12 Times Royal Fashion Got Weird

The British royals attract attention as much for their status as for their style. Easily one of the best-dressed noble families in the world, their fashion — both individually and collectively — makes a striding statement of just how significantly clothes can be used as a medium of expression. Surely, sartorial meanings have evolved over decades within the royal family. While wardrobes were exponentially more dramatic in the past — like Princess Diana's ginormous wedding gown — they were also less publicized. As fashion expert Elly Summers told the BBC, "You just dressed for a particular event – now you have to dress for everyone all the time." 

With social media digging out lost vintage royal trends, the glad rags of the monarchy are routinely and carefully relooked at. In the past, as in the present, many royal fashions have broken away from the norm and veered wayward into curious territories. They may be trends that have been previously unexplored, garb that one wouldn't ever have imagined seeing on a royal, or even contentious costumes with a history that the public just didn't favor. Royal garments have made headlines on countless occasions for getting messages across, either successfully or unsuccessfully, but often oddly and in ways that are worth remembering. So let's jog that memory, shall we? Here are 12 times royal fashion got weird. 

Queen Elizabeth's sequinned multicolored gown looked more like a costume

For the most part of her reign as the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II stuck to a safe wardrobe. And yet, the high-spirited royal was often unafraid to introduce elements into her style that can be described as unconventional, if not outright quirky. There was a day back in 1999 when Her Majesty was probably not able to settle on a single color of choice for the annual Royal Variety Performance. So she did the next best (and only logical) thing: she mixed it all up. The late monarch attended the event dressed in a floor-length yellow gown that had a satin-look skirt and a patchwork top studded with multicolored sequins — from blues and pinks to greens and hints of gold. 

According to MyLondon, German designer Karl-Ludwig Rehse was the one responsible for taking the late monarch's love for bright colors up several notches and conceiving the graphic fever dream she wore in 1999. "People seemed to be thrilled at how she looked. ... She's like all ladies, she'll go for something new," he reportedly told the press. Elizabeth's memorable gown was perhaps a fitting ode to the new millennium blazing around the corner. It's also possible that she didn't get to make the whole selection of outfit herself. As ex-royal staffer Paul Burrell told Yahoo UK, the queen never actually peeked into her wardrobe herself and, per routine, was presented with two outfits to choose from.

Princess Catherine wore her shirt backwards — twice!

Leave it to Catherine, Princess of Wales to put a shirt on backwards and rock it better than how it's originally meant to be worn. The senior royal has proved herself a worthy successor of her mother-in-law Princess Diana of Wales, who was regarded highly as a groundbreaking style icon during her time. Like Diana, whose disruptive wardrobe left a mark in the fashion world, Catherine is seemingly not fearful of experimenting with clothes — even going so far as to put them on the wrong way. The odd trend came to light in 2019 when, during a visit to the Henry Fawcett Children's Centre in London, Catherine was spotted in a purple Gucci blouse that had buttons running down the front. As resplendent as she may have been looking, fans couldn't help but point out that the top was actually supposed to be worn with the buttons down the back! 

As People observed, retail photos of the product also showed the blouse's buttons at the back and the cuffs faced outwards, as opposed to Catherine's inward-facing cuffs. It's possible that she had her luxury apparel specially customized — at least, that seems to be one possible explanation — because, despite the commotion her outfit caused that time, Catherine wore her top backwards yet again in 2020 while appearing in an Instagram video. The repeat glitch can only lead one to believe that Catherine strictly prefers her buttons running down the front. 

Princess Diana sported a koala sweater that was far from royal

Lots of British royals wear animal prints, but few have worn whole animals. Princess Diana of Wales, being the fashion maverick that she was, included a variety of offbeat, relatable designs in her wardrobe that may have been almost too casual for royal stylists to sign off on. Case in point: her printed sweaters and, in particular, that iconic one with a koala sewn on it. Diana was spotted out and about in her navy "Blinky" koala sweater in 1982 at a polo match in Windsor. She was pregnant with her first child, Prince William, at the time, and was predictably rocking maternity fashion in the most Diana way possible. 

