Timeline: Queen Elizabeth II’s impact on the fashion industry over her reign
Over her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II rarely shied away from making a fashion statement. From colourful sequins to distinctive hats, her wardrobe was highly recognisable and defined the aesthetic of ‘royal’ dressing.
Following her death, September 8, various members of the fashion industry took to social media to express their grief of her passing and their condolences to the Royal Family, giving a glimpse into the impact the late Monarch had on those in the industry.
As London Fashion Week braces itself for the upcoming funeral, set for September 19, with an adapted schedule and an array of store closures, FashionUnited has highlighted some of Her Majesty’s (HM) contributions towards fashion, including awards supporting British designers and her own clothing choices throughout the years.
Prior to her Coronation, Queen Elizabeth II was already making historical fashion statements. While marrying Prince Philip of Greece, the then Princess sported an intricately detailed wedding dress sketched by British designer Norman Hartnell. The piece saw 350 women work on its creation over a three-month time frame and featured 10,000 hand-sewn seed pearls imported from America.
As Britain was still in its Post-War Period, austerity measures meant that people had to use clothing ration coupons. The UK government gifted the Princess 200 coupons to pay for the pricey gown, prompting women around the country to mail additional tokens to Elizabeth in the hope of contributing to the dress’ creation.
Hartnell was also responsible for the design of HM’s Coronation dress and ‘Robe of Estate’, which the Queen selected from a number of sketches presented to her by the British couturier. The final dress featured floral emblems and pastel-coloured silks, while the six-and-a-half-metre robe, created by Ede & Ravenscroft, took a total of 3,500 hours and 12 seamstresses to complete. In addition, the new Queen also wore a range of notable jewellery, including pieces originally made for Queen Victoria in 1858 and were later worn by Queen Mary and the Queen Mother.
The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise launched as a programme aimed at supporting British businesses and other organisations that excelled at international trade, innovation and sustainable development. Since its inception, several fashion brands have been granted the prestigious award, including the likes of Burberry, Gieves & Hawkes and House of Fraser. Selected by the Monarch, recipients of the award are entitled to use the Royal Arms in connection with their business over the course of five years from when it is granted.
Queen Elizabeth visited Mexico on a state trip with late husband Prince Philip, and is pictured wearing a yellow pleated dress and a turban-inspired hat. Despite being the most talked about, this was not the only look she sported during the trip, during which she visited a vast number of Mexican cities and regions. Most notably, over the course of her 24 hour stay in Yucatán, HM wore a total of four dresses and a selection of various accessories, including a three-strand pearl necklace.
Royal advisor Angela Kelly joined Buckingham Palace to work within the Royal Household and was later appointed as the Queen’s personal dresser and assistant. Kelly went on to create notable outfits for the Queen, such as her look for Kate and Will’s wedding. She also published two books on her experiences dressing the Queen, including the 2019 memoir ‘The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe’.
Queen Elizabeth II attended the Royal Variety Performance in Birmingham wearing a bright dress with a sequin top in contrasting colours and a striped gold skirt – an unusually bold outfit choice for HM. Following the event, the German designer responsible for the creation, Karl-Ludwig Rehse, told the Daily Telegraph: “People seemed to be thrilled at how she looked. She was stunning. She’s like all ladies, she’ll go for something new. She’s fun to work with and very knowledgeable about fabrics. She knows how the clothes have to behave – how they have to move.”
For the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Queen showed up in a pale yellow coat dress and matching yellow hat, designed by her personal dressmaker Angela Kelly. The look consisted of a crepe wool coat and matching dress, with a sailor-style hat adorned with silk roses and leaves. She also wore the ‘Lover’s Knot’ brooch which she inherited from her grandmother Queen Mary.
The Queen attended the Diamond Jubilee concert in a gold embroidered gown made from fabric purchased in 1961. The design was inspired by the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. The event included performances by Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams and Elton John.
As part of the Queen’s four-day Coronation Festival, Buckingham Palace hosted a fashion runway in its gardens, open to the general public, and spotlighting brands that held a Royal Warrant. Companies that took part in the display included Dege & Skinner, Hunter, Tom Smith and Gieves & Hawkes, each of which showcased various products that had been supplied to the royal family throughout the years.
