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An unlikely fashion icon

Posted in Style & Travel

Queen Elizabeth
Check out the tiny waist! A white lace dress donned on a trip to Australia in her early days of her reign

Sofagirl likes to make fun of me and her brother, and our shared passion for everything royal. Sofabrother is actually much more au courant than I am on British royal etiquette and the current status of every royal household member; I am more into English history, inextricably linked to the fortunes of the Plantagenets, the Tudors and, now, the Windsors. Funny thing is, neither of us is English. But both of us flocked to Buckingham Palace when it was first open to the public and, for all our liberal attitudes, we think there is nothing wrong for a bunch of people with no other role than to be a symbol, to live in unimaginable opulence, amid some staggering works of art, by the way.

But we all need symbols and Queen Elizabeth II has undoubtedly done a fabulous job of upholding the image of the United Kingdom as a nation based on integrity, hard work, stiff upper lip and quirk. I have never taken a page out of the Queen’s book for fashion tips but, looking back at thousands of photos taken since before her Coronation, one thing is apparent: this woman knows how to dress to impress.

Unlike Princess Diana or now the Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Elizabeth has never commissioned clothes from fashionable designers; sure, some designers were involved but, reading through the terse royal archives and the scant interviews with those who work  in the Queen’s wardrobe (that is a job indeed), it seems as if the Queen herself is very opinionated when it comes to her attire, giving clear indications on what she wants and helping to shape some of the creations she wears.

If you have ever wondered why the preference for pastels and bright colors, there is a logic behind it: the Queen, a petite woman often facing large crowds, needs to be visible to her subjects. Looking into a maze of people, the yellow or pink hat and matching outfit, will stand out and draw the gaze of commoners and photographers alike.

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A few considerations when dressing the queen:

  • fabrics need to be wrinkle free. It wouldn’t do to emerge from a limousine or a carriage with unseemly creases on the backside;
  • invisible pleats are always sewn in every outfit to maximize comfort and ease of walking, standing, getting up and movement in general;
  • all hems are slightly weighed down – no gust of wind (a common occurrence in English weather) will ever reveal a glimpse of royal thighs;
  • three-quarters sleeves are her preference and never cuffs or flow-y material on her arms: too hard to eat soup properly while trying to keep her dress out of the bowl;
  • umbrellas are always see-through, with maybe some color detail that matches the outfit: the Queen’s face must be visible at all times;
  • some of her clothes are designed to befit important occasions: emerald-green for her last visit to Ireland or thousands of shamrocks sewn on an evening gown for another Irish occasion.

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For possibly the most photographed woman ever, Queen Elizabeth has always managed to look poised, put together and, yes, stylish. Her fashion faux pas have been few and far between during her 60 year reign (sofabrother unearthed one for me).

One of Her Majesty's less successful outfits
One of Her Majesty’s less successful outfits

So while her daughter in law holds our attention with her fashion statements, here is a hurrah for a woman who has achieved to do what so many of us strive for: she found her style. And she did it while the whole world was looking.

The Royal feet travel in sturdy comfort
The Royal feet travel in sturdy comfort

Images sourced from Vogue, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph

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  1. I know, I just couldn’t resist that picture and the one of the “sausage feet” – too endearing

    May 21, 2013
  2. Brilliant post! Loved it! I’m loving the pic of her as a little girl in the cape thing!

    May 21, 2013
  3. Interesting article and ye I think the Queen dressed well before ascending the throne. Why the Duchess of Kent ?

    May 21, 2013
    • Because I can’t keep my royals straight! I meant the Duchess of Cambridge – thanks for catching it.

      May 21, 2013

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