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Queen Elizabeth II: A tribute to our eternal queen of style

From standout brights to on-point accessories and bedazzling jewels, the Queen was the ultimate fashion icon

queen elizabeth
Becky Donaldson
Becky DonaldsonFeature Director
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Her Majesty the Queen passed away aged 96 on 8 September 2022. The royal family confirmed the sad news in a statement which read: "The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow."

In tribute we share our tribute to her eternal style, which originally featured in the June 2022 issue of Hello! Fashion:

Celebrating 70 years on the throne this year, the Queen is the longest - reigning British monarch in history. She's been served by a total of 14 prime ministers and seen 13 US presidents elected during her reign.

Setting more records, she became the first monarch to be crowned in a televised coronation ceremony, aged 27; and she even created (perhaps inadvertently) her own dog breed the 'dorgi", when her own corgi mated with a dachshund belonging to Princess Margaret. For 70 years, not only has the Queen, who published her first Instagram post in 2019, been an iconic monarch - but the ultimate fashion influencer.

RELATED: Historical handbags and their muses: Why Launer is The Queen's favourite handbag brand

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The Queen is one of the biggest 'influencers' of all time

"Over her long reign, the Queen has evolved from a wasp-waisted young princess to an elegant elder stateswoman and her distinctive style has served her well," says Liz Wyse, etiquette adviser, Debrett's. As a young Queen, Her Majesty first looked to British couturier Norman Hartnell for her early wardrobe. Also a favourite of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, his designs, which were longer and more streamlined than the flapper styles of the 20s, are said to have influenced Christian Dior's revolutionary 'New Look'. However, soon after, creating a less 'fashionable' and more understated sartorial style for the Queen's official engagements, was Hardy Amies, who dressed her from the 50s to the 90s.

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The Queen and her beloved dogs

The British designer told The Sunday Telegraph in 1997, "There's always something cold and rather cruel about chic clothes, which she wants to avoid". Whilst Norman once said, "The Queen and Queen Mother do not want to be fashion-setters. That's left to other people with less important work to do". This objective has steered the Queen's on-duty wardrobe until today. "Over the years, she has evolved a signature look that combines sharp tailoring, striking colour blocks and an array of familiar royal accessories - eye-catching hats or silk headscarves, matching gloves, court shoes and a boxy, top-fastening handbag, inevitably held over the crook of her arm," says Liz.

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The Queen wearing blue and her favourite Launer bag

The sensibility behind her bold use of colour - such as neon green, purple, yellow, lavender, fuchsia and, of course, royal blue - is quite sweet. Wearing beige would not allow her to stand out in a crowd, and the Queen would like the tens of thousands of people who have made the effort to attend her appearances to actually catch a glimpse of her, and to be able to say, 'I saw the Queen.'

Interestingly, on the flipside, when attending the wedding of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Queen opted for a cream coat dress; and she chose an equally muted pewter jacquard ensemble when her grandson Peter Phillips married Autumn Kelly. Presumably this decision was made so she would not take attention away from the bride.  Loyally, the Queen’s style does not only reflect the state of the nation (like many 40s brides, she purchased her duchesse satin Norman Hartnell wedding gown with ration vouchers); but it is steeped in messaging that is there to be decoded. "The Queen is well aware that, as well as always looking stately and stylish, her clothes are both symbolic and diplomatic. A simple choice of colour may show recognition of national sensibilities, while a brooch or intricate embroidered design can pay a subtle tribute to a host nation," says Liz.

The many carefully selected brooches that she is rarely seen without include her Grima ruby brooch, which was gifted by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1966. Sentimentally, she chose to wear it in the couple’s official platinum wedding anniversary portrait in 2017. Just as poignant, paying tribute to her late husband, she wore a sapphire chrysanthemum brooch in his honour, for her annual Christmas Day speech last year. She wore the New Zealand silver fern brooch she was given by Lady Allum, wife of the then mayor of Auckland, on Christmas Day 1953 to St Mary’s Cathedral in Auckland, the same day she received the gift. Then loaned it to the Duchess of Cambridge for her trip to New Zealand and Australia in 2014.  And, during her televised coronavirus address to the nation in 2020, when she said, "We should take comfort that, while we may have more still to endure, better days will return," she opted for a turquoise and diamond brooch – turquoise is considered a symbol of luck and protection. Since 2002,

Angela Kelly has been personal assistant and senior dresser to the Queen  and it has been widely noted that she is responsible for the Queen’s subtly updated ensembles that are meticulously logged – so if repeated, it is intentional. As far as accessories go, the Queen has stuck to her staunch favourites. Her chosen milliner is Rachel Trevor Morgan, who was granted a royal warrant in 2014. Hats cannot be too tall, to ensure they don’t obstruct her exit from a car, nor can they obscure her face. 

Her Majesty’s (usually black patent) ‘work’ shoes are handmade by Anello & Davide of Kensington, west London, from calf leather with either a brass clasp or bow. She wears the same pairs for many years, re-heeling them when needed. Reportedly, so that the shoes offer the right amount of comfort to endure her busy diary, a junior member of royal staff, nicknamed ‘Cinders’, wears them in for her. This has, on occasion, been Angela Kelly, who more recently consulted Stuart Weitzman, Manolo Blahnik and Kurt Geiger’s CEO Neil Clifford, by way of further updating the monarch’s wardrobe. 

The Queen has long been associated with Launer; it is said she has over 200 of its unfussy structured bags that are recognised by a silver twisted rope logo. She was first gifted one by the Queen Mother and has exclusively carried them since. Her favourites are the black leather Royale and the black patent Traviata. Additionally, the Queen’s official ‘duty’ uniform consists of gloves by Cornelia James and a string of pearls, which she is rarely seen without. A tradition going back centuries in the history of queens, her favourite is a three-strand necklace made from family heirloom pearls. 

Of course, she also has an on-point, off-duty country casual wardrobe to wear whilst holidaying at Balmoral or Sandringham – or to more ‘sporty’ occasions. These comprise tartan skirts, wax jackets or quilted gilets and, of course, a silk headscarf – always custom-made or vintage Hermès. She has worn both horse-bit and dog-print scarves, which nod towards her love of animals. 

In 2018, the Queen surprised the fashion world when she attended Richard Quinn’s catwalk show, sitting on the front row next to US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. After the show, when she presented him with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, he told us that he did weave in a ‘Balmoral’ segment to the line-up when he was informed of his special guest. "The silk-scarf section was basically in honour of the Queen. So everything was made or cut into the shape of a silk scarf," he said.  Another London-based designer that has paid tribute to the Queen is Erdem, who was inspired by her 50s style for his SS18 show that included floral dresses, long gloves, ribbons, capes and lots of ruffles. 

The Queen has surprised us many times over the years: from working as a mechanic for the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service and truck driver in World War II, to playing a cameo alongside Daniel Craig as James Bond where she ‘parachuted’ into the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony; and during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow she photobombed the selfie of two members of the Australian women’s hockey team. Moving with the times in both her outlook and style, the Queen has on occasions nodded more literally towards fashion trends.

Such as an orange kaftan she wore for US president Jimmy Carter’s UK visit in the 70s, puffed sleeves and jazzy prints during the 80s and she oozed Hollywood glamour attending a gala in Los Angeles thrown by Nancy Reagan. More recently, one of the most photographed women in the world delighted when she wore knee-high boots to Sandringham church; and since 2019, along with many fashion designers and public figures, she has shunned real fur. "The Queen is not just a woman; she is a figurehead and her appearance is truly iconic," concludes Liz.

This story was originally printed in the June 2022 issue of Hello! Fashion.

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