“I do not dress the queen”, Sir Hardy Amies once said, “We supply her with clothes – there is a difference.” For half a century Hardy Amies was the Queen Elizabeth II’s official dressmaker, retiring only a year before his death aged 93. He was responsible for her sharp coats, tailored jackets and Elizabethan collars, after she was appointed Queen in 1953 at just 27 years of age. This long weekend celebrates her Diamond jubilee, and 60 years of immaculate style.
For her first Commonwealth tour in 1953, the Queen took more than 100 specially tailored outfits. These included pieces made by couturier Norman Hartnell, who would become her second loyal couturier. For the rest of his life, he would cinch in her legendary 23-inch waist with a variety of ball gowns, including the later named “magpie” dress, which was black with a white panel running down the front. He dressed the Queen for both her wedding and coronation in 1935.
Alongside Hartnell and Amies, The Queen also wore her mother’s outfits, as well as off-the-peg dresses. Stewart Parvin has been designing for the Queen since 2000, choosing block colours to elongate her petite 5”4 frame. Milliner Frederick Fox designed many of her hats, including a pink bell creation worn for her silver Jubilee.
"The consistency in her clothing is remarkable, and strict rules govern her outfits: she always wears a two-inch heel, hemlines must be below the knee and her clothing is often weighted down to avoid any wardrobe malfunction"
The consistency in her clothing is remarkable, and strict rules govern her outfits: she always wears a two-inch heel, hemlines must be below the knee and her clothing is often weighted down to avoid any wardrobe malfunction. She has always had an acute awareness of what is required of her clothing, and outfits are recorded on a spreadsheet, documenting when and where they were worn. She has always followed Sir Hardy’s motto that, “A woman's day clothes must look equally good at Salisbury Station as the Ritz bar.”
Unlike her mother and many royals, The Queen has never made fashion her business. Governess Marion Crawford famously wrote in her book, The Little Princesses, “Lilibet never cared a fig. She wore what she was told without argument, apart from a long, drab Mackintosh which she loathed.” However, regardless of her intentions or interest in style, her look has inspired numerous fashion houses, including Vivienne Westwood and Dolce & Gabbana, who based their AW08 collection on her Royal Highness, channeling Balmoral floor-length skirts and headscarves. In the 1950s, her specially designed dresses would be replicated overnight to sell to the masses.
Her clothes are representative of an era. A time of couture and tailoring, geared by traditionalism and patriotism that she has carried through since the 1950s. A journey from full skirts in beadwork and tulle, to tailored suits and white gloves, she embodies a balance of authority and elegance.
Text by Mhairi Graham