Alicia Healey

A royal guide to festive dressing

A royal guide to festive dressing
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The royals, like most families, had a very different Christmas last year due to Covid restrictions. Traditionally, multiple generations of the family gather at Sandringham House for the festivities. This year the Queen is expected to return to her Norfolk residence once again, to host her extended family for what will be a poignant Christmas – the first one without her husband in over 70 years.

We have HM’s great-great grandmother’s generation to thank for many of the traditions of Christmas time. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, inspired by his German heritage, popularised the idea of decorating a tree in the home. An illustration of the royal family standing around their Christmas tree was printed in the Illustrated London News, spreading this wholesome festive family scene to the wider public, who sought to recreate it in their own homes. The royals also follow the German tradition of exchanging presents on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. Queen Victoria, who celebrated Christmas at Windsor Castle, started the royal tradition of laying out presents for the royal children on present tables (with nine children she probably needed the extra space!). As with the rest of the royal calendar, Christmas is run with military precision and multiple outfit changes. The royal day is structured around mealtimes – which also indicate how many outfit changes you may need. Here are some style tips if you want to add a touch of regal elegance to your Christmas this year.

Christmas Morning

Image: Getty

One of my favourite festive outfits worn by the Duchess of Cambridge is this cranberry red dress coat by Catherine Walker, worn with a halo headband by Jane Taylor. Step out on Christmas morning in similar regal style in this velvet collared berry coat from Monsoon.

Berry coat, Monsoon
Create the look

Berry coat: Monsoon

Gloves: Cornelia James

Burgundy leather bag: Aspinal

Burgundy headband: Clementine & Mint

Boots: Fairfax & Favor

Christmas Lunch


I think jumper dresses with a bit of embellishment are a great idea for Christmas lunch – the loose-fit knit makes them comfortable for sitting and eating all the roast potatoes, while the embellishment above table level adds a touch of festive sparkle. They are a good cosy but Christmassy smart-casual option that you could wear all day if you’re not so keen on the idea of multiple outfit changes. Another of my favourite festive looks for Christmas at home is what I call cocktail-casual – combining a glitzy skirt with a cosy knit, which is easy to pair with comfy flats or heels.

Jumper dress: Monsoon

Black flats: Hobbs

Gold pleated skirt – Hobbs

Sequin star jumper – Monsoon

Black & Gold flats – Boden

Star earrings - Missoma

Country Pursuits


Much of the royal wardrobe seen by the public is formal dress, but Christmas is a holiday so they will have packed lots of casual wear too, for winter walks and other country pursuits. If I was packing a festive suitcase for a royal, I would throw in a festive Fair Isle knit, to keep warm on the post-Christmas lunch walk, and some tweed trousers and boots for other field activities.

Jumper: Campbells of Beuly

Tweed Breeks: Really Wild Clothing

Boots: Penelope Chilvers

Tattersall shirt: House of Bruar

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a casual affair – cue more cosy knits or festive day dresses, like this check dress from Brora. A year of lockdown slippers has relegated the heel firmly to the back of the wardrobe. Fancy flats are a much more sensible and stylish option for Christmas at home. These emerald green tassled loafers from L.K. Bennett would dress up any jumper- and-jean combo for an effortless and elegant afternoon look.

Green wool cashmere roll neck jumper: L.K. Bennett

Emerald check shirt dress: Brora

Silk scrunchie: Brigitte Green

Green velvet slippers: L.K. Bennett

Christmas Dinner

The Duchess of Cambridge in Beulah (Getty)

Royal ladies always dress for dinner when gathered together with family and guests, sometimes wearing long dresses, sometimes short (depending on what the Queen chooses to wear). This beautiful burgundy velvet gown from Beulah would look at home in the Duchess of Cambridge’s Christmas wardrobe. Add some extra Christmas glitter with statement earrings, like these from Laurence Coste, and a matching velvet hair barrette bow from Camilla Rose Millinery.

Burgundy velvet dress, Beulah

Burgundy velvet dress: Beulah

Earrings: Laurence Coste

Burgundy barrette bow: Camilla Rose

Merlot/crystal shoes: Jimmy Choo