She ditched the sober, color-blocked winter wardrobe the royals are typically seen in for lively prints that looked like they could have been borrowed from any of our wardrobes. Say what the high powers may, the public loved them; she was, after all, the "people's princess." Diana's koala sweater was the work of Australian designer Jenny Kee, who brought a limited edition of her vintage knit back in 2020 to raise funds for koalas, per 7News Australia. Recalling the moment Diana wore the jumper, Kee told the channel: "It was a big moment because this was my iconic knit and this was the iconic koala." 

Princess Beatrice's squiggly fascinator is one for the ages

In the history of wild royal fascinators, Princess Beatrice's 2011 piece takes the cake and bakery both. A mention of the young royal is enough to conjure up a mental image of her in that most memorable hat she sported at Prince William's wedding. Both Beatrice and her sister, Princess Eugenie, became the talk of many towns at their cousin's widely televised nuptials for their extraordinary headpieces that looked straight out of a quirky fantasy. Designed by the royal family's go-to milliner Philip Treacy, Beatrice's fascinator — which showcased a nude-colored squiggly bow that was compared to everything, from a toilet seat to a fallopian tube — was the more striking of the two, and inspired a barrage of memes online. And the mass teasing didn't go unnoticed by her. 

"I've been amazed by the amount of attention the hat has attracted," Beatrice remarked later that year while turning her hat's ridicule (ironically) on its head and actually putting the now-iconic piece up for auction. According to the BBC, the "pretzel" hat was sold for a whopping £81,100 (over $100,000), with the money raised donated to charity. As much fun as she'd claimed to have with the hat, Beatrice never repeated a similar one after. Under the guidance of celebrity stylist Charlie Anderson — who told People "it was a little unfair" how Beatrice and Eugenie were treated for their hats — the two sisters later underwent a style revamp.

The ever-rebellious Princess Diana wore a choker on her head

Princess Diana of Wales was known (and beloved) for her penchant to forge her own path that stretched all the way from royal duties to royal fashion. The latter was especially striking in the context of the trendsetting royal. Few among the British monarchy besides Diana would have dared to wear a priceless choker around their foreheads and step out for a festive evening on international waters. In what would turn out to be a momentous style statement, the "people's princess" did just that in 1985, when she was in Australia attending a gala dinner with the then-Prince Charles. The retro look, complemented by a teal single-shoulder gown, became an enduring hit among fans and fashionistas alike — but not everyone was pleased. 

According to sources quoted by Express, Queen Elizabeth II wasn't thrilled about her daughter-in-law departing from the vintage jewelry's original use and parading it around as a bandeau. The accessory, studded with gifted emeralds, initially belonged to Elizabeth's grandmother Queen Mary. It was commissioned in 1921 by Garrard, which gave the jewelry an Art Deco design. The extravagant piece was passed on to Elizabeth, who wasn't a fan of chokers and eventually loaned it to Diana. The late princess made full use of the ornament, wearing it often as a choker but most memorably as a headband. In 2022, things came full circle when Diana's daughter-in-law Princess Catherine was seen wearing the choker at an awards ceremony. 

Princess Catherine landed on the wrong wardrobe for an official tour

Catherine, Princess of Wales rarely missteps when it comes to picking out the perfect attire for any event. She is dressed to the nines every time she steps out in public, especially on official business. It was, therefore, a thorough shocker that Catherine dressed inappropriately in 2012 while on an international trip to the Solomon Islands. She decked up in a vividly pink printed dress that made her look every bit like a tropical princess. As regal as she looked, Catherine was dressed unsuitably for the Oceanic nation and, unwittingly, slipped on garments that belonged to the Cook Islands situated miles away. The embarrassing mix-up prompted controversy, with Catherine in the eye of the storm. 

