Alicia Healey

What the Queen can teach us about timeless dressing

What the Queen can teach us about timeless dressing
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The Queen has spent more time than most deciding what to wear to work each day, having spent the last 70 years as monarch. As one of the most photographed women in the world, her dress sense has played a large role in defining her image as a timeless figure who rises above cultural trends and changeable politics. Over seven decades she has fine-tuned her royal working wardrobe to perfection by adopting certain style formulas from which we can all learn. Here are five style lessons exemplified by our platinum Queen.

Embrace colour

Queen Elizabeth II attends a reception for 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, who were honoured with the Freedom of The City of Edinburgh, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on 3 July, 2018 in Edinburgh (Getty)

    While it is true that some colours complement certain complexions and hair colours, the Queen has never shied away from all colours of the rainbow and is well known for her love of brightly coloured outfits for public engagements. She reportedly once said “I can never wear beige because no one will know who I am”. This was probably said tongue in cheek, but she wants to be visible to us and understands the power of colour to achieve this aim – on walkabouts, people will always be able to spot her from a distance when she is dressed in a vibrant colour. Block bright colours, in particular, photograph well so are often chosen by people appearing on camera. The Queen’s embracing of colour makes her a cheerful and uplifting presence; she is rarely seen in sombre tones and she never wears black except at funerals.

    Create your own uniform

      After decades of dressing for a wide range of duties, the Queen knows what suits her and what will work on the public stage, so she doesn’t deviate too much from this style formula. HM has curated a uniform of sorts for public engagements – the colours may change with the seasons, but she generally sticks to the same combination of colour blocked coats with matching millinery and neutral accessories. It is a formula that has helped to create a constant and memorable image to the public. Similarly, when off-duty she reaches for her tweed skirt, blouse and cardigan combination, accessorised with her signature silk head scarves. There is nothing wrong with finding a ‘uniform’ that works for you, and buying on repeat.

      Invest in classic, neutral accessories

      Getty Images

        The Queen’s formal daywear may be a kaleidoscope of colour and variety but she keeps it simple with her accessories, favouring black patent low-heeled courts (occasionally choosing white or nude during the summer months) by Anello & Davide, who have been handmaking her bespoke footwear for the past 50 years. HM is equally loyal to her handbag maker, Launer London, whose trusty Traviata top handle in black patent is instantly recognisable as her iconic handbag of choice.

        Ever prudent and practical, HM’s focus is on functionality and longevity with these accessories, choosing classic, timeless styles and neutral, versatile colours that match every outfit from her colourful wardrobe, enabling her to dress with ease.

        Embellish with meaning

        Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to New Zealand, March 1970 (Getty)

          The Queen often conveys a message through her jewellery, especially her brooches, frequently wearing pieces for either sentimental reasons or for their historical significance. Some pieces are heirlooms inherited from ancestors such as Queen Victoria, so when they are worn the message of the Crown’s continuity is conveyed. For other occasions, such as memorial services or family events, she may wear a brooch previously given by the person the occasion is honouring. Choosing jewellery in this way adds an extra thoughtful and meaningful layer to the outfit, so that it becomes more than just a decoration.

          Another trademark feature of HM’s ensembles are her signature pearls – she is rarely seen without her triple stranded pearl necklace, a gift from her father, King George VI, and button pearl and diamond earrings, a wedding gift from her grandmother Queen Mary. The Royal jewellery collection is vast but it is these sentimental strands of pearls and signature studs, with a link to her family heritage, that are her daily go-to accessory and have become a recognisable part of her royal uniform. Pearls are a timeless day-time jewel: their subtle lustre and neutral colour enhances colourful formal daywear rather than dominating it, and they look just as good worn with casual outfits, too.

          Don’t be a slave to fashion

            The Queen understands the power of her visual image, but she is no slave to fashion, preferring to cultivate a classically immaculate look based on timeless pieces from trusted brands with a focus on heritage and craftsmanship. It is a style lesson which the Duchess of Cambridge has already learned, whose look can sometimes be repetitive but is always perfect for the occasion and for her role. Fashion can be fun but it is fleeting and not necessarily compatible with the Royal message – which is one of continuity, and longevity.

            Written byAlicia Healey

            Alicia Healey is the author of Wardrobe Wisdom from a Royal Lady’s Maid

            Topics in this articleStyle