Though many aspects of their lives are steeped old traditions, the women of the royal family certainly don’t let their style remain in the past.
Some of the most memorable royal family looks come from times when individuals stepped out of the box or decided to break the rules, but even daily royal family style is smart and up to date. From the Queen to Princess Diana to Kate Middleton, each royal has some fashion wisdom to share.
She’s the Queen of England, but also the Queen of monochrome – the Queen Elizabeth loves color, but usually only one at a time. The Queen’s signature look of a coat dress, hat, gloves, and pearls is one that she has favored for years, and she has it in a veritable rainbow of shades. Elizabeth has worn pastels, brights verging on neon, and jewel tones, sometimes switching up a solid colored dress for one in a floral pattern, but one that still matches the overall color scheme perfectly. Occasionally, she opts for a different fabric texture like bouclé, but she always has on at least one string of pearls, and is rarely seen without one of her decidedly fabulous hats.
Princess Diana’s fashion was on display throughout her life. While she was married to Prince Charles she collaborated with British designers to create custom-made styles that were sometimes inspired by historic fashion, such as a white dress and high-collar jacket that was meant to resemble an Elizabethan ruff, but that looked more like something from Elvis’s closet. However, it was when she separated from Prince Charles and began stepping out on her own that her style became truly individual and iconic, and definitely more confident.
Diana’s famous “revenge dress”, which she wore to a public event on the same day that Prince Charles revealed his extramarital affair with the now-Duchess of Cornwall, was a black, form-fitting dress by Greek designer Christina Stambolian. After that, the form-fitting cocktail dress became her signature style. Diana was particularly fond of Versace dresses and was good friends with Gianni Versace himself. He often designed custom-made pieces for her, including another one of her famous looks, a Jackie O-inspired pink suit that she wore to visit British troops. In her photo shoot for Vanity Fair before a Christie’s auction of some of her most iconic royal family outfits, Diana posed for photographer Mario Testino looking relaxed and beautiful in strapless evening dresses and minimal makeup that let her beauty shine through.
Now that Kate is married into the royal family, many have nostalgically compared her style that of her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana. Though the comparison is certainly fitting, Kate has developed a style all her own. While the Duchess of Cambridge favors British designers – her famous wedding gown was by Alexander McQueen – she doesn’t limit herself to them and equally chooses styles by Dolce & Gabbana, and Lela Rose. Kate usually favors jewel tones and hemlines hitting at or just below the knee, often paired with a classic pair of LK Bennett nude pumps.
In 2016, Kate embraced the trend of the moment and wore a white off-the-shoulder dress to the Art Fund Museum of the Year Award at the Natural History Museum. The dress, by Brazilian designer Barbara Casasola, was more fashion forward than is typical for the Duchess but it still retained the classic elegance that Kate has become known for.
Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie
The Queen’s granddaughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie have certainly inherited some of their royal family style from their grandmother; the two are often making a splash with their hats and fascinators at special events. When Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, the sisters arrived at the wedding both wearing Philip Treacy hats custom made for the occasion. Beatrice wore the now-infamous “pretzel” hat, a nude fascinator that the designer described as “a hat with a bow on it,” but which seemed to perplex spectators.
Zara Phillips is another of the Queen’s granddaughters, but she is better known for her athleticism and tomboy style rather than crazy hats. For most of her life Zara has been spotted in jeans, riding outfits, and other sportswear, but in recent years she’s demonstrated that she can wear a great dress and a fascinator with the rest of the royals.
For her wedding in 2011, Zara chose to have an ivory gown created by Stewart Parvin, a favorite designer of Queen Elizabeth. Some described the designer choice as another one of Zara’s quirky style moments, but the unfussy dress was classically beautiful with a full skirt and figure-hugging bodice. When she was pregnant in 2013, Zara seemed to be taking style cues from Kate Middleton when she paired a bright yellow coat dress with a fascinator and pumps for an appearance at Ladies Day at Goodwood Racecourse. Style lessons from the British royal family don't just trickle down to the public, they get passed around internally, too.
Most of the style lessons from the British royal family are lessons in classic dressing, great fit, and color, but there are also a few lessons about taking fashion risks, in moderation.