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Queen's diamond jubilee inspires fashion world

7 May 2012

"Age before beauty" is not an adage to which the fashion industry usually subscribes. But as the Queen's diamond jubilee approaches, the duchess of Cambridge is being nudged out of the spotlight as fashion scrambles to pay homage to her grandmother-in-law.

Kate Middleton's trademarks of Reiss dresses, fascinators and LK Bennett wedges are being overshadowed by a more majestic aesthetic: diamonds, corgis and teacups.

Eleven corgis feature on Topshop's latest summer tote bag, while another (in a tiara) has landed the June cover of Tatler. Anna Dello Russo, the Italian fashion director of Vogue Japan whose eyecatching front row outfits have propelled her to fashion stardom and a just-announced capsule collection at H&M, has named the Queen as her ultimate fashion icon. Longtime iconoclast Dame Vivienne Westwood, meanwhile, has blended the Union Jack with influences from the Queen's own wardrobe to create a limited edition diamond jubilee collection of evening dresses.

Online jeweller Astley Clarke has added a gold tea cup with a scattering of brown diamond 'tea leaves' to their collection of charms.

Selfridges is celebrating the jubilee with an exhibition taking a radical look at British fashion in the years when the Queen was a young princess. The then vogue for Capri pants and the striking millinery of the era, recreated for the exhibition by Stephen Jones, "present the Queen's hippest early fashion era under a bright, brand new light". Fashion historian Judith Clark, curator of the exhibition, hopes to highlight "the utilitarian twist that the British gave to the Dior silhouette" by recreating outfits from Vogue patterns of the era.

"These are very glamorous silhouettes, coloured in the English rose pink that was associated with the princess. These are all looks the Queen would have worn, and given that we are in a recession it seems appropriate to be looking at making clothes from patterns and this very British, DIY approach to fashion."

While gift shops cash in on union flag tea towels, the Bond Street jeweller Asprey is selling a rather more high-end souvenir of the jubilee. A reworking of Equanimity, the 2004 holographic portrait of the Queen by light artist Chris Levine, has been commissioned for display over the jubilee period. The original portrait features the diamond diadem worn by the Queen on the day of her coronation, and for the new work 1,000 brilliant cut white diamonds are being set in platinum and overlaid onto the three dimensional image. The new piece, an interplay of light and diamonds which Levine describes as "a kind of alchemy, using light and its magic force to generate huge positivity" will be auctioned via silent bids, with proceeds donated to two of the Queen's charities, the Woodland Trust and the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, which supports training in British craftmanship. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the financial spectrum, QVC have taken inspiration from the huge success of Marks & Spencer's replica of Kate Middleton's engagement ring, and created a costume-jewellery replica of the imperial state crown, which will also be auctioned for charity. The real crown, made from gold, platinum, silver, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, pearls, velvet and ermine, features the Culinan II, which at 317.4 carats is the second largest cut diamond in the world.

The Queen's jewellery is the focus of the summer opening of Buckingham Palace, where an unprecedented display of the royal family's personal jewels will form the centrepiece. Last summer, the display of the duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress drew a record 600,000 visitors to the palace. This year, jewels including the "South Africa" diamond necklace presented to the then Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday in 1947, the miniature crown worn by Queen Victoria for her 1897 jubilee portrait, and the Williamson brooch – which features the finest pink diamond ever discovered – will be displayed in an attempt to lure London's Olympic and jubilee visitors to the palace.

But before that, the monarch faces her ultimate style test. Karl Lagerfeld – whose sharp tongue most recently lashed Adele for being "a little fat" – has been signed up by France 2 as a commentator for coverage of the 3 June jubilee events.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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