As Solomon Islands locals charged Catherine for the error, Clarence House rushed to issue a clarification, alleging the confusion was because of no fault of the British royals. Clothes for both Catherine and Prince William had been laid out in their room beforehand and the royals' staff "undertook to check that the items of clothing were indeed the gifts of the Government and not a gift from any other individual," a spokesperson told E! News. Officials in the Solomon Islands apparently okayed the outfits, "mistakenly as it later appeared," which led to the sartorial misunderstanding. Catherine reportedly kept the dress as a memento — and possibly a cautionary reminder to double-check her official outfits twice! 

The look Queen Camilla wore to meet the Pope looked familiar

As the successor to one of the most popular royals of all time, Queen Consort Camilla has never been able to evade comparison. In public image as in personality and style, King Charles III's second wife has always been pitted against his first, Princess Diana of Wales. One such key moment of parallels being drawn between the two women dates back to 2009, when Camilla and Charles paid a visit to the Vatican. While Charles looked sharp in a standard suit, Camilla's ensemble drew attention for how similar it looked to something royal fans had witnessed before. Back in 1985, when Diana called on the Pope, she had dressed in a black dress, a lace veil, and white pearls — a combination Camilla opted for as well. The Guardian didn't miss pointing out just how tense Camilla looked during the meeting. 

Though it was not the first time that Camilla was bombarded with claims of duplicating Diana's wardrobe (remember the iconic revenge dress from 1994?) the accusations around her 2009 outfit may have been misdirected. Camilla, like Diana, had dressed in accordance with sartorial guidelines that are traditionally observed during an audience with the Pope. With the exception of a few royal members — who are afforded the advantage of wearing lighter colors by the customary privilège du blanc ("privilege of the white") — dignitaries typically don black while meeting the Catholic head. 

Princess Catherine's dress was odd enough to leave people debating

Catherine, Princess of Wales has been a devout champion of floral trends. While her wardrobe has "taken quite a serious slant" since she assumed her latest senior title, as royal fashion expert Bethan Holt put it (via People), Catherine's bygone era of wild prints and graphic florals remains unforgotten. And some such fashion moments stand out more distinctly in memory than others — like a particularly bold gown Catherine wore in 2015 that became a heated talking point among the custodians of royal style. The then-Duchess of Cambridge attended a dinner in London for the 100 Women in Hedge Funds event wearing a satiny number splashed with all the colors of the French flag. 

The dress was by the British high fashion brand Erdem, known for its floral designs and clearly favored by Catherine, who has been spotted on multiple occasions over the years wearing its pieces. In fact, according to The Telegraph, the fashion label was allegedly an issue of discord between Catherine and Meghan Markle, both of whom are fans of Erdem and vied for first preference over it. Like the two royals were apparently divided, so were audiences over Catherine's noteworthy 2015 dress that some fans said looked more like curtains than elegant dinner attire. As Metro observed, some fans took precise offense to the flouncy drop waist design of the dress that didn't quite flatter the stylish princess. 

There was no dress code, but the royal family wore matching outfits

Matching outfits are a polarizing issue. On one side of the debate are people who abhor the strange fantasy of families dressing up as each other, while contenders argue that it's an entirely endearing trend. No prizes for guessing which team the British royals are on! 

A band of royal family members stepped out for a Christmas event in December 2022, all decked up in burgundy and black. Amid the sea of color-coded royals, Prince William and Princess Catherine's family was most distinct, with Prince George and his sister Princess Charlotte looking like mini replicas of their parents in matched coats. Even other relatives like Zara Tindall and Pippa Middleton had donned similar ensembles. As far as general knowledge went, there was no officially prescribed color theme for the event, which was actually preceded by another noteworthy incident. 

