The Queen at 90: Style with Substance

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Today the Queen celebrates her 90th birthday, but which of her many uniforms will she choose to wear?

At 90 years old and with more than 64 years on the throne, the Queen has had a lifetime in the public eye. She has visited more than 120 countries and entertained dignitaries from all over the world. Her calendar over the past six decades has been filled with official events such as entertaining presidents and attending the state opening of Parliament. She must be one of the most photographed people in the world.

It’s a life that is planned to the last detail. Nothing can be left to chance, whatever event she is attending. The one thing we can be certain of is that the Queen is unlikely to find herself standing in front of her wardrobe the night before an engagement wondering, “What am I going to wear?”

But here’s a thing: nobody else wonders what she will be wearing either (except perhaps at Royal Ascot when the bookies take bets on what colour her outfit will be). In the main, the Queen has somehow managed to escape the forensic examination of her fashion choice.

Close scrutiny of the royals’ clothes only really gathered pace with the emergence of Diana, Princess of Wales as a style icon. This attention has now been diverted to Kate, but whilst followers of Diana’s style had to wait until the morning newspapers or the glossy magazines were published in order to get their fix, the internet and specifically social media has meant that coverage of Kate’s clothes is instant and prolific, as are comparisons with her late mother-in-law. Take her recent visit to India. Much was made of her high-street-meets-designer style, a more accessible choice than in Diana’s championing of bespoke designers.

The Queen’s outfits, however, have a different function and history. They represent a marriage of her personal style and the practicalities of her role. They are her uniform, if you like. Her clothes have to be comfortable for sitting down or standing up for long periods of time – perhaps in different temperatures. The choice of colour needs not to upset or favour anyone (that’s fashion politics for you).

But significantly, she needs to be seen. On a state visit or walkabout, she has to stand out from the crowd, which is perhaps why the Queen nearly always wears block colours, visible from a great distance.

Then there is always the hat – often matching, and always fairly large. Perhaps known for her phlegmatic approach to everything, it’s noticeable that the queen never loses her head – but she also never seems to lose her hat. It is a triumph for the hatpin and the dressers who secure it.

Over the years she has worn an incredible array of colours, but which is her favourite? The newspapers like to speculate, but the truth is no-one really knows. Perhaps what she chooses to wear on her birthday will give the biggest clue yet. Is the High Street on standby?


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