A look at Queen Elizabeth II’s style through the decades

A look at Queen Elizabeth II's style through the decades


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May 26, 2022 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II just might have the hardest working wardrobe on the planet.

“Every outfit worn in public is carefully calibrated to inspire or remind, to signal gratitude or respect, to convey a sense of power or familiarity,”The Mail on Sunday, February 15, 2015 “Her Majesty neither sets trends nor follows them — but while she is deaf to the siren call of fashion, she has her own singular style.”

From her tiaras, hats and Hermes scarves to her Launer London handbags and even her umbrellas, the queen’s style has been hyper-documented since her birth, young princess days, ascension to the throne and now, more than 70 years into her reign, as she celebrates her Platinum JubileeAt age 96.

Her bright coats are now well-known, so that they can be seen by large crowds. She also wore matching brimmed caps. The queen was a young, glamorous monarch in her earlier years.

Some highlights of the queen’s style through the years:



Wool or cotton? The queen’s very birth prompted style debate, writes Bethan Holt, fashion editor of The Telegraph and author of this year’s “The Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style.”

Her wardrobe was a subject of national fascination from the start. She had a layette made by her mother and grandmother with a little help from British underprivileged women. What babies wearing wool looked like “little gnomes,” Lilibet’s mum, then the Duchess of York, opted for frilly cotton, rejecting anything too fussy.

Four years later, Margaret, the sister of the future queen, arrived. The sisters often teamed it up, dressing alike until their teens. But the future queen was a girl. “never cared a fig”Marion Crawford, Marion’s former governess spoke about clothes.

“She wore what she was told without argument, apart from a long, drab mackintosh that she loathed,”Crawford wrote her controversial memoir “The Little Princesses.”


After the turbulent abdication of her uncle, and the rise of her dad to become King George VI, Princess Elizabeth was made heiress presumptive (absent any future male descendants, which never happened).

According to Holt, Norman Hartnell is the couturier. Although there were other designers, Hartnell was responsible for dressing the family, including the princesses at 11 and 6. Their “bow-adorned dresses and little cloaks signalled a return to the calm dependability of the monarchy,”Holt wrote.

Elizabeth, 18, began to make more public appearances during World War II. She was a mechanic and trained in the early 1945 towards the end. Holt claims that this was the first time she wore pants (and boiler suits) in her entire life.

The queen was and is a practical dresser, but she was also glamorous in sparkling gowns when she felt the need. And she often went short sleeved or with no sleeves at all, something that doesn’t happen today. Shortly before her wedding in 1947, she wore a simple, light-colored, sleeveless dress with sleeves above her elbow and peekaboo heels on her size 4 (6 U.S.).

“People want to see their royals looking like royals, but equally, they don’t want to think that taxpayers’ money is being blown away,”Nick Bullen is editor in chief at True Royalty TV.


Hartnell transformed the florals of Botticelli’s “Primavera”In a gown of pearls and white crystals. But it wasn’t easy. Holt wrote that there were still difficult diplomatic questions in the aftermath of the war. Customs confiscated 10,000 seed pearls originating from the U.S. and journalists were assured that the silk woven in Essex and Kent was derived from worms. “nationalist”China, rather than “enemy” Japan.

Many people from the U.K. sent Princess Elizabeth their ration coupons to be used for dress materials. Holt said that she was able to save her own money and requested 200 extra from the government.

“It showed the thirst there was in the country for this big moment of glamour,”She said. “In recent years, we have known the queen and Prince Philip as this sweet old couple but we have to remember, in that time they were this dazzling, glamorous new couple on the scene.”

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Behind-the-scenes drama was part of the wedding. Queen Mary’s Fringe tiara, made by Elizabeth’s grandmother from a necklace given to Mary by Queen Victoria, snapped right before the ceremony and was rushed off to crown jeweler Garrard for repair.

The wedding dress and the dress “a real moment of hope,”Holt stated.


She settled on skirts and dresses that were below the knee many years ago. However, her hemlines were sometimes a problem for senior family members. In 1952, the 25-year-old queen led her family in mourning at her father’s funeral in accordance to strict dress codes set out during the reign of Queen Victoria, according to Holt.

