A royal reign of style

Thursday 27 August 2015
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Kelly Lynch of The Duchess Diary celebrates the royal reign with a look at the Queen's style over the years... 

For the Queen, 9 September 2015 will be like any other day. But for her subjects, and for historians who’ve waited for a milestone such as this, it will be a record-breaking day. Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, will surpass her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, as the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Victoria ruled for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes (63 years and 7 months). Her’s was an era of austerity, and of a certain style defined by petticoats, corsets and bodices that nipped the waist.

An era defined by style

Buckingham Palace

Much like any public figure, especially as women, both Victoria and Elizabeth have made a sartorial impact. The latter gained exposure with corseted gowns and stylish hats, many of which have been on display during several exhibitions around the world, as well as Her Majesty's official home itself, Buckingham Palace. In fact, this year's exhibit inside the palace state rooms showcases A Royal Welcome. Displays throughout the State Rooms have recreated the settings for royal occasions, and give an insight into what goes into creating a royal welcome, from the laying of a table at a State Banquet, to the creation of an outfit worn by Her Majesty The Queen to receive visitors.

Designers fit for a Queen

Her Majesty chose the designer Norman Hartnell to create both her wedding and coronation gowns. The latter in particular held special significance for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms, for it featured emblems such as the Tudor rose for England, thistle for Scotland, leek for Wales, shamrock for Ireland, maple leaf for Canada, wattle for Australia, and fern for New Zealand.

Another one of the Queen’s favourite designers was Hardy Amies, who was responsible for most of her smartly tailored daywear. “How proud I am that I have been and am still able to serve the Queen by making dresses for her," Amies once recalled in his diary. "To me Queen Elizabeth II typifies all that I admire most in the English women’s attitude to dress. Everything was relaxed but totally businesslike.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip sitting in a horse-drawn carriage

Striking a balance

What I love most about Her Majesty’s style throughout her 63-year reign is the balance of chic and conservative. “Her Majesty is acutely aware of how invasive the press are - her clothes are part of her armour,” a courtier told The Telegraph in 2012. “And, after a whole lifetime of wearing couture, she knows exactly what she is doing and makes it perfectly clear when things aren't quite right.” Her hemlines were never too daring, but her silhouettes were feminine, colourful and the source of replicas long before the Duchess of Cambridge became a trendsetter. In fact Catherine has borrowed the necklace Her Majesty wore for an official portrait in 1952, the same month she ascended the throne following the death of her father, King George VI. Along with the necklace, the Queen wore Queen Mary's Dorset Bow Brooch and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara.

In 2013 the Queen’s senior dresser, Angela Kelly, put together a glossy lookbook of the designs she created for her boss, particularly those worn during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympic games. Each page of Dressing The Queen showed off bright colours, glistening fabrics and jaunty hats that define the Queen’s formidable persona. After all, one must be seen to be believed.  

 

Kelly Lynch is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Duchess Diary, a site dedicated to celebrating all that is entertaining about royalty. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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