By Mimosa Spencer and Richa Naidu
PARIS/LONDON – The death of Queen Elizabeth II marks a shift in the relationship between fashion and the British monarchy, with younger members of the royal family, particularly Catherine, Princess of Wales, likely to take on greater public roles.
The late Queen had a precise fashion formula – elegant coats, slim hats and square-heeled shoes defined her familiar silhouette, as did her handbag, which became a symbol of stability.
“The Queen was aware of the usefulness of a tool style in conveying her image as a monarch,” said Alicia Healey, who worked in the Queen’s household for four years and has since published a book called Wardrobe Wisdom from a Royal Lady’s Maid “ wrote: how to dress and how to take care of your clothes”.
“I think their clothes were, to a certain extent, a uniform for them.”
During the fashion choices of the new monarch King Charles III and his wife Queen Consort Camilla, will inevitably draw attention, they’re both in their 70s, meaning camera lenses will focus more on Charles’ children William and Harry – and their wives.
That could mean a shift in royals’ association with fashion from formal structures to more relatable – albeit understated – styles.
With Harry and his wife Meghan now residing in California, William’s wife Catherine, popularly known as Kate, will draw the public eye and commemorate the era of William’s late mother Diana when she was Princess of Wales.
“I really think people care about the younger members of the family and what they’re wearing because it’s a lot more related to us, what we wear to parties or to work,” said fashion critic and historian Suzy Menkes.
The styles worn by Kate, 40, have been known to provoke spending sprees. Jenny Packham’s polka dot dress, which she wore after the birth of eldest child Prince George in 2013, subsequently sold out. It was seen as a tribute to Diana, who was also photographed with polka dots returning home with baby Prince William.
Kate’s style is usually low-key, but when she gets dressed, it creates an excitement, say fashion experts.
“When the queen-to-be wears something sexy and glamorous, people get very excited because Kate isn’t really someone who dresses like that,” said Menkes, who describes her style as casual yet chic.
“It’s interesting to see how that will change and if she’ll take it up a notch and look a little more glamorous,” she said.
However, this could be at odds with King Charles’ sustainability messages.
“Charles’ sustainability efforts require fashion to be a little more conscientious,” said Jennifer Castro, a West Palm, Fla.-based digital marketer whose fashion blog RoyalStyleWatch has more than 67,000 Instagram followers.
“Charles is someone who has worn the same camel coat for 25 years – he takes great pride in buying quality items that last,” Castro said.
Gerald Bodmer has lost track of the glossy Launer handbags that Queen Elizabeth II bought from his company during her seven-decade reign, but the classic, hand-sewn accessories have been part of her wardrobe since the 1950s and ’60s.
He estimates she’s ordered about a dozen in the last 40 years and has only stuck to a handful of models, such as the top-handled Traviata in a subtle trapezoidal shape, which retails for around £2,090 ($2,390). on sale is.
In her most recent public photo with Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss, she carried a pre-1980s Launer bag, while tossing in the creamy vanilla bespoke Lisa hybrid she wore to William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 sparked so much interest from the company website crashed, according to the label.
For many, the accessory will forever be associated with the Queen.
“I’ve never noticed any handbags other than the ones Her Majesty wore,” Menkes said. “Of course other people have handbags, but I didn’t really grow fond of them.”
The Queen has set high standards when it comes to striking the right tone, said Elizabeth Holmes, author of HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style.
“It’s incredibly clever of her to see the power of dress and tableware to promote a kind of monarchy and support her royal duties,” said Holmes.
“There was never a moment when the Queen missed the mark – where she was inappropriately dressed, where her wardrobe failed in some way. And for 70 years to be so consistent? I think we take it for granted.”
($1 = 0.8745 pounds)