Deciphering the Queen’s colorful style

Written by Lea Dolan, CNN

Contributors Video: Angelica Pursley, CNN; Max Burnell, CNN

As Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, the Queen is both a valued and consistent part of public life – her image is synonymous with stability and tradition for the British people.

When the masses gather and dutifully wait to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty, the color she comes in is also more important than you might think. Standing at 5ft 3in, bright hues like yellow, fuschia, purple, chartreuse and periwinkle make her easier to spot in large crowds. The Queen’s daring wardrobe is so distinctive that it has spawned entire books devoted to recording every radiant outfit. In “Our Rainbow Queen”, Welsh journalist Sali Hughes notes Her Majesty’s color wheel considerations: “(She) will not wear green over grassy places, nor dark colors against dark upholstery.”

The monarch’s commitment to a vibrant color palette is a sign of respect for those who take the time to support her in person. “She needs to stand out so people can say ‘I’ve seen the Queen,'” says Sophie Rhys-Jones, the Countess of Wessex, in the 2016 documentary ‘The Queen at 90’.

The Queen’s official 90th birthday at The Mall on June 11, 2016 in London, England. Credit: DZY/FilmMagic/FilmMagic

There is an art to dressing one of the most photographed women in history. During her 70-year reign, the Queen has amassed an army of staff, but few have been given the job of royal dressmaker. British designers Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies, Stewart Parvin and Angela Kelly all helped develop her style, avoiding the trend cycles that can quickly fall out of favor.

Kelly – the Queen’s dress adviser for nearly three decades and a close confidante – has created an airtight formula that ensures that each of her 300 annual engagements hits the mark. From weighted fail-safe hemlines and bet-worthy hats, to well-researched weather forecasts and local customs, the queen’s outfits are simply sensible.

The Queen during a visit to the Royal Australian Air Force Memorial on March 31, 2021 near Egham, England.

The Queen during a visit to the Royal Australian Air Force Memorial on March 31, 2021 near Egham, England. Credit: Pool WPA/Getty Images

“Our role as dressers is to ensure Her Majesty is appropriately dressed for every occasion,” Angela Kelly wrote in her 2019 monarch-approved memoir, “The Other Side of the Coin.”

“I seek movement with light and soft materials, and I might even turn on a fan to see how they behave in a breeze… When the light changes, or when Her Majesty moves through an indoor space, it will have a effect on the color and texture of the fabric, and this must be taken into account.”

Her Majesty carrying her trusty Launer handbag during her visit to Balmoral, Scotland in 1974.

Her Majesty carrying her trusty Launer handbag during her visit to Balmoral, Scotland in 1974. Credit: Anwar Hussein/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

Her monochromatic looks are usually adorned with a three-row pearl necklace and a sparkling antique brooch set in gold or silver, while a shiny Launer handbag usually sits in the crook of her elbow. Not only do these basic accessories bring a sense of occasion to the queen’s ensembles, but they’re something of a sartorial crest that onlookers await and dissect – with many eager to discover sentimental stories behind each item. Take, for example, the hand-painted centenary rose brooch commissioned by the Queen as a 100th birthday gift from the Queen Mother, which she in turn wore on a Christmas show less than a year ago. later after the death of his mother.

Her Majesty goes horse riding in Windsor Home Park over the UK's May Bank Holiday weekend.

Her Majesty goes horse riding in Windsor Home Park over the UK’s May Bank Holiday weekend. Credit: Pool WPA/Getty Images

For languid afternoons spent walking the grounds of Scotland’s Balmoral Estate, the Queen isn’t shy about ditching her color-block tailoring and wearing muted country clothes in tweed and tartan. His off-duty attire is of equal importance and often sets the tone for political arrangements. In 2016, when the Obamas arrived at Windsor Castle to meet Her Majesty for the third time, the Queen wore a silk scarf tied under her chin (a defining feature of her more casual outfits), signaling a familiarity and informal tone. .

The Queen wearing the centenary rose brooch in 2008.

The Queen wearing the centenary rose brooch in 2008. Credit: Max Momby/Indigo/Getty Images

fashion statements

Calm, appropriate and always strategic, the Queen’s style choices are as much a form of diplomacy as an expression of identity.

In 2011, Her Majesty became the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland since its inception – and the first to enter the country for a century.

The historic state visit was not taken lightly, with delicate considerations infusing every detail of the trip down to the stitches in his clothes. The Queen masterfully demonstrated fashion’s soft power potential by arriving in Dublin dressed in a green coat and matching hat – the de facto national color of Ireland. Later in the visit, she donned a white silk dress adorned with more than 2,000 hand-stitched embroidered shamrocks and a Swarovski crystal Irish harp brooch.

Even early in her career, the Queen was well aware of the value of image-making and optics. Coming to power (and coming of age) during World War II, the young princess quickly became a vision of hope and optimism in war-torn Britain. She stoked those fires in every way possible – carefully constructing an image that conveyed authority, elegance and decorum. One of the most readily available sources was her wardrobe.

Her Majesty on her engagement to Prince Philip in 1947.

Her Majesty on her engagement to Prince Philip in 1947. Credit: Hulton Archives/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images

In 1947, two years after the end of the war, the Queen wore clothes ration coupons to buy her wedding dress – a common practice for brides at the time. It was a common gesture, although Her Majesty received 200 additional government coupons to help cover the cost. The dress, made of ivory silk and duchess satin with a 15-foot train, was designed by Norman Hartnell.
Queen Elizabeth II watches pallbearers carry the coffin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh inside St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021.

Queen Elizabeth II watches pallbearers carry the coffin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh inside St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021. Credit: Pool WPA/Getty Images

At one of her most recent public engagements – the funeral commemorating her beloved husband, the Duke of Edinburgh – the Queen wore all black in line with a tradition of mourning. Typically seen in bright colors, Her Majesty’s dark attire was all the more poignant for its rarity. Pinned to his coat was the Richmond brooch, a diamond-encrusted wedding gift given to Queen Mary in 1893. Her Majesty inherited the piece in 1953 and wore the flourish to Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018, reinforcing her relationship with marriage and the couple.

Top image: The Queen during a visit to the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory near Salisbury, UK.

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