It’s undeniable that Queen Elizabeth II was a style icon – but what made her fashion sense so successful?
Dr Kate Strasdin, a Royal fashion historian, says it was all down to subtlety, consistency, and colour-blocking.
‘It was a “steady-at-the-helm” approach to appearance – which went from her hairstyle down, really,’ explained Kate, who works as a senior lecturer in cultural studies at Falmouth University, Cornwall.
‘There were tweaks and adaptations over time, but actually, her sartorial consistency was part of her appeal.
‘Her identity was rooted in this calm sense of consistency – so while everything else could be tumultuous and the world felt unsteady, you could look at her at any point and she looked herself.
‘This became part of her genius in terms of sticking to her style and not changing too much.
‘Consistency became really important.
‘When you have tumultuous times in a monarchy and people feel differently about the place of the monarch in society overall – the consistency she provided can’t really be underplayed.’
Paying tribute to the Queen’s ‘incredible style legacy’, Dr Strasdin noted that Elizabeth’s clothing choices often acted as a way to communicate with the public.
‘There was speculation about her brooches – a form of adornment and the way she wore them during key moments,’ she said.
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‘There’s brilliant analysis on her choice of brooches for example when Donald Trump made his State Visit and she – presumably very deliberately – wore a brooch that President Obama had given her a few years before.
‘The following night she wore a brooch that the Canadian Premier had given her at a time when Donald Trump had clashed directly with the Canadian Primacy at that point.
‘There were a number of occasions where she used her jewellery to communicate.
‘It was never very overt but anyone who chooses to look at the origins of the jewellery she chooses would be able to find perhaps some kind of link to her conveying some kind of message – bit it was always very subtle.
‘Subtlety became at the heart of her style as far as dress was concerned.’
When you think of the Queen’s fashion, you likely think of those brightly coloured sets she was so known for in her later years.
Elizabeth was known to have said ‘I need to be seen to be believed’, and once joked that if she wore beige, no one would know who she was.
‘This became a more recent phenomenon – if you look back at what the Queen was wearing in the 50s, 60s and 70s – it wasn’t particularly a theme in her wardrobe,’ Kate noted.
‘She had all sorts of things going on and certainly in the 80s and 90s, people weren’t always very complimentary about her choices.
‘The colour blocking was a more recent phenomenon under the leadership of Angela Kelly – who was taken on as her dresser but also essentially her private secretary in many ways.
‘She took on this role along with a team of 10 other people.
‘Angela Kelly designed and oversaw the creation of what the Queen wore, so the colour blocking did become a feature of the last 10 to 15 years.’
Looking to the future, Kate ponders how the next generation will continue the Royal style legacy, and how they will shape what a modern Royal looks like.
She said: ‘Protocols are mired in expectations and demands about dress – particularly for women.
‘It will be interesting to see how this continues with Kate Middleton, for example.’