Who else out there in the endless void of the internet is celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee? Surely not just me. But you shouldn’t be surprised about it as I shared with you exactly how wrapped up, excited I was (and still am) with Will and Kate last year. I for one believe in honouring tradition and history the same way we honour a pair of vintage Chanel pumps. Lizzy’s (I say Lizzy because I imagine we are good friends- I am sure she is an avid reader of talktomyshoes and just doesn’t admit it yet) success as a monarch should be celebrated and thus I share with you directly a wonderful article I read at vogue.com.
“The first time Cecil Beaton photographed Queen Elizabeth II, she was a teenage princess in wartime. She had soft, little-girl curls and wore a pastel-pink taffeta dress that a long-forgotten dressmaker made with “lover’s knots in blue, and cream pearls,” according to the picture caption. At sixteen, she and her younger sister, Margaret Rose, were still dressed identically, just as they had been since the cradle, in matching kilts, bonnets, and coats with velvet collars. Princess Elizabeth leaned against a table in the Bow Room at Buckingham Palace with a painting of a baby Prince Leopold of the Belgians behind her; the set designer in Beaton was always present in his work. Inspired by Gainsborough and Winterhalter, Beaton’s was a portrait of both innocence and grandeur.
In another picture on the same shoot, she wore her Grenadier Guard uniform. At fifteen she had become their Colonel. She looks like a child, but already there is a certainty that belies her slender frame and youth. The Palace was firmly aware of the importance of the image projected. This fresh, sweet future monarch was pictured just six years after the shocking abdication of her uncle Edward. The clothes were key to this positive, confidence-inspiring vision. Here, they were slightly austere. Three years later, in a shot released after the end of the war, the Princess wore a romantic gown, a butterfly-spangled crinoline by Norman Hartnell that belonged to her mother. This was a peacetime return to fairy-tale fantasy. Hartnell had devised the crinoline shape for her mother, the Queen, who wore it to great acclaim on tour in Paris in 1938, as part of her “white wardrobe”; Christian Dior later claimed it was one of his inspirations for the New Look.
At the time, it was the brittle Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, and the beautiful Princess Marina of Kent who were the leading Royal fashion plates. Wallis Simpson might have called the then Queen “cookie” and said she looked like a “grocer’s daughter,” but George VI had briefed Hartnell that he wanted his wife to be a counterpoint to Wallis: light, soft froth to her dark, hard angles. The royal family’s job, the King felt, was to be regal and reassuring rather than sharp and fashionable. It was a message their eldest child would pick up fifteen years later when she became Queen—and now, 60 years later, as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, she has remained as luminous and yet as gentle as she was then.
We will never know if character or position propelled the young Elizabeth toward more modest necklines, in contrast to her sister Margaret’s décolleté, starlet style. But although she could certainly do glamour—it was universally agreed that she outshone Marilyn Monroe at a film premiere in 1956, in a black velvet off-the-shoulder Hartnell gown—she never looked less than regal. The Queen has spent her whole life dressing for public consumption. Just as with the jewels, the dresses and the regalia had to be in keeping with her position, so they also had to be sensitive to time and place. They had to be practical, but also diplomatic. Never has a wardrobe had to work so hard.
In the forties, the influence of her mother, who favored diaphanous pastels and floaty dresses, is still evident. Elizabeth and Margaret were young women in their mother’s shadow. Through that decade, the carefree future Queen wore dresses with padded shoulders and nipped in waists—the Forties silhouette. After the war, she was often dressed by Hartnell, who made so much clothing for her mother. Hartnell was a publican’s son who had begun designing opera costumes while he was a student at Cambridge. Like Beaton, he had a theatrical streak that saw him through two of the most important commissions of the twentieth century: the wedding dress of 1947, and the Queen’s coronation gown.
Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress was a communal effort, in a sense, with fabric bought by the public’s clothing coupons. But the star was the embroidery. The dress and its train were encrusted with thousands of seed pearls and crystal beads in garlands of lilies and white York roses. But it was the coronation gown that was the apotheosis of Hartnell’s career. The Queen wanted the same silhouette as her wedding dress, but with emblems of the United Kingdom and all her dominions included. “I thought of the sky, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and everything heavenly that might be embroidered on a dress destined to be historic,” wrote Hartnell in his autobiography. It also had to be a dress that wasn’t totally eclipsed by the fact its wearer was sporting a crown, an orb, and a scepter; and it must outshine an abbey full of peeresses and other royals. Here was the ultimate statement dress. A young, slight English rose was transformed into a monarch.
Royalty have always understood the power of fashion. On a macro level, the wardrobe, like the jewels, spoke of history, status, wealth, and reach. But it was this Queen who introduced the idea of dressing as diplomacy. It has often been said that the Queen dresses for the practicalities of her role: Her hems are weighed down so they don’t blow up; her skirts must be long enough for dignity sitting on a podium or descending airplane steps; her fabrics mustn’t crease; her colors must stand out in a crowd; and her hats must show her face. And yet, the messages that accompany the outfits are much more interesting than that, and particularly so on state visits. On these occasions, there is an international relations mission to be accomplished. And here the wardrobe plays a vital part.
After the coronation, there was a shift from pastels to brights. Her first global tour as Queen was a lesson in the power of color and an antidote to the gloom of the Cold War. So began the habit of a lifetime: the radiant wardrobe.
The Queen dressed for the world—she was an astutely political dresser. Her outfits said: We respect your culture, your heritage, your terrain; we are flattered to be here; we make an effort to show we have thought about what that means. Hartnell embroidered French flowers and Napoleonic bees for France; maple leaves on green satin for Canada; bugle beads into lotus flowers for India. Hardy Amies’s dresses were lighter, his silhouette narrower, but no less loaded with significance. In 1983, the Queen met Frank Sinatra in California, in an Amies gown embroidered with California poppies. And just last year, a century of ice dissolved when she wore a dress described by the local press as “shamrock green” to Ireland.
Today, the majority of the clothes are made by a Liverpudlian docker’s daughter namedAngela Kelly, who carries the title of “personal assistant and senior dresser.” She is described by the Palace is a “no-nonsense” figure and is known for her resourcefulness: a “Snow Queen” silver dress worn in Slovenia in 2008 was made from of fabric from the Middle East that had been lying around the palace for more than 20 years. (They called it “credit-crunch couture.”) London couturier Stewart Parvin received a visit from Kelly in 2000, not that he knew who she was. “She told me she had a client, in her 60s, in the public eye, that she must be elegant, classic, and very Jackie O, and that the designs must be completely unique to her.” Soon he found himself suggesting fabrics and conducting fittings at Buckingham Palace. He says she has incredible posture and is fortunate in that she can wear any color. “She is exacting,” he adds, “in a way that you can only be if you have a keen interest and enjoyment in dressing.” Today, Kelly and her team make all the clothes in the Queen’s private apartments at Buckingham Palace, including the primose-yellow dress and coat the Queen wore to Prince William’s wedding and, for this upcoming week, most of the Jubilee wardrobe, including any hats that are not made by the current milliner, Rachel Trevor-Morgan. ” -Catherine Ostler (credits to Vogue.com)