Royal style: Celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and her signature looks
This year marks the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and her remarkable and historic reign. Her Majesty is the longest-reigning British monarch as well as the longest-serving female head of state in world history.
Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on 21 April, 1926, Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 at the passing of her father, King George VI. At the time of her coronation on 2 June, 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was aged 27 and a mother of two to Charles and Anne.
Her Majesty is the head of the Commonwealth, made up of 54 countries. Her reign has overlapped with 13 different British Prime Ministers. She has entertained world leaders from President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, President Richard Nixon, President Nelson Mandela, President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hilary Clinton, Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Spanning seven decades, Her Majesty’s style and clothing has been an important part of her reign. Her clothing and crown jewels play a symbolic role in all of her public appearances.
I was inspired to take a closer look at the Queen’s ‘look book’ over the past 70 years and some of the interesting aspects behind her attire and accessories.
Royal designer, Sir Norman Hartnell
British couturier Norman Hartnell was a favourite of the Queen Mother. He was commissioned to design two of the most significant dresses that Queen Elizabeth II would wear: her wedding gown worn on her marriage to Prince Phillip on 20 November, 1947; and her Coronation Day gown, worn on 2 June, 1953. He also designed Princess Margaret’s wedding dress
Hartnell gained the Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1940, and the Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1957. He was the first couturier to be knighted at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. He would serve for many years to senior members of the royal family.
In recent years, Hartnell was honoured by another young royal when Princess Beatrice chose a vintage gown that had belonged to Queen Elizabeth, designed by Hartnell, as her wedding gown in 2020.
The Queen had worn the gown on at least three occasions which included a state dinner in Rome, the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia, and the 1966 State Opening of Parliament.
About the Queen's coronation gown
Hartnell began the task of designing the coronation gown in October 1952. He was entrusted with this special design following years of service and because of his talent for combining rich fabrics with exquisitely designed embroideries.
“My mind was teeming with heraldic and floral ideas…everything heavenly that might be embroidered upon such a dress,” wrote Hartnell.
According to The Royal Collection Trust, he submitted nine different designs and The Queen accepted the eighth, but suggested the addition of embroideries in various colours rather than all in silver. The Queen also requested that in addition to the four national emblems for England, Ireland Scotland and Wales, that those of the Dominions of which she was now Queen should also be added.
Hartnell originally represented Wales with the emblem of the daffodil and was reportedly somewhat disgruntled when he was asked to replace it with the more official Welsh symbol of the leek. England was represented by the Tudor rose, Scotland by the thistle and Ireland by the shamrock.
As a surprise for the Queen, Hartnell added a secret detail to the gown in the form of a small, four-leaf shamrock which he placed on her left skirt just underneath where her hand would be resting during the ceremony.
Its silk fabric was produced at Lady Hart Dyke’s silk farm at Lullingstone Castle, Kent and was woven by Warner & Sons in Essex. The embroideries are arranged in three scalloped, graduated tiers bordered with alternating lines of gold bugle beads, diamantés, pearls, amethysts, cryrstals and sequins.
The dress took nine weeks, six embroiderers and 3,000 hours to complete. It was lined in taffeta and padded with three layers of horsehair crinoline, resulting in it being very heavy to wear.
On the day, Queen Elizabeth II wore a pair of ruby-studded, gold leather pumps that were specifically designed for the occasion by French designer, Roger Vivier. Known as the Fabergé of footwear, Vivier is credited with developing the first stiletto heel. He had previously designed the Queen Mother’s shoes when King George VI was crowned in 1937. For Queen Elizabeth’s coronation shoes, Vivier incorporated a fleur de lys motif that corresponded to the Imperial State Crown.
The Diamond Diadem, 1820
Queen Elizabeth II first wore this crown to her first State Opening of Parliament as sovereign on 4 November 1952, and again on the journey to her coronation in June 1953. It has subsequently been worn to all State Openings, and for photographs including those used for British and Commonwealth coinage, banknotes and postage stamps.
It is set with 1,333 brilliant cut diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant in the centre of the front cross; and 169 natural pearls around its base. It consists of alternating crosses and bouquets of flowers representing three UK countries – a thistle for Scotland, a rose for England and shamrock for Ireland.
It was first made for a male sovereign: for George IV for use at his coronation in 1820. It was also worn regularly by Queen Victoria who was depicted wearing it on the famous penny black postage stamps.
St Edwards Crown
During the Queen’s coronation ceremony, she wore the St Edwards Crown. It is the official crown used at the moment of coronation. It was made in 1661 for Charles II as a replacement for the medieval crown which had been melted down in 1649 by the Parliamentarians. The original was thought to date back to the eleventh-century royal saint, Edward the Confessor – the last Anglo-Saxon king of England.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, the design features four crosses-pattée and four fleurs-de-lis, and two arches. It is composed of a solid gold frame set with semi-precious stones, including rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes and tourmalines.
It is made of a solid gold frame, encrusted with 440 precious and semi-precious stones and weights five pounds.
