The only hat I own is a beanie, and I wear a gold chain rather than pearls. I don’t match my coat to my dress or my bag to my shoes and I wouldn’t be seen dead in sheer tights. Yet the Queen is, without a shadow of a doubt, my ultimate fashion icon. My style crushes come and go, but I bow down to Her Majesty.
Is it treason to call one’s monarch a badass? Sorry, ma’am, but it’s true. At 95, she still rocks more hot pink than a Molly Goddard catwalk show. Why stick to tasteful neutrals, when you can wear chartreuse tweed with yellow tulips on the matching hat, as she did in London last spring? When I am old I shall wear purple, as the poem goes. How about purple, lemon, lime, royal blue and emerald? The royal wardrobe has been serving up pop-art colours since silkscreen portraits were just a twinkle in Andy Warhol’s eye.
There are many style lessons to be learned from the Queen, but the first is the power of colour. The Queen has made head-to-toe colour, in every shade of the rainbow, her signature look. Colour brings a tiny dopamine hit of surprise to every public appearance. It spotlights her as the centre of attention in any scene, but is cheery and accessible rather than fancy. If Farrow & Ball neutrals are the coded status symbols of a certain class and culture, the Queen’s bright coats and dresses are the paint-pot shades of every nursery school in the land.
The second style lesson is that a great wardrobe is never about trends. No one has played the long game better, carving out a formula that can be dressed up or down. Clothes say who you are before you have spoken a word, which is why people who stay true to a signature style are those whose looks we remember. If you stick to a formula, you can have fun with clothes without looking flighty. The Queen rarely looks sombre, unless the occasion specifically calls for sobriety, yet no one would mistake her for anything but a serious person. A tight focus on one look – whether it’s prim tweeds, or a white shirt and old jeans – will always say strength of character.
Good style doesn’t come between you and what you need to get done. The third lesson from the royal playbook is that clothes should help you do your job, never hinder it. In case you were still under the impression that style icons had to wear heels, I point you to Her Majesty’s favourite black loafers, the most useful all-purpose shoe in existence.
The Queen also uses her handbag to communicate. I’ve heard that putting it on the table indicates she would like to leave dinner, and moving it from her left hand to her right signals that she would like an exit from a conversation. If anyone can figure out a way to make this system work without a bevy of aides, please do write in, as it sounds super helpful. But while I’m waiting, I will flag that the Queen’s diplomacy-by-diamonds approach – match the brooch to the state banquet, that sort of thing – can be utilised in a low-key way by us common folk. I would never, ever go to a party of the standing around making small-talk kind without wearing at least one piece that doubles as a conversation card. (My go-to: a pair of vintage Dolce & Gabbana chandelier earrings, made from farfalle pasta shapes cast in resin.)
There are as many lessons from the Queen’s wardrobe as she has had years on the throne. I could go on. I won’t – but I hope she will.
Blazer and skirt, sandro-paris.com; bag, zara.com, hat and brooch (comes as part of hat), Nerida Fraiman from fenwick.co.uk; shirt, withnothingunderneath.com; necklace, hannahmartinlondon.com; hair and makeup, Sophie Higginson using Sam Mcknight and Pat McGrath