Looking back at the Queen’s vibrant and surprising fashion legacy

queen elizabeth fashion legacy
In celebration of the Queen's fashion legacyGetty Images

One year on from the sad news of Queen Elizabeth II's passing, we're given an opportunity to reflect on the monarch's significant reign. During Her Majesty's 70 years on the throne, the Queen became a symbol of endurance and stability – qualities that were also reflected in an archive of considered style decisions. Here, we take a moment to reflect on the Queen's fashion legacy and how the monarch's approach to fashion was deeply self-aware.

Ascending to the throne at the age of 25, the monarch's royal wardrobe spans multiple decades and style eras. Her Majesty's wardrobe, however, remained impervious to passing trends. Instead, Elizabeth II adopted a more timeless approach to dressing. Rather than selecting outfits based on social currency, the Queen favoured looks that sent a message - even on her own wedding day in 1947. The monarch used ration vouchers to purchase the duchess satin used to create her Norman Hartnell wedding dress, as was commonplace for brides at the time.

Even back then, Queen Elizabeth II's style choice was mindful of her role as a leader.

Despite this dutiful approach to dressing, Queen Elizabeth II also managed to strike a balance by having fun with clothing. In her later years, the monarch was a firm believer in the power of a wardrobe uniform. Her Majesty's signature look, characterised by a monochromatic set and matching hat, was regularly offset with bold pigmented hues and eye-catching prints. The Queen's wardrobe was a royal masterclass in dopamine dressing, wearing outfits spanning the whole rainbow. These vibrant fashion choices, in turn, also served a practical purpose.

"She needs to stand out for people to be able to say 'I saw the queen,'" explained Sophie, Countess of Wessex, explained in the documentary The Queen at 90. "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."

In some instances, the Queen's colour choices were even thought to be used to send diplomatic messages. In 2011, Her Majesty made history as the first British monarch to visit Ireland in 100 years and the first since the nation gained independence from Britain. For the occasion, the Queen opted for a set in the country's iconic green hue, interpreted as a gesture of respect.

When meeting controversial former President, Donald Trump, in the summer of 2018, many also interpreted Her Majesty's sartorial decision to wear a brooch - gifted to her by Barack and Michelle Obama, as a symbol of friendship - to be a cheeky-yet-sly hint at her thoughts on the US leader (whilst remaining neutral on the surface).

Throughout her reign, the Queen expertly used her clothing as a tool to communicate both within and between nations. The monarch's unwavering allegiance to her personal style – be it a floral dress or neon yellow co-ord, even when meeting with officials in suits and military regalia – is iconic of feminine strength, duty, and leadership. Queen Elizabeth II's legacy, in turn, reminds us of the power of fashion to help shape and enrich relationships with those around us.

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