The Queen’s Seven Style Steps

Some believe Elizabeth was wearing jeans at the exact moment she became queen, when her father died in his sleep at Sandringham on February 6, 1952 while she was on safari in Kenya.

She returned to Britain without black mourning attire and was forced to wait on her plane while one was brought to her to change, but the new queen was already beginning to assert her own spirit.

“Lilibet, your skirts are far too short for mourning,” her grandmother, Queen Mary, warned when she greeted her. At her father’s funeral a week later, her mother wore a skirt that reached the floor, while the Queen’s new dress floated inches above her ankles, a subtle but sure sign that it was of a sovereign with her own way of doing things.

Thoughts quickly turned to the most important attire of the Queen’s reign – her coronation robe. Hartnell was again put in charge of the commission. “Her Majesty graciously told me the dress was triumphant,” he said. She later also compared it to wearing a radiator.

Women everywhere sought to copy the queen’s new looks, which wasn’t always easy given that most of her outfits were haute couture creations. In October 1952, she caused a sensation when she arrived at the Empire Theater in Leicester Square wearing a blazer-style dress by Hartnell. Makers rushed to make copies of the fashion-forward dress and even those on a budget could imitate Her Majesty after a 30p paper pattern was produced. This is an extremely rare example of the monarch channeling menswear. The dress, nicknamed the “Magpie”, was never worn again.

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