Queen Mary curtsied to her granddaughter, kissing each cheek, and she admonished: “Lilibet, your skirts are much too short for mourning,”Holt writes. The new queen’s dress hovered well above her ankles yet respectfully below the knee, while that of her grandmother reached the ground. All but Queen Elizabeth II were covered with black veils after the death of Prince Albert, 40 years ago.

“The evolution of the queen’s style from young princess to longest-serving monarch in British history has her being of the time but not following fashion,” Bullen said.


Today’s queen wore a pair of sensible brogues or block heels, usually made by Anello & Davide. A custom Launer was perched on her arm, and a brooch on the other shoulder. As her country style, she wears tartans and plaids kilts and skirts in tartans. The queen of the early 1950s charmed the globe in nipped in waists, pencil silhouettes, and some floaty full experiments as a result of the post-war fashion earthquake.

“In the early years of her reign, she really embraced Dior’s New Look aesthetic, and women looked to her outfits as a source of inspiration, much like people do with the Duchess of Cambridge today,”Kristin Conto, Style reporter at Page Six, said the following:

There was a playful glamour in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, including a bold multicolored evening dress in 1999 for a Royal Variety Performance. Karl-Ludwig Rehse designed it. It featured a vibrant sequin-pattern bodice with a diamond-pattern pattern of bright yellows, greens, and pink.

There were also some trouser days and a turban phase in the ’60s and ’70s amid a wide range of hat styles.

The queen learned of her father’s passing on a stop in Kenya en route to Australia. Holt wrote that there are reports that she was wearing jeans to meet a herd elephants when her father died at Sandringham. After a knee operation, she wore slacks in Zambia in 1979 and a trouser set in England in 2003.

Margaret, the rebel, was a fashion plate in Dior, among other designers, and her influence was felt by Elizabeth. According to Holt the queen’s little sister helped her discover new British designers. She also introduced her to milliner Simone Mirman. Mirman created some of the queen’s standout hats, including her Tudor-style “medieval helmet,”Hartnell called it “soft yellow” in 1969 for Prince Charles’ investiture.

“Margaret was really in tune with fashion. She would have been the one reading Vogue. And so she would often go with the queen to appointments to help her inject that little bit of extra style into her looks,”Holt stated.

The queen is a stickler for British designers but has a long-standing love for silk scarves by Hermes, a French fashion house. In her honor, several special designs have been created by the brand. It did so in 2016, with a horse-themed scarf, to mark her 90th Birthday.

One doesn’t equate the queen of today with a mad rush to copy her style, but for a brief spell in the 1950s women could do just that thanks to her love of cotton dresses in dainty floral or abstract prints from Horrockses Fashions, a British ready-to-wear brand, Holt said.

Another view from those early years is also worth mentioning. The Empire Theatre hosted a spectacular viewing of the musical comedy in October 1952, shortly after the queen had ascended the throne. “Because You’re Mine.”The Hartnell gown, which was tuxedo-like, was black and featured wide lapels in a high halter design. It was paired with long white gloves and a tiara on the top of her head, as well as a diamond bracelet on one side.

She was in every newspaper and magazine the next day. Manufacturers were quick to copy it. It was nicknamed the Magpie, and she never wore it again.

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The queen loves color coordination, and she is a big fan of bright colors and pastels in her coats and floral dresses.

This is also true for her clear, bird cage umbrellas. They’re made by Fulton Umbrellas and are attainable at $30 or less, though the queen’s are custom made. She owns about 100 in a rainbow of colors but contrary to reports, she doesn’t possess 200 of her favorite Launer bags, Holt said. Gerald Bodmer was eager to clear up the myth after rescuing Launer in 1981.

“He says she has several styles in several colors. He says that 200 is very far off the mark,”Holt stated.

Launer extends her leather bags’ straps to make it easier to hang them on her arm. They also make them lighter to carry. What does she have in her bag? Bullen said he’s heard there’s always a lipstick, a handkerchief and a photo of Prince Philip, who died last year at 99.

Irish designer Paul Costelloe, who dressed Princess Diana in the 1980s and ’90s, told the AP of the queen’s style: “She’s a bit like a schoolteacher, a good schoolteacher. She never shocks. She gets it right.”


Follow Leanne Italy on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/litalie


This report was contributed by Sylvia Hui, an Associated Press writer based in London.

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