“If I wore beige, no one would know who I was,” is one of Queen Elizabeth’s most memorable quotes, and one that shows her sense of humour as well as her sense of style. She clearly thought carefully about what she wore and how she wore it, and knew when you’re in the public eye, what you wear matters. She had the confidence to steer clear of frivolous trends that would quickly fall out of favour. But that didn't mean she was boring or safe in her fashion choices. Far from it.
She created her own powerful, yet joyful uniform with bold, bright block-coloured coats and matching hats becoming her signature style. It has often been said that her use of colour was a considered choice to ensure Her Majesty, a petite 5ft 3in, stood out in a crowd of well-wishers.
Her unwavering commitment to colour was second to none. She wore colours that few people dare to wear. From candyfloss pink to zingy tangerine, and who could forget her unapologetic decision to dress in neon at 92 to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex? There wasn’t a hue Her Majesty didn’t wear, but then, with hundreds of engagements to attend a year and often having to change up to five times a day, variety of colour was everything. She was ever the diplomat, so sadly we will never know which was her favourite colour, but I always thought she looked positively beautiful and radiant in daffodil yellow, which worn head-to-toe is not an easy colour to pull off. In fact, whatever palette she picked, it suited her perfectly.
The Queen’s remarkably consistent, well-chosen rainbow wardrobe made her as recognisable to us as a member of our own family. Rarely deviating from an immaculately tailored dress and coat that fell below the knee, accessorised with a matching hat, a three-strand pearl necklace, an heirloom brooch, smart black Anello & Davide loafers (a style she wore for half a century), white or black cotton jersey Cornelia James gloves and finished with her trusty Launer London handbag (with a marmalade sandwich inside), carried in the crook of her arm.
The Queen wore nothing by accident - there was always a visual message communicated through her clothes. Every detail was a considered choice, a strategic weapon on the battleground of national and international diplomacy. Jewellery and colours were loaded with symbolic weight, often carrying hidden meanings. She wore green – the symbolic colour of hope and new beginnings when She addressed the nation during the pandemic and reassured us that 'we would all meet again'.
We can’t talk about The Queen’s wardrobe without an acknowledgment to Angela Kelly, Queen Elizabeth’s personal wardrobe advisor, who was responsible for maintaining, curating, and designing Her Majesty’s wardrobe for nearly three decades. In all her years of dressing under the public eye, how did The Queen never once make a fashion faux pas? We have Angela to thank for the little unsung details that made Her Majesty look nothing but faultless. Practicalities underpinned the royal wardrobe; from only choosing quality crease-free fabrics to hemlines custom-lined with tiny metal weights to stop any windy-day wardrobe disasters and opting for dresses rather than skirts so no rearranging of garments were required as she stepped out of a vehicle. Angela went above and beyond - coincidently, she had the same size four feet as The Queen and would break in the royal shoes so that the Queen didn’t endure blisters (we all would love to have an Angela in our lives).
With her unique sense of style, bold use of colour and clever details, Queen Elizabeth II showed the world that personal taste can be balanced with duty and formality. Though her legacy extends far beyond fashion, The Queen will always remain one the greatest fashion icons of her time.
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