The investiture of fashion and trends is historically vested in monarchical structures. History demonstrates that royal figures are the early arbitrators of financial, political and cultural decisions. By wielding these positions of power, they innately became the forbearers of garment choices within society.
The appearance of these figureheads portrayed an intricately calculated agenda to retain the power and hierarchy of their empires. Examples of this articulation include the powerful pageantry of Baroque during the era of Louis IV “The Sun King,” to the revolutionary socio-political consequences of Marie Antoinette’s conspicuous consumption.
Throughout her seventy years of rule, Queen Elizabeth II broke fashion’s long held standard of indulgence. Her exceptional ability to adapt fashion’s reputation as a self-serving glorification mechanism to a method of recognizing the public paralleled her goal to employ a dynamic form of leadership throughout rapidly changing generations.
During textile rationing of World War II, she saved up her own rations to supply the fabric for her wedding gown. Her effort was also aided by approval of further sponsorship from Parliament, but nonetheless demonstrated an effort to connect with the people.
On the day of her wedding to Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth was adamant that her bridal dress included sewn motifs as nods to the commonwealth. When touring these nations with her husband, she wore flag colors and emblems of local populations to offer a show of alliance and acknowledgement.
Further into her reign, the late queen adopted Christian Dior’s popular new look as a means of creating interest in the institution’s post-war image. She held public interest for a while, but a deeply conflicted Britain forced her to increase her perception for her role. Until her resurgence as a style icon in the 2000s, revolutionary attitudes and new wave fashion proved a difficult disconnect for the monarch, whose role and appearance had always represented stability and the old guard.
However, Queen Elizabeth finally became a modern style icon when she stopped fighting to connect with those she couldn’t properly represent. Instead, she strengthened her familiarities and chose an unforgettable uniform of constancy.
“She’s always maintained a sense of elegance,” said Harvey Duplock, a third-year broadcast journalism major. “Dating back to her early years when she looked as if she was attending a ball every day, to her later years where she dressed more comfortably but still upholding a sense of status.”
In her role in the public state, her monochromatic wardrobe became a definitive example of how style, not trend, could make an impact. Her admiration of millinery and unwavering use of hats represented the halo of importance and symbolic “crown” in the twenty-first century.
Despite her small stature, Queen Elizabeth’s power coloring set her apart in a room with aura and conviction. It was impossible not to spot her in a crowd wearing a neon green or bright pink. These unmistakable tones provided optimism and inspired confidence, while tailored shapes solidified her composure and timeless grace.
“Her defining outfits have to be the array of colorful sets, as they always matched her bubbly energy and defined her role as the nation’s grandmother,” Duplock said.
Darrel Creary, a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism and political science, described his perception of the Queen’s style.
“[It’s] giving a Caribbean church grandmother that raided an outdated fabric store and clamped some jewelry on,” Creary said.
Her appreciation for skilled craftsmanship and consistency in her attire represented her devotion to serve the people as a constant figure and beacon of stability. Once fully immersed in this direction, she utilized her attire as a way to communicate with the public. Dressing in heritage brands such as Norman Hartnell and Hardie Armies meant economic support for her country’s garment industry. Her trademark Launer handbags and Barbour jackets are luxury staples around the globe.
Additionally, Queen Elizabeth used fashion to express her political opinions. She made headlines for wearing the European Union’s blue and yellow during her Brexit speech and bright green for Ireland’s independence.
Culturally, she became a muse and inspiration for British designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, who both utilized tributes to her iconography within their designs. At her beloved Balmoral estate, she retired from her public image to become a country-girl icon.
The fashion community found inspiration in this off-duty monarch as well. Her scarves, loafers and ugly sweaters trickled into the racks of Gucci, while her trenches, raincoats and umbrellas inspired the likes of Burberry.
By balancing traditionalist silhouettes and motifs with modernized tonal choices and accessories, Britain’s longest reigning monarch understood the diplomacy and strength of fashion choices. With a reign spanning multiple generations of fashion history, the late queen will forever be remembered for her propensity to honor duty en vogue.