Mary Quant, often hailed as the mind behind the mini skirt, was named as one of the honourees of the Queen’s annual New Year Honours list, alongside the founder of Cambridge Satchel Company Julie Deane, who was appointed an OBE, and the British Fashion Council’s (BFC) Caroline Rush, who was made a CBE. Designers who have also made the list, both past and present, include the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Grace Wales Bonner and Dior’s Kim Jones. The list honours those for their contributions to their respective industries.
The Queen made a rare appearance on a magazine cover for Vanity Fair to mark her 90th birthday. She was joined in the exclusive photos, which were shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz at her home in Windsor Castle, by her beloved corgis as well as members of her family.
The BFC launched an inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design, established as a means to highlight emerging British design talent. Richard Quinn was the first recipient, and was recognised for his impact on the fashion industry and the development of his print studio. The Queen was present during Quinn’s London Fashion Week runway, sitting next to Vogue’s Anna Wintour, and presented Quinn with the award at the following ceremony. Since its launch, the likes of Bethany Williams, Priya Ahluwalia and Saul Nash have been selected as recipients.
British heritage brand Hawes and Curtis partnered with the National Army Museum on a limited-edition collection inspired by Queen Elizabeth II’s military uniform that she wore during the Second World War. The shirtmaker was selected to recreate her khaki shirt and tie as part of the capsule, as well as a range of pocket squares, blouses and cufflinks. The collection was available to purchase at the museum’s shop and the brand’s flagship store in a limited quantity.
The Queen made her first Instagram post through the Royal Family’s official social media account with an archive photograph of a letter written to her great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert. The image followed the Queen’s visit to London’s Science Museum, where she opted for a bright orange outfit. The look was linked to Pantone’s official colour of the year, ‘Living Coral’, and could be seen in further posts on the social media page following the event.
Royal dresser Angela Kelly revealed in her memoir that the Queen will be using faux fur from 2019 onwards, following in the footsteps of big name fashion brands, such as Burberry, Versace and Gucci, that had announced eliminating the animal-based material from their offering. A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace, however, told reporters that HM would continue to wear her existing fur items.
Since the announcement, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been urging the Royal Family to switch the Queen’s – now King’s – Guards caps to faux fur, instead of using the typical bearskin. A new animal-friendly material suggested by the organisation has been made in collaboration with faux fur manufacturers Ecopel and designer Stella McCartney.
Barbie immortalised Queen Elizabeth II with her own doll ahead of HM’s Platinum Jubilee in June, further adding to Mattel’s Tribute Collection. The look is inspired by one of the Queen’s most famous gowns and features a blue ribbon adorned with miniature medallions inspired by the Royal Family orders.
To further celebrate the Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth was featured on the cover of British Vogue for the first time alongside a second cover showing Queen’s Gambit actor Anya Taylor-Joy. On its Instagram page, Vogue said: “In a playful echo of Her Majesty The Queen, actor of the moment Anya Taylor-Joy wears a diamond diadem replica for her own fantasy dress-up moment as fashion’s punk princess.” For her own image, the Queen appeared in a black and white photograph wearing the real George IV State Diadem, in an image taken by Antony Armstrong Jones in the early years of her reign.
A series of exhibitions in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee launched at various Royal residences, including ‘The Queen’s Accession’ at the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace and ‘The Queen’s Coronation’, which is being held at Windsor Castle. The exhibitions are running side by side from July to October 2022 and each display a range of garments and jewellery worn by HM.
Notable pieces in the exhibitions include the Coronation Dress, the Robe of Estate and looks worn by the Queen during her Jubilee celebrations throughout the years.
The last pictures of the Queen were taken at Balmoral Castle during a visit by the UK’s new prime minister Liz Truss. Captured by royal photographer Jane Barlow, the images showed HM wearing the Balmoral Tartan, a pattern that can only be worn by royal family members approved by the Queen. The tartan is said to have been designed by Prince Albert in 1853, and is the only tartan to have been designed by a member of the Royal Family, according to Scottish Tartans. Its colour scheme consists of grey with over-checks of red and black and a background containing black and white yarns twisted together to achieve a granite undertone.