Royal Fashion History
H.M. Queen Elizabeth II's Clothes
1960s - 1970s
For most of her adult life, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has reigned as Queen of
the British Isles and the Commonwealth. Her 80th birthday is 21
April 2006 and many will applaud her long service in this regal role.
As costume history or royal enthusiasts I think many of you will
images below which are from the first 25 years of
Queen Elizabeth II's reign. These pictures show her in a selection
of outfits that marked her as a young queen in the 1950s, moving toward
being a more modern looking queen of the 1970s.
Even in her first 25 years of service Queen Elizabeth II had travelled
to more parts of the world than any other British monarch. Her
wardrobe in those days was cared for by the Queen's personal attendant a
Miss Margaret 'Bobo' McDonald. Officially titled The Queen's
Dresser, Bobo was also the Queen's last nanny so had seen the Queen grow
into womanhood. Her later duties were to look after the Queen's
extensive wardrobe once designs had been selected by the Queen, made up
These duties involved Bobo assembling outfits plus accessories such as
jewellery for the
Queen to wear for all events of any particular day. She also
oversaw the packing for world tours.
The Queen's Clothes
In her early reign the Queen relaxed in country clothes, but for more
formal wear in the public eye she wore many crinoline
based styles which suited a young figure with a neat waistline. The
clothes of her first reigning decade were primarily designed by Norman
Hartnell and later by Hardy Amies. However the clothes by
Hartnell were mature in
design for one so young, but many women of her age group also
dressed in a similar 'mature' manner where they aped their mothers
rather than their young sisters. The Queen Mother in the early
days of the Queen's reign had a strong influence. To add to the mature effect,
also favoured a mink coat made by Calman Links and wore it throughout
the 1950s and 1960s.
duster coat right is very typical of the earlier more formal day outfits
the Queen often wore. Thick slubbed silks with a high sheen were teamed
with matching heavy silk dresses. The fuller styles eventually gave way
to more modern lines.
Gradually the clothes became less formal as the sixties gathered pace
and Hardy Amies designed more streamlined outfits in keeping with the
times. At the same time the masses began to wear even more relaxed easy cut styles.
Her classic pastel Duster coats and dresses made of shiny silks or
organza became more subdued and
gradually morphed into duller less shiny, less gauzy
silks. Soon flatter wools, linens and matt silk mixtures were more
often used with shinier fabrics kept strictly for evenings.
became more vibrant and the Queen developed a strong style of her own
where she could easily be seen across a crowded venue and recognised for who
she was. This style was sleeker and more streamlined and
consisted often of unfussy coats or jackets with toning or matching
dresses. Of course that royal touch that marked the Queen
from the crowd was always a finishing touch accessory - a piece of
jewellery sparkling with the finest diamonds or rubies, sapphires or
emeralds. Fabulous pearls were always a firm favourite.
In the sixties her
skirts got shorter, but never short enough to look silly 20 years later.
Every outfit takes the middle road. They pay homage to elements
popular in fashion in a particular year, but always in a very classic
manner. The Queen is a woman who is a world celebrity, but
is not an actress, and she is as she is.
The outfits above are of a groomed woman who has developed her own style in
keeping with her role. At the time I recall her being criticized
for wearing dowdy insipid safe garments amid a society wearing every colour of the
rainbow in a heady mix of pattern. Yet looking at them now one
sees how truly classic a dresser she was. In these images she does look
very good in a classic way some forty years later. The Queen's
fashions are always suitable to look at in a long term photograph.
The clothes in strong colours often complimented the place she
was visiting. The outfits always single her out from the masses as the
special person everyone is keen to see that day.
By the 1970s a designer
called Ian Thomas who was Hartnell trained, began to inject a more
youthful look into the styles offered to the Queen. It was Ian
Thomas who encouraged her to choose less structured styles and
move forward in fashion whilst retaining her sense of the clothes
fulfilling a function of helping her be seen, whilst also complimenting
trouser suit she donned here in 1970 was a somewhat daring public
fashion for the Queen. Whilst she regularly wore trousers in
her personal life as an active participant of field sports, she had
avoided wearing trousers in her public life. But in the
late 60s all women regularly wore trouser suits and the Queen's
trouser suit was inevitable. It was a huge move forward from
the very formal clothes sported earlier. This matt silk
trouser suit was worn on a Canadian visit and it is known she wore
culottes to informal evening events at home.
same time the range of hat styles increased with designers Simone
Mirman and later Freddie Fox introducing livelier millinery.
You can see pictures of hats the
Queen wore here.
July to 24 September 2006
Queen's Clothes Exhibition to
Celebrate The Queen’s 80th Birthday
exhibition of 80 of her Her Majesty’s evening dresses and personal
jewellery. The exhibition which begins at the Summer Opening of
Palace will show clothes from the 1940s to today and feature all the Queen's
most famous designers.
Link to State
Apartments, Kensington Palace web site where royal ceremonial robes are
Jubilee Colouring In Pictures of the Coronation
Go straight back to Hartnell's Design
of the Queen's Wedding Dress
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