As a young princess who came of age during World War II, the Queen’s style had often reflected the state of the nation. For example her Norman Hartnell wedding gown was made using duchesse satin purchased with ration vouchers, as was typical of brides at the time. Decades on, the Queen continued to discreetly communicate through her outfits, from a diplomatic colour choice to a piece of jewellery carefully selected for the history attached.
The Queen’s wardrobe had come to be defined by the staples that had been constants throughout her reign: Her Majesty’s black Launer handbags, prim pumps and unrivalled collection of heirloom brooches had seen her through thousands of royal walkabouts, dozens of state visits, and countless audiences with the world’s most senior dignitaries. Meanwhile her love of bold colour–not to mention statement millinery—ensured one of the world’s most recognisable women always stood out in a crowd.
Her early years on the throne were defined by pieces created by court dressers, Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies, but in recent years her senior dresser–and close confidante–Angela Kelly, had overseen the Queen’s wardrobe on key occasions, including her Diamond Jubilee year, a flurry of Royal Weddings, and even the schedule of Zoom engagements Her Majesty undertook while the nation was in lockdown.
As the world remembers the Queen who reigned as the world’s longest-standing monarch, we chart her extraordinary life journey in her best style captures.
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5 November 1946
Princess Elizabeth joined the royal family wearing a satin gown and fur jacket to watch the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium.
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6 May 1960
At the wedding of her sister, Princess Margaret, to Antony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey, Her Majesty wore a turquoise Norman Hartnell dress with matching bolero and headpiece to attend the service at Westminster Abbey.
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5 June 1961
Her Majesty threw a banquet to honour then American president John F Kennedy at Buckingham Palace wearing a gown by Norman Hartnell. For the occasion, Jacqueline Kennedy wore a silk-satin dress by Chez Ninon.
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The Queen wore a pink and green patterned double-breasted coat by Hardy Amies for a royal visit to Malta. Her Majesty is also wearing one of her favourite brooches, the Cullinan V Brooch, made by Garrard in 1911. The Crown Jewels include several stones cut from the Cullinan diamond, the largest ever found.
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Queen Elizabeth spent time with a group of local children during her state visit to Mexico wearing a marigold printed pleated dress and a turban-style hat.
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3 June 1987
Her Majesty wore a yellow skirt suit with a wide-brim sunhat at the Epsom Derby.
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1 May 1988
The Queen was photographed in riding gear and a printed headscarf at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
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29 July 1990
On the final day of the 1990 Cartier Queen’s Cup, she arrived wearing a bow-necked dress and coat with white accessories and sepia sunglasses.
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Much like Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret, the Queen opted for bold florals to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday.
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10 May 1991
The Queen paired a green cardigan with a red shirt and tartan skirt for the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
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4 May 1993
Her Majesty wore a pink gown with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara to attend a banquet in Budapest with her husband, Prince Philip.
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Queen Elizabeth attended the Royal Variety Performance at the Birmingham Hippodrome wearing a colourful sequined top and striped gold skirt.
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9 May 2000
The Queen wore lilac to open the Millennium Bridge in 2000.
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3 May 2000
The Queen wore a bow-print gown to greet Nelson Mandela at Buckingham Palace, adding Royal Family Orders and a suite of emerald jewellery, including the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara.
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27 July 2003
She chose vibrant florals with a diamond bar brooch to attend the Cartier International Polo in Windsor.
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9 April 2005
The Queen attended the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles at Windsor Castle wearing an ivory and lemon outfit, and the Australian Wattle brooch.
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15 November 2006
At the State Opening of Parliament, Her Majesty chose a white beaded gown with a fur stole and wore the George IV diadem.
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25 November 2010
Her Majesty wore pale blue florals during a walkabout accompanied by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum during her visit to Abu Dhabi.
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24 May 2011
The Queen hosted a state banquet in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace during the Obamas’ visit, wearing a white embellished gown, along with an impressive suite of pieces and insignia from the royal jewellery vault: the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara, Queen Victoria’s pearl-drop earrings and Golden Jubilee necklace, the Teck Corsage Brooch, a pearl evening watch, a five-strand pearl bracelet and the Order of the Garter star, riband, and Lesser George.
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13 June 2012
She wore a Stewart Parvin coat and shift dress with a Rachel Trevor-Morgan hat for a Diamond Jubilee visit to Nottingham.
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19 November 2012
Her Majesty attended the Royal Variety Performance at the Royal Albert Hall wearing a beaded gold dress with matching metallic shoes, a Launer handbag and one of her many collet-style diamond necklaces.
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19 November 2015
The Queen kept dry under an umbrella that was tipped with pink to coordinate with her ensemble when visiting Birmingham.
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21 April 2016
On her 90th birthday, the Queen wrapped her hair in a white headscarf and wore a lime tweed coat with her favourite black accessories.
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10 June 2016
Her Majesty chose a yellow scalloped-edge Angela Kelly outfit with the Richmond brooch to attend a service of thanksgiving as part of her 90th birthday celebrations at St Paul’s Cathedral.
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11 June 2016
During the Trooping the Colour marking the Queen’s 90th birthday, Her Majesty was joined by family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace and wore a vibrant green coat by Stewart Parvin and a Rachel Trevor-Morgan Hat, accessorised with the Brigade of Guards badge.
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21 February 2017
The Queen wore a cream and blue lace dress to attend a reception in London, and carried a Launer handbag.
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20 February 2018
Marking her first visit to London Fashion Week, Queen Elizabeth arrived at the Richard Quinn show at 180 The Strand wearing a pale blue tweed suit and the Pearl Trefoil brooch. Following the show, Her Majesty presented Quinn with the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.
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14 June 2018
Her Majesty opted for another lime ensemble to accompany the Duchess of Sussex on her first royal appointment at the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge in Widnes.
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25 December 2019
She wore festive red to attend the Christmas morning service on the Sandringham Estate.
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19 January 2020
Queen Elizabeth was photographed leaving church at Sandringham wearing a grey checked coat and coordinating accessories.
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3rd February 2020
The Queen chose a pale peach ensemble with her signature Launer handbag to visit a Royal Air Force base in King’s Lynn.
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2 April 2021
On Easter Sunday, a photograph of Her Majesty and her eldest child, the Prince of Wales, walking in the garden of Frogmore House, Windsor, was released. The Queen wears a green overcoat with a printed silk headscarf.
This story originally appeared in British Vogue.