Only days before the Christmas outing, Netflix released "Harry & Meghan," a tell-all documentary about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's fallout with the royal family. Meghan had revealed on an episode that she "rarely wore color" during her time as a member of the monarchy to avoid "wearing the same color as one of the other more senior members of the family" (via Insider). It was widely alleged in the press that the royal family's matching outfits intended to make a deliberate statement challenging Meghan's claims of sartorial strictness. 

Queen Elizabeth's neon green birthday dress nearly blinded viewers

One didn't ever have to strain too hard to discern Queen Elizabeth II from a crowd of royals. Her prominence can be attributed to her center-front position always, yes, but her attire contributed a great deal, too. The late queen was quite easily the monarch with the brightest wardrobe ever, and had a legendary reputation for pulling off all kinds of pinks, purples, yellows, and blues with panache. These sartorial decisions are deliberate, as Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, confirmed in a documentary about the queen. "She needs to stand out for people to be able to say, 'I saw the queen,'" she explained, per The Telegraph. Even a glimpse of the queen's hat passing by is momentous to the crowds. 

In fact, Elizabeth's outfits were so vividly colored that it's altogether impossible to erase some of them from memory — in particular, the neon green number she rocked back in 2016 at the Trooping the Color ceremony. The title of the occasion suggested that Elizabeth, who was then ringing in her 90th birthday, was dressed aptly in her neon coat dress and matching hat. But the colorful ensemble looked too much of a green screen for the internet to not make memes about Her Majesty's blinding clothes. From a highlighter to a traffic light, the range of comparables was vast. It was still undeniable that the queen carried her fit out as well as she did any other.

Princess Diana's iconic wedding dress was unnecessarily long

Over four decades have passed since Diana Spencer walked down the aisle in a wedding dress that can only be described as iconic. The billowing gown is as inseparable a part of Diana's legend as the princess herself, and is widely touted as an unforgettable fashion moment for the ages. A key feature of the garment was (and still is) the 25-foot-long train that trailed it. According to Vogue, the train still holds the crown for being the longest at any royal wedding ever. Former designer couple Elizabeth and David Emanuel, who conceived Diana's wedding dress, had just three months' time to finish the fairytale outfit — including the challenge of sewing together the most ambitious train in royal history. And for what exactly? Only to set a new record, it seems. 

"Halfway through we realized, 'We're not going to finish this,'" Emanuel recalled to E! News. "Behind the scenes we're thinking, 'Maybe we've bitten off too much ... keep sewing!'" But the over-the-top project proved more than successful with Diana's taffeta wedding gown — and in particular, the lace-trimmed train and tulle veil — earning historic prominence as a royal wedding landmark. It was left to Diana's sons Princes William and Harry in her will and, most recently, made it back to her royal residence at Kensington Palace for an exhibition in 2021. 

Queen Camilla wore her royal status on her gold-plated sleeve

The magnitude of the British monarchy's wealth is unimaginable. The royals don't particularly have to deck up in gold to tell us that. But, in case this little nugget went missed, Queen Consort Camilla did just that while attending a royal event in 2012. Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years as monarch, her daughter-in-law opted for a dazzling gold outfit that screamed Diamond Jubilee like nothing else. The geometric print on her coat dress by Bruce Oldfield — who is rumored to also be working on her attire for her and King Charles III's coronation in 2023, per The Independent — glimmered in a golden display of extravagance, with an equally dramatic Philip Treacy hat completing the look. 

In fact, the guest of honor herself — the queen — was dressed in paler tones than Camilla, who stood out among the crowd at St. Paul's cathedral in her tinfoil regalia. Independent.ie, naming Camilla the worst-dressed at the event, observed that her over-the-top garb made it look like she "had been finger painting with solid gold." Camilla, who has long held firm on her love for casual dressing (jeans and such), is known to pursue earthier colors compared to the vividly-shaded wardrobes of other royal women. As fashion writer Caroline Young told The Independent, Camilla "is very much a countrywoman at heart" and, besides the "occasional drama," her outfits generally follow a neutral pattern.