Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Royal Fashionistas

In honor of New York Fashion Week and the relentless focus on Kate's clothing, I thought I would go  back and revisit some other royals who were quite the fashionistas in their day. Think Kate put the royal family on the fashion map? Au contraire!

No fashion list would be complete without Queen Victoria. She rocked the black dress well before Audrey Hepburn was a glimmer in her parent's eyes. Thankfully she did not pioneer the little black dress (shudder) but she was a true champion when it came to wearing black from head to toe. Pairing it with accessories, such as priceless jewels, a white veil and a ceremonial sash, no royal has ever done the color justice since.

Albert Edward,
The Prince of Wales
While he would later lend his name to an entire era, the future King Edward VII was once a mere babe in a formal portrait.  In this Winterhalter painting, the young prince wears a sailor suit. His mother Queen Victoria was so enchanted with the suits worn by sailors in the Royal Navy that she commissioned a scaled down version for her son, thus setting a fashion trend. It is somewhat ironic that Edward himself did not serve in the Royal Navy, unlike his sons. The original suit is preserved in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

No other royal could be credited with popularizing a physical disability. Just before the birth of her third child in 1867  Princess Alexandra, Princess of Wales, contracted rheumatic fever, which left her with a permanent limp. This started a trend amongst society ladies called the 'Alexandra limp'. Which just goes to prove that the tradition of sycophancy never goes out of style.

Edward, Prince of Wales, was the royal superstar of his day. The man who popularized patterned Fair Isle sweaters, the Windsor Knot (but did not invent it) reportedly owed his boyish figure to spanx. He favored plus-fours, loud check tweeds, as well as two-tone shoes. Chaffing against royal fashion constraints, one of his first acts upon becoming king was to banish the frock-coat from his court. 

The Princess Royal may not be renowned for her fashion sense but well before Kate was recycling her clothes, there was Anne. Case in point, at the 2008 wedding of Lady Rose Windsor, daughter of the Duke of Gloucester, Anne wore a dress older than the groom. The Maureen Baker dress had been worn at Charles and Diana's wedding 27 years earlier. Anne paired the outfit with the same John Boyd hat and it appears the same earrings. Instead of being criticized she was praised not only for her economy, but for still having the figure to fit into a dress at the age of 58 that she originally wore when she was 31.

© Marilyn Braun 2011

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