, behavior, experiences, news, technology, finance, travel and wellness.

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