Things I never thought I’d write in 2020 number 638: could Princess Beatrice be in line to be the Royal family’s next style icon? That might sound mean, but I think we can all agree that the eldest of the York daughters has been on quite the fashion journey over the years. But as she turns 32, her style standing is in an excellent place.
That’s because her latest look was a stroke of genius. In July, Beatrice married Count Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a romantically low key ceremony at the Royal Chapel of All Saints in the grounds of her parents’ home in Windsor. Although she reportedly had another dress made, the Princess took full advantage of being a granddaughter of the Queen by raiding Granny’s wardrobe for an old Norman Hartnell gown, topped off with the Queen Mary diamond fringe tiara, the same dazzling Art Deco piece worn by Her Majesty on her own wedding day in 1947.
In the royal wedding stakes, this was a masterful power move, tying Beatrice to her iconic grandmother for style perpetuity but also showing what some may call an uncharacteristic sensitivity for the moment (you may recall the days when the York sisters were chiefly known for spending more time on holiday than not); thrifty and sentimental, the Princess’s wedding look was at once regal and perfect for the Covid-era.
Just now, then, it feels like Beatrice can do no wrong fashion-wise. Indeed, the wedding dress was the culmination of a gradual evolution in learning what looks good on her and what her personal taste (through the prism of princessdom) might be.
In some ways, it’s the fact that Beatrice didn’t always get it right which makes her all the more endearing now. Who among us hasn’t looked back at an outfit from last year/ month/ week and cringed at ourselves for daring to wear such a thing?
Who knows exactly how Beatrice and her sister Eugenie coped with some of the criticism they once received, although the latter did discuss the reaction to their infamous looks for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton with Vogue in 2018: “We were just about to step out and she had a bit of a wobble and cried. I was looking after her,” said Eugenie. “And then about an hour later, I had a wobble and started crying and Bea was there for me.”
As fashion moves away from its arguably harmful perfection obsession to a mood which embraces all styles and shapes, Beatrice and Eugenie’s earlier struggles could be seen in a new light - would two young women in the public eye be so fiercely derided for their fashion choices now? In some quarters, yes of course, but in others, compassion is now more important. Knowing what suits has been a challenge for Beatrice in the past, another point which makes her more relatable than most always-pristine royals.
The sisters clearly enjoy fashion. Those outfits that they wore for the 2011 Royal wedding - a teal and floral Vivienne Westwood suit for Eugenie and a beige Valentino coat for Beatrice, plus a Phillip Treacy hat which was endlessly compared to a toilet seat - were exuberant and interesting, at least, in comparison to the safely elegant ensembles of other guests.
In recent years, Bea has discovered what works and what doesn’t. She’s become a fan of Susie Cave’s label, The Vampire’s Wife, which creates ultra-feminine dresses with nipped waists, fluted hems and chic puffed shoulders. For the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle in May 2018, she looked sublime in a frothy turquoise organza dress by Roksanda, even better still was a navy lace Self Portrait frock for the marriage of Lady Gabriella Windsor in May 2019. This love for rich, jewel tones continued in the elegant purple Ralph and Russo skirt suit which Beatrice wore for little sister Eugenie’s wedding in October 2018.
Soft colours and structured silhouettes have also proven a winning combination; see the pale pink, rik-rak trim Emilia Wickstead dress chosen for Trooping the Colour in 2019 or the baby blue lace dress, again by Self Portrait, debuted at Royal Ascot the same year. Hats-wise, Beatrice now steers clear of anything too overtly sculptural in favour of classic boaters or subtle, flower-adorned headpieces. Off-duty, she keeps things simple in tailored shirtdresses or structured LBDs.
For her engagement photos, which were released in September 2019, Beatrice chose two dresses from Australian It girl favourite label, Zimmermann - a cheerful teal and pink floral design and a silky bias cut number with a ruffled hem. They exemplified her new comfort zone of feminine uplifting pieces with a timeless feel.
With the Jeffrey Epstein scandal still casting a dark shadow over her father, Princess Beatrice may choose to keep a lower profile for the foreseeable future. However, with her mother lifting spirits with her eccentric Fergie and Friends Youtube videos, Beatrice is likely to follow her lead and continue joining her sister with select charitable engagements.
It’s perhaps worth looking at Beatrice’s aunt, Princess Anne, to see how a sensible, personal approach to royal dressing can pay long-term dividends. As she prepares to celebrate her 70th birthday next week, many are now wondering how Anne’s flair for fashion was unappreciated for so long.
If her working wardrobe picks up where that wedding look left off, then Bea could yet become a modern royal style icon.