Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne wasn’t just characterized by her impressive reign and noted diplomacy. The monarch’s fashion over the years consistently favored regal elegance over fads, with an impressive post-coronation wardrobe that spoke to the deep understanding she had of her role as a leader of her country—leaving us with a sartorial legacy that ranks as one of the most iconic in the world.
Much like her public life, the Queen’s wardrobe was a visible manifestation of her intensive role as a British monarch. Hazel Clark, a professor of Design Studies and Fashion Studies at Parsons School of Design believes the queen’s dress choices spoke to her personal style as opposed to following fashion trends.
“I would rather describe the Queen’s dress choices as ‘non-fashion’ but with a very strong sense of style, which she has developed and refined throughout her life,” Clark said. “I think it has also helped communicate her status as a world leader: In other words, that sense of consistency in her appearance creates a sense of confidence and continuity.”
Elizabeth, in her early years, preferred polished silhouettes and a high waisted look, which was a good choice for post-war England.
Princess Elizabeth 1947, 1949 and 1948
Elizabeth, Duke of Edinburgh and Philip Mountbatten were two examples of her sensitiveness to the problems her country was experiencing at this moment. She tied the knot in 1947 after the war was over. The then-princess had used two years of saved ration coupons to buy the silk, chiffon and tulle for her Norman Hartnell-designed, with seed pearl-encrusted, royal wedding dress. In addition to the 200 ration coupons she had saved for her royal wedding, she was given generously 200 more.
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Six years later Elizabeth made another visit to Hartnell for her coronation attire, which was a white duchesse satin dress that had been embroidered in gold-silver thread with Commonwealth and national floral emblems. It also featured seed pearls and was embellished by silver thread.
On her wedding day, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II in 1947. Queen Elizabeth II wore the Norman Hartnell gown for her 1953 coronation ceremony.
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The Queen’s wardrobe following her coronation spoke to the deep understanding she had of her role as a leader of her country. This was why she chose clean, elegant lines, and styles that were both stylish and timeless, while not being trend-setting. Elizabeth’s silhouettes and hemlines were conservative, but she found ways to express herself through vibrant colors and bold prints.
Queen Elizabeth II, 1987 (2)
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The Queen’s love for hats was a part of British fashion culture. She wore a polka-dotted pillbox cap with matching skirt suits and a bold, colorful pillbox hat.
Queen Elizabeth ll 1993; 1987; 1998
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The Queen was a strong advocate for uniform dress, even though it is based on established elements. However, fans can take risks with these variables. Take, for example, Elizabeth’s approach to formal wear. Long-sleeved, sheath dresses were favored by the Queen. They are often accented with jewels and crystals. This silhouette is not boring when you consider the accessories she wore: the right tie, sash and gloves gave life to what was once considered a traditional royal outfit.
Queen Elizabeth II 1993, 1976 and 1982
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Elizabeth was able to wear casual clothes with the same elegance. Even though she wasn’t often seen with pants, her hospital trip required that Elizabeth wear a stylish gray suit with matching slacks. The rest of her downtime attire paid homage the classic English leisure wear, including Wellington boots, quilted jackets and headscarves.
Queen Elizabeth II, 1977; 2002; and 1980
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Queen Elizabeth was a fashion icon in her later years. Her penchant for color-blocking and monochrome made her the most popular of all her style trends.
2018; Queen Elizabeth II (2008); 2019; 2018.
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Elizabeth wore one colour from head-to toe, and it was not overwhelming. This is especially true when you consider how much care she took to ensure that the accessories were appropriate. It is only a matter of time before we see Elizabeth’s famous umbrellas which she carefully matched with all her outfits.
2007; Queen Elizabeth II 2017
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The Queen’s affinity for vibrant and bright colors for her outfits wasn’t just an aesthetic thing either; in the documentary At 90 the Queen Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law Sophie, Countess of Wessex, explains that there was a very pragmatic reason for her bright looks, and it was for the good of her subjects. “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the queen,’” she said. “Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are two, three, four, 10, 15 deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the queen’s hat as she went past.”
Queen Elizabeth embodied elegance, poise, and thoughtful style. Her fashion choices were a model for the new royal.
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