It is made of a solid gold frame, encrusted with 440 precious and semi-precious stones and weights five pounds. In this video below from 2018, the Queen explains that it “weighs a tonne.”
Imperial State Crown
On her return to Buckingham Palace after the coronation ceremony, the Queen wore the Imperial state Crown – which must have come as a relief as it weighs considerably less than the heavy St Edwards Crown.
The Imperial State Crown was commissioned for the coronation of King George VI on 12 May 1937, from the Crown Jewellers, Garrard & Co. Its design is based on a crown created for Queen Victoria in 1838 by the crown jewellers of the time, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.
It is formed from an openwork gold frame, mounted with three very large stones, and set with 2,868 diamonds in silver mounts and coloured stones in gold mounts, including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 269 pearls.
This is the crown the Queen is wearing in her official Coronation Day portrait. The Imperial State Crown is also used on formal occasions, such as the annual State Opening of Parliament.
In this video, you can watch the Queen explaining the historic significance of the crown.
Her Majesty’s private jewels and those belonging to the Royal Collection Trust is extensive and includes a large collection of tiaras. I’ve chosen just two to mention here in this article.
Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara
The Queen’s mother, Queen Elizabeth, lent her daughter, then Princess Elizabeth, Queen Mary’s fringe tiara to wear on the day of her wedding to Prince Philip in November, 1947. The fringe tiara was made by the House of Garrard in 1919 for Queen Mary, father of King George. It features 47 delicate bars of diamonds that were used from a necklace Queen Victoria had given Queen Mary.
According to the House of Garrard, the tiara snapped on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding as she was getting ready for the ceremony. A police escort transported the tiara to the jeweller’s workshop where it was hastily mended just in time for her depature to Westminster Abbey.
The tiara was also worn by Princess Anne for her wedding in 1973 and by Princess Beatrice for her royal wedding in 2020.
Cartier Halo Tiara
King George VI, the queen’s father, commissioned the Cartier Halo Tiara in 1936 for his wife just shortly before he assumed the throne after his brother’s abducation. She gifted the tiara to the then Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday in 1944. The tiara is set with 739 brilliant and 149 baguette diamonds, according to the Royal Collection Trust.
It has never been worn in public by Queen Elizabeth II. It is believed that she received the piece during war time and it would not have been appropriate for her to wear it. After her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947, she had access to many more tiaras.
It has been worn instead by the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret and later by her daughter, Princess Anne.
It has since become famous as the tiara chosen by the Duchess of Cambridge to be worn on her wedding day to Prince William in 2011.
Ever since she was a teen, Queen Elizabeth has worn silk head scarves. It’s become her signature look for casual and sporty occasions, such as the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
Her favourite brand of scarf is Hermès which, like herself, has a strong affiliation with equine culture. Hermès was founded by harness-maker Thierry Hermès in 1837 and specialised in the construction of equestrian gear for decades.
The company began producing silk scarves in 1937, gradually worn by such celebrities as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Grace – who famously made an impromptu sling out of her Hermès scarf when she injured her arm at a yacht party hosted by Aristotle Onassis.
Her Majesty’s scarf collection is made up of vintage pieces as well as custom-made designs. The bond with the brand continues, with Hermès releasing a limited-edition scarf of just 300 in honour of her 90th birthday in 2016. It was designed by Henri d’Origny in 1980 and was re-edited to pay tribute to Her Majesty’s love of horses.
Bright and monochromatic colours
The Queen’s go-to, signature look is monochromatic colour with matching hat and coat. It has served her well for 70 years.
As Sophie, Countess of Wessex mentioned in the documentary The Queen at 90, the Queen prefers to wear bright colours so that she can be easily spotted by the crowds who wait patiently to catch a glimpse of her.
“She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen,'” said Sophie.
The Queen’s biographer Robert Hardman once quoted Her Majesty as saying: “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am.”
Her favourite colour is known to be blue, a shade that is deeply entwined in royal history and has long been associated with royalty, art, the military and business.
In addition to Norman Hartnell, she also worked with Saville Row tailor Hardy Aimes in the 1950s who created many elegant ball gowns for her 23-inch waist. In 1955, Aimes was granted the Royal Warrant. He once said of his collaboration with the Queen, “I do not dress the Queen. The Queen dresses herself. We supply her with her clothes – there is a difference.”
In the 1970s, she worked with young designer Ian Thomas who designed her many long, flowing chiffon gowns. From 1988, she worked with couture designer Karl-Ludwig Rehse on her staple of work-day attire.
In an interview with CNN, Rehse said, “You have to take into account the different countries and the different climates in which they’ll be worn. The queen always makes sure that she follows the tradition.”
He also explained that her wardrobe was planned out sometimes up to six or 12 months in advance, or even longer.
Royal designer Stewart Parvin has worked on the Queen’s attire since 2000, and was awarded the Royal Warrant in 2007.
“She is someone who is very interested in her clothes. She always has an opinion on it and she has a very informed opinion and she knows when it’s right and she knows when it’s wrong,” Parvin told CNN in an interview.
Note: all image credits of pictures featured here belong to the original creator of these photographs.