Lessons from her Majesty’s Wardrobe

Posted by: House of Colour, May 27, 2022

Lessons from her Majesty’s Wardrobe

Our budget, lifestyle, and jewellery collection may be realms away from the Queen’s, but can we learn anything from the wardrobe strategies developed, with the help of experts, during her 70 years reign?

Bold bright block colours, ranging through the entire rainbow, ensure that she is easily visible. They also project confidence. When asked about colour she said,  ‘Who would know who I was if I wore beige?’.  Softer hued evening dresses have eye-catching beading or embroidery.

The Queen loves clothes and knows her style. She gives lots of input to her designers, who now are Stewart Parvin and Angela Kelly. Angela Kelly commented that she is ‘a real expert on fabrics.’ In the 50s she requested that her couturier Hardy Amies create ‘clean and simple’ daytime looks, not like a ‘girl on the cover of Vogue’, while Norman Hartnell showed off her hourglass figure with elaborate fairy tale evening concoctions. In the 60s she favoured tailored looks before her daywear embraced some fluidity and pattern in the 70s and 80s. Her current structured single colour dress and coat combos, with a variety of collar shapes, trim and buttons and falling below the knee, perfectly flatter her petite frame. A matching hat, stud earrings, pearls, a heritage brooch or two (worn high on the left) white or black cotton gloves (changed several times a day) and a Launer handbag, accessorise the look.

The clothes are stored in airtight wardrobes and her team notes each wear on spreadsheets. Outfits are worn a maximum of three times then retired to private use. Wardrobe mishaps must not happen, so nothing is left to chance. The setting is checked in advance in order that the chosen colour will neither fade into nor clash with the background. Skirts are weighted down, floaty fabrics tested, and crease-resistant fabrics are essential. Three-quarter length sleeves which must not be too tight facilitate waving and hand shaking. Moderate sized hat brims and see-through ‘Birdcage’ umbrellas by Fulton avoid her face being obscured. Foot comfort is ensured as her handmade Anello and Davide black patent or leather slip-ons have heels of just two – and- a- quarter inches and are first worn-in by a staff member.

Unlike many Royals throughout the ages the Queen buys exclusively British, apart from her favoured Hermes headscarves which are worn for more casual events and to replace a riding hat, which, ever aware of practicalities, she explained would ruin her hair.

Religious and diplomatic conventions must be respected, therefore as a female head of state, she wore black when meeting the Pope. Colour and motif often compliment the country visited so when in Ireland her evening dress was decorated with shamrocks and an Irish harp brooch. Sky blue and pale pink evoked cherry blossom season on a visit to Japan. Prince Philip’s favourite colour, forest green, aka Edinburgh Green, was her perfect tribute for his memorial service.

The Queen, who apparently does her own makeup, knows that a bright lipstick works wonders whatever our age. The public’s positive response to her choice of neon green for her 90th birthday and sunshine yellow for the recent opening of the Elizabeth Line, proves how wise it is not to retreat into neutrals as we age.

When advising both female and male clients about appearance I’ve heard many sad tales of past wardrobe mishaps which have caused stress at important events. So can guidance be gleaned from this expert who has negotiated 70 years in the public eye, without ever putting an elegant foot wrong? Perhaps the maxims ‘Know thyself’, ‘Be consistent’ and the motto from her Majesty’s girl guide days, ‘Be prepared’ say it all.

Fiona Ingham

26 May 2022