Fashion fit for a Queen
14th July 2009
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This summer you can see 28 key outfits from the Queen's wardrobe archive, which go on display at Buckingham Palace as part of 'Queen and Commonwealth: the Royal Tour’, an exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth.

Since autumn 1953 when  a beautiful young woman began ruling over the Commonwealth the Queen has made over 170 official visits to Commonwealth countries. To many she embodies authority, elegance and grace and in fact  model Agyness Deyn has cited her as a style icon.

With over 100 outfits needed for her first tour, you can imagine how many she has needed since then. She has successfully used her wardrobe to broadcast a message to the world about power, status and her part in history. She also needs clothes that  keep a petite woman both fashionable and comfortable during her 15-hour working days.

For evening wear the young Queen turned to couturier Norman Hartnell who had made both her wedding and Coronation gowns. This intitial 1953 tour was to last six months and would need 100 new outfits to suit climates from the sticky West Indies to the chill north of Asia.

Hartnell adapted his signature style of full-skirted dresses with exquisite beading to the rigours of a hectic lifestyle. He used duchesse satin a lot, as its weight gave less creasing without being too hot.

The Queen has always required her evening clothes should pay homage to the host country somehow, and Hartnell always managed this, sometimes using national colours, or incorporating jewellery gifts - or in the case of the Montreal Olypics, using the olympic rings in the fabric design.

For day wear, she chose master of tailoring, Hardy Amies who started designing for the Queen in the early 50s and retired in 2003. He always managed to keep the Queen's silhouette fashionable without being ridiculous, bearing in mind that she must, at 5'4", be extremely visible. Her clothes also had to stand the rigours of getting in and out of cars elegantly, not riding up too far when sitting down and so on. Blocks of bright and bold colours were used for visibility in the clothes, whereas hats had to keep her face clear and yet not blow off in a stiff breeze. Many of her skirts are weighted to prevent them blowing around in the wind as well. 

At 83 the Queen makes fewer Commonwealth tours these days. This autumn she will make the trip to Trinidad and Tobago for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - and will surely be dressed as cleverly as ever by one of her new designers, such as Stewart Parvin and the her own dresser, Angela Kelly.

'Queen and Commonwealth: the Royal Tour' is at Buckingham Palace, London SW1, from 26 July to 30 September (020 7766 7300)

If you want to make a statement with your clothes, or you need something wonderful for a special occasion, Stamford has many excellent women's fashion boutiques. Take a look here

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