Kirstie Clements on the enduring style of Queen Elizabeth II

In March this year the Queen wore a sage green coat and black-trimmed hat at a memorial service for her late husband, Prince Philip.

In March this year the Queen wore a sage green coat and black-trimmed hat at a memorial service for her late husband, Prince Philip. Photo: Getty

Not in any way to diminish Queen Elizabeth II’s extraordinary legacy in terms of her public service but she also leaves a legacy of style that we may never see again.

I have always been baffled if anyone referred to the Queen’s style as frumpy or dowdy because, to me, she was always glamorous and appropriate.

I recall staring at her portrait in my classroom every day as a young girl, especially focused when we were asked to sing God Save the Queen.

In my memory she was dressed in a pale blue lace gown, wearing a glittering crown and sparkling jewels, and I thought she was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen.

Full-skirted couture

As the television series The Crown reminded us, Elizabeth was very striking in the early days: the military style tailoring she adopted during the wartime years, the full-skirted couture looks that accentuated her tiny waist in the 1950s, (there is an iconic photograph of a young Princess Elizabeth dancing in Canada in a very chic felt skirt and blouse) neat coats and dresses with matching and very fashionable hats, a classically elegant look she owned in the 1960s.

While her sister Margaret was considered by many to be the more glamorous of the two, Elizabeth certainly held her own.

A Hardie Amies gown, left, and a Norman Hartnell design. Both were part of Fashioning A Reign: 90 Years Of Style From The Queen’s Wardrobe. Photo: AFP via Getty

When she was in her 20s, Princess Elizabeth began working with British fashion designer Norman Hartnell and her satin, tulle and lace gowns were often paired with Hollywood-perfect white fur stoles, gloves and diamond tiaras.

Hartnell also designed her iconic wedding dress and the spectacular gown she wore for her coronation.

She later moved onto designer Hardy Amies, establishing a style that consisted of monochrome colour – her hat, coat and dress often in a matching tone.

The look was often accessorised with a pearl necklace of either one or two strands, pearl button earrings and a jewelled brooch, sensible pumps and her ubiquitous Launer black patent handbag held in the crook of her elbow.

While her outfits were not particularly fashion-forward they had a quiet charm about them, a colourful optimism that was constant and somehow reassuring.

I particularly loved her off-duty look which was so quintessentially English, the patterned silk headscarves over her shampoo and set, tied under the chin, the Balmoral tartan kilts, the sensible cardigans and wellington boots.

Personal dresser

Of course, Queen Elizabeth had the luxury of a personal dresser and the team of palace staff at her disposal, but she always looked professional, formal but not formidable.

Across decades of tumultuous change, politically and socially, she knew exactly how she wanted to be perceived and her style reflected this.

In her later years, the Queen began to wear a series of floral long-sleeve dresses, which were presumably easy to wear and had a pretty modernity to them.

The impeccable coat and hat she wore to the memorial service for her husband Prince Philip was also memorable, a dark sage green coat and hat, trimmed with black velvet, and with a large black velvet collar. Demonstrably sad, and frail, her visual message was still that of elegance and propriety. Something that is very sad to lose.



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