Being a part of the royal family is an amazing privilege, but it comes with a lot of traditions and rules, some of which affect even their fashion choices. Here are 10 style protocols that they follow.
1.Wedding dresses need the Queen’s approval
It’s a tradition that the Queen needs to approve the final version of a royal wedding dress. Apparently, Queen Elizabeth had to approve of Kate Middleton’s Alexander McQueen gown in 2011, and she’ll do the same with Meghan Markle’s dress for her wedding to Prince Harry.
Reportedly, Markle has chosen a Ralph & Russo gown to wear to her May 19 wedding, but the Queen will have a final say in her decision.
2. Not just anyone can wear a Tiara
Tiaras are worn only to the fanciest of royal events, and typically, they’re worn for the first time by brides. Kate Middleton borrowed Queen Elizabeth’s Cartier Halo tiara for her wedding to Prince William in 2011, and she’s even worn Princess Diana’s tiara on several occasions.
But it’s a privilege reserved for married women only — single women and children never wear them. “It signals the crowning of love and the loss of innocence to marriage,” Geoffrey Munn, author of Tiaras – A History of Splendour, said in an interview with Forbes. “The family tiara was worn by the bride, and from that moment onwards it was the groom’s jewelry she was expected to wear. It was a subliminal message that she had moved from her own family to another.”
Given the tradition, it’s likely that Meghan Markle will wear a tiara to wed Prince Harry in May, although which one is still unknown.
3. The Queen uses her bags to send secret messages
You may notice that the Queen is never without a handbag, and that’s because she uses it to send signals. For example, when she wants to leave dinner, simply setting her bag on top of the table lets her aides know that the party is ending shortly and that she wants to leave.
Also, when she’s in conversation and switches her purse to her other hand, it means that she would like to politely wrap it up. “It would be very worrying if you were talking to the Queen and saw the handbag move from one hand to the other,” royal historian Hugo Vickers told People.
4. Clutches had another purpose — such as hiding cleavage
Princess Diana’s handbag designer Anya Hindmarch famously called her clutches “cleavage bags.”
“We used to laugh when we designed what she called her ‘cleavage bags,’ little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars,” Hindmarch said in an interview with the Telegraph. And in photos, every time Princess Diana got out of a car, her clutch was right there to shield her chest from prying photographers. So clever!
5. Clutches are also used to avoid shaking hands
Clutches are also used to avoid hand shakes. Kate Middleton often holds her bags in front of her with both hands when shaking hands might be awkward, etiquette expert Myka Meier told Good Housekeeping. This is why Meghan Markle’s bags, which usually have a shoulder strap or top handle, seem out of the ordinary when it comes to protocol.
However, according to Meier, the type of bag worn depends on the occasion. “As we see Meghan attending more formal events,” she said, “we are likely to see her accessorizing with more clutches.”
6. The Queen wears bright clothing — but not because she loves color
You’d be hard-pressed to find a photo of Queen Elizabeth NOT wearing bold colors — and for good reason. In the documentary The Queen at 90, Sophie, Countess of Wessex (the Queen’s daughter-in-law) said, “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen.’”
If she’s wearing one of her brightly-hued monochromatic outfits, the public can easily catch a glimpse of her in a large crowd. According to the Queen’s biographer, Robert Hardman, she was quoted as saying, “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am.”
7. Prince George only wears shorts
Other than the fact that George looks adorable in them, the reason he’s always photographed in shorts is because dressing boys in shorts is a longstanding tradition among British royalty and aristocracy.
“Trousers are for older boys and men, whereas shorts on young boys is one of those silent class markers that we have in England,” said British etiquette expert William Hanson in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK. He said that they start wearing pants around 8 years old.
8. The Queen reportedly hires someone to break in her shoes
Queen Elizabeth makes so many royal appearances, all of which usually require heels or dressy shoes. Since she’s constantly on her feet, having someone to break in her shoes means she skips all the uncomfortable rubbing and blisters that come with wearing new shoes. In an interview with Evening Standard, designer Stuart Parvin said, “The shoes have to be immediately comfortable … she does get someone to wear them. The Queen can never say, ‘I’m uncomfortable, I can’t walk any more.’ ”
According to the publication, a staff member will wear a pair of beige cotton ankle socks while breaking in the Queen’s shoes can only walk carpet during this period. Dream job, right?
9. Weighted hems are a common trick to avoid wardrobe malfunctions
Remember these photos of KMid’s yellow Jenny Packham dress dangerously catching the breeze on a tarmac in 2011? Queen Elizabeth has a hack for preventing that.
Stewart Parvin, one of her couturiers, told the Daily Mail he sews weights into the hem of the Queen’s clothes, which prevents them from blowing up in the wind. “Surprisingly, it is nothing fancy,” Parvin told the publication. “I use curtain weights, lead weights, from Peter Jones’s curtain department. We call them penny weights.”
10. The Queen wears hats due to an old tradition
For basically every formal occasion, the Queen wears a hat that perfectly matches her bright outfits. Apparently it comes from a very old tradition that women should keep their hair covered. “Up until the 1950s, ladies were very seldom seen without a hat as it was not considered ‘the thing’ for ladies to show their hair in public,” Diana Mather from The English Manner etiquette consultancy told BBC. “But all that has changed, and hats are now reserved for more formal occasions.”
On the rare occasions when the Queen isn’t sporting a hat, you might see her wearing a crown or a headscarf instead.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Cover photo courtesy of Stylecaster/Getty Images