Queen Elizabeth II’s Fashion Legacy

Queen Elizabeth II’s Fashion Legacy

Queen Elizabeth II’s Fashion Legacy

Caryn Franklin

Editor’s Note: Caryn Franklin is a fashion and identity commentator and professor of diversity at the Kingston School of Art in London.

(CNN) — One of the many legacies left by Queen Elizabeth II is an illustration of how clothing can unite a nation. Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who was set in motion by an army of lens men and women during her 70-year reign, showed an innate and finely tuned understanding of visual branding.

The value of fashion and image making had previously been explored with positive results by Elizabeth’s father, King George VI: in a mission to regain public trust after his brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry twice-divorced American Wallis. Simpson, he invited couturier Norman Hartnell to find inspiration for Buckingham Palace’s art collection. While the sophisticated Simpson wore the latest fashions, the king ordered dresses for his wife and daughters that underlined the traditions – and therefore stability – of the Victorian era.

After her father’s death in 1952, the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne brought the immediate need to calm her people once again. The spectacle of Elizabeth, a glamorous and charismatic royal, would now be amplified with seriousness and authority to assure politicians, international heads of state and nationals of her intended long game.

Notes from the Royal Collection Trust show that Hartnell submitted nine different designs for the coronation gown, and the young queen chose his eighth, decorated with scalloped rows of embroidery fringed with pearls, diamanté and gold bugle beads.

With a masterful move of political know-how, and with the pressure of the world on her, Elizabeth put together the greatest red carpet moment of them all. “Glorious” was reportedly her own word for the dress that captivated and delighted her subjects.

The strength of a piece of clothing or an outfit is that this monarch quickly learned to avoid the novelty of fashion, trading the gimmicks of ephemeral trends and loud statement silhouettes for a conscious announcement with every appearance. So Elizabeth never missed an opportunity to convey a message of reliability, stability, and fortitude to her audience.

Sure, there were fashion tops for daywear, but brought in as blossoms. Looking at archival photos of her reign, we see an effortless deployment of the trends of the decades, such as the cinched-in waists of the 1950s; the cropped skirt lengths, sleeveless dresses and pillbox hats of the ’60s; and the turbans and bold prints of the 1970s. And who could forget the Queen power dressing in high-octane colors for the ’80s?

Later in life, Elizabeth established herself as a master of the frock coat, dress and matching hat in bright colors like purple, orange, red and fuchsia. Warmth and approachability – as well as the need to be easily seen in a crowd at her small height – meant that the color beige rarely reached the level.

In his memoir, Hardy Amies, another royal seamstress, summed up the timeless quality needed for royal performances when he wrote, “Style is so much more satisfying than chic. Style has heart and respects the past; chic, on the other hand, is ruthless and lives entirely for present.”

Style also takes a lot of management, and in collaboration with Angela Kelly, her trusted personal assistant and wardrobe curator, Elizabeth created a manifesto for career wear success. Fabrics were tested for limited appeal to rustle and wrinkle, and weighted down at the hem to prevent gusts of wind from causing mischief. Subtle prints were used to prevent stains from showing, and there were even removable underarm pads to hide perspiration. For trips abroad, outfits were designed to subtly complement the customs and culture of the host country.

White gloves, always by Cornelia James, sometimes changed several times a day, and hats anchored with tone-on-tone hatpins were coordinated with a beloved Rayne or Anello & Davide medium-heeled shoe (broken in by staff and regularly repaired ). Everything would be topped off with a modest, oft-worn leather bag from Launer.

Speaking to the Times in 2012, Stewart Parvin, who has designed for the Queen since 2000, revealed that outfits were ordered and cataloged by name based on where she’d worn it and who she’d met. “That’s why people will think she wears things once, because there’s such a system,” Parvin said. “If she met President Obama, she wouldn’t be wearing the same dress.”

However, there would also be frivolity. For example, at the Royal Variety Performance in November 1999, Elizabeth wore a harlequin bodice with multicolored sequins and sleeves with a striking yellow skirt, which paparazzi loved. And then there was the stark lime green ensemble worn for a balcony performance during the Trooping the Color parade to mark her 90th birthday.

Privately, Elizabeth, an amazon and racehorse owner, preferred neutral tones. Tweeds, boots and rainwear would be complemented by the signature silk triangle scarf. While at Balmoral Castle in Scotland for family holidays and official events, the Queen would proudly wear the Balmoral tartan designed by Prince Albert, her great great grandfather.

To know that denim was not fabric to be entertained by the queen is to know that this was a woman who seemingly never took a day off from continuous non-verbal conversation with her subjects: a chat for those who need reassurance , an explanation for those who sought her authority and an explanation for anyone who wanted to connect on a human level with the woman who wore the crown.

This purposeful broadcast of the benefits of a reign that comes from subtle progress, not from dramatic changes to shock or destabilize, can be seen as a virtuoso public performance – and one this monarch undoubtedly did to pass on to younger people. members of her clan.

Top image: Queen Elizabeth and Anna Wintour in the front row of Richard Quinn’s runway show during London Fashion Week in 2018.

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