by Camilla Ridley
How Elizabeth II has cleverly used fashion to her advantage during her incredible 70 years on the throne
Queen Elizabeth II has always taken fashion seriously and is pictured here next to legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour at designer Richard Quinn's catwalk show at London Fashion Week in 2018
I think we’ll all be pretty much in agreement at the outstanding achievement the Platinum Jubilee this Sunday represents and just what a remarkable contribution Queen Elizabeth II has made. The Queen has now dutifully served for 70 years, and to put this in context, she's now the third longest-reigning monarch in history. 85% of the British population weren’t even born when she was crowned in 1952. She’s been a constant in virtually all of our lives, someone to revere and look up to, a grandmother and matriarch to a whole nation. Possibly even an entire world. And as Telegraph fashion supremo Bethan Holt points out in her new book: The Queen, 70 Years of Majestic Style “Incredibly in her 70th year as monarch, the Queen feels as relevant as ever before. She’s undoubtedly a style icon.”
Whatever the occasion, Queen Elizabeth II has consistently used fashion to communicate with the crowds and engage a larger broadcast audience. As shown here (clockwise from top left) in a yellow polka dot dress on a state visit to Mexico in 1975, wearing a floral print dress while visiting Tuvalu in 1982, The Queen and Prince Philip welcome President John F Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy to Buckingham Palace in June 1961
As a woman whose views are famously never heard, Queen Elizabeth II has deployed fashion as a means to communicate and signal her position to the crowds that gather to see her and the millions who watch her television broadcasts. In many ways the original fashion influencer, she intrinsically understands the importance of first impressions, “I must be seen to be believed” she has said. And an understanding of how each carefully choreographed outfit directly represents her values and sets the tone for everything she does in public. It is worth remembering that this is a woman who has spent 70 years in the spotlight and under the scrutiny of the world's media. Her sense of style always needed to be faultlessly appropriate, and with virtually everything else she has done, it’s been impeccable.
Queen Elizabeth II's style has carefully evolved with fashion over the years with specific garments tailored to the needs and customs of each situation. This evolution has enabled her to remain relevant and elegant while communicating her values and a sense of constancy
While fashion and the way we dress have dramatically changed from the 1950s and trends have come and gone, Queen Elizabeth II’s style has evolved more subtly, successfully balancing a need to stay relevant with the elegance demanded from someone of her position. As Bethan points out her “style is an extension of all she represents as Queen, it is stoical and cautious yet dazzling and majestic." "No matter what is happening in the world, we can be sure Elizabeth II will be there in her vibrant coat, her heirloom broaches and carrying her sturdy Launer Handbag.” In fast-changing and troubled times, this sense of constancy should never be underestimated. In 2016 the Queen was featured in Vanity Fair magazine's best-dressed list as a ‘beacon’ "consistently representing who she is and what she stands for without wavering from a standard she set a long time ago.” It’s undoubtedly true that the Queen’s style has evolved into a uniform of sorts. And as Bethan points out, we all have a clear image of the Queen, what she’s wearing and the values she represents. From a pure communication point of view, this is quite some triumph.
Queen Elizabeth II has cleverly deployed colour and feminine tailoring as a way to stand out in a man's world without ever looking frivolous or overtly ostentatious.
In my mind, Queen Elizabeth II has single-handedly done more to champion the role of women, than probably anyone else. And she’s achieved this quietly, dutifully and with immense dignity. And largely in a man’s world, where overt displays of power and status have largely dominated. In this sense, her clever counter deployment of soft power style, in the bright feminine colours she chooses, elegant tailoring, occasional floral print, her hats, scarves, sensible shoes, jewellery and accessories... in all probably 10,000 separate outfits, have consistently broken down barriers, put people at ease, encouraged consensus to be reached and goals to be achieved, Britain to evolve and the world to remain relatively stable during a remarkable 70 year period. If this doesn’t highlight the extraordinary achievements of our Queen and the contribution fashion can make when applied intelligently, I’m not sure what will. God Bless You Ma’am!
Bethan Holt's excellent new book: The Queen 70 Years of Majestic Style is available to purchase from all good bookshops. Shop Waterstones
Ridley London's new collection of made to measure dresses is available to purchase online and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality this season with a unique piece that's individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral or solid silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting:
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