Royal outfits that mean more than you realized

Monarch or not, your clothing communicates a powerful message about you. "Clothing is an extension of who we are," writes Jennifer Baumgartner in You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You. "Much like a turtle with its shell, we tell the world the who, the what, the where, and the when of our lives by what we wear on our backs." Of course, the average person doesn't have to put as much thought into their outfits as the royal family does.

Whether they're performing a royal engagement or posing for an official portrait, the royals — for the most part — stick to an inoffensive and conservative wardrobe. In modern day, the royal family has relaxed some aspects of their dress code (e.g. Princes George and Louis can wear shorts as opposed to dresses). But, those changes didn't come without careful consideration.

"The royal family is very aware of the images and what they are communicating," Charlotte Bolland, the senior curator of a royal portraits exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London, told The Guardian. Yes, they know how to make a literal fashion statement. Here are just a few royal outfits that mean more than you realized.

Queen's Elizabeth's wedding dress

Choosing the perfect wedding dress can be intimidating. After all, there are a lot of factors to consider. To help brides-to-be make their best decisions, Brides compiled a list of 70 tips to keep in mind while shopping. Seventy! While it's true that the royal family has access to esteemed designers and an epic budget, a royal bride has the added pressure of being seen — and, unfortunately, judged — by millions of people. She also has the task of effectively and respectfully representing the royal family. That said, Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, proved she was up to the challenge. 

In 1947, the future monarch walked down the aisle wearing not only a beautiful dress, but one that symbolized hope, according to Joanna Marschner, a royal wedding gown curator. At the time, the nation was recovering from the second world war, which meant clothing was still being rationed. Elizabeth was not exempt, according to History. She used rationing coupons in order to purchase the material for her gown and, instead of making an ostentatious display, she wore a gown embroidered with spring flowers to convey a message of renewal.

Princess Diana's iconic LBD

Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated in 1992, but both continued to perform royal engagements. This is why it was shocking that, in June 1994, Princess Diana defied the royal dress code and stepped out wearing a tight, above-the-knee, black silk dress complete with a daring sweetheart neckline. Before long, the outfit became known as the "revenge dress." But, why?

While Diana was looking fabulous and attending a party hosted by Vanity Fair, her estranged husband's documentary was making its television debut. Charles was attempting to repair his image through the documentary, but he ended up admitting — on national television — to having an affair.

Likely knowing what was to come, Diana told her stylist, Anna Harvey, that she wanted to look like "a million dollars" for the Vanity Fair party, the stylist later told Woman Magazine. Hence: the revenge dress. Auction house owner Kerry Taylor, who has auctioned off many famous gowns once owned by Diana, is quoted as saying: "…While some would have been like 'I can't face it this evening' Diana went out in that dress looking drop dead gorgeous. She made a big statement right there." That she did.

Kate Middleton's poppy dress

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's passing, Kate Middleton accompanied her husband Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry, to visit the Sunken Garden. In memory of the late princess, the area had been turned into a White Garden, a "peaceful and contemplative space," according to Kensington Palace, filled with white flowers.

Kate couldn't have picked a more perfect outfit to wear to such an occasion. As InStyle reported, "Middleton looked elegant in a green Prada tea-length dress with a poppy print, high neck, and long sleeves." The poppy print was especially significant. In the UK, red poppies are a "symbol of remembrance and hope, including hope for a positive future and a peaceful world," according to the Royal British Legion. The flower is most often worn to honor fallen soldiers, but it appears Kate wore the flower in remembrance of her husband's late mother. InStyle also highlighted that the style of Kate's dress was the same kind "Diana herself was often photographed wearing."

The queen's wedding guest dress

Since her own wedding day, Queen Elizabeth II has continued to use her wardrobe to make statements. Even her bold color choices are for a reason, according to the monarch's daughter-in-law Sophie. "She needs to stand out for people to be able to say 'I saw the Queen,'" she explained in documentary The Queen at 90 (via PopSugar). This is true even when she attends weddings. While most guests would want to avoid upstaging the bride, the queen dresses like the queen wherever she goes.

At Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, she sported the Joker's signature colors: neon green with purple accents. But she may not have worn the ensemble just to stand out. June McLeod, color consultant and author of Color Psychology Today, told Good Housekeeping that these two colors were remarkable. "Green is the color of growth and rebirth," she explained, adding that it's also worn as a "sign of respect and intention for the future." Purple, according to the expert, is a "proud" color that "symbolizes cleansing and indicates a passion for creativity."

Meghan Markle's wedding veil

Queen Elizabeth wasn't the only one sending a message on Harry and Meghan's big day. The bride herself wore something very symbolic. "Ms. Markle expressed the wish of having all 53 countries of the Commonwealth with her on her journey through the ceremony," Kensington Palace revealed on Twitter. "Ms. Waight Keller designed a veil representing the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular floral composition."

A statement on the royal family's official site further explained Meghan's decision to incorporate all 53 countries led by Queen Elizabeth: "The commonwealth family of nations… will be a central part of Prince Harry's and Ms. Markle's official work." Meghan also "wanted to express her gratitude for the opportunity to support the work of the Commonwealth." The 53 countries were represented by a variety of their native flowers.

Meghan also had two of her personal favorite flowers added: Wintersweet, which is found near Kensington Palace and at Nottingham Cottage, and the California Poppy, the state flower of California — that is, the state from which Meghan hails. Lastly, the 16.5-foot-long veil also features wheat crops which symbolize "love and charity."

Kate's green BAFTAs gown

Sometimes a royal will wear an outfit to make a statement and sometimes a royal will wear an outfit to not make a statement. The latter was the case when the Duchess of Cambridge attended the British Academy Film and Television Arts Awards (BAFTAs) in 2018. The month prior, at the 75th Annual Golden Globes in Los Angeles, California, celebrities wore black in support of the Time's Up movement. The overwhelming majority of celebs in attendance at the BAFTAs also decided to wear black. But, not Kate. 

As The Cut reported at the time, Kate, who wore a dark emerald green gown, stood out amongst her fellow attendees cloaked in black — "and not necessarily in a positive way." So, what gives? Times Up is a political movement. And politics and royals aren't supposed to mix. The queen — and by extension the entirety of the royal family — "has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters," per the royals' official site. By choosing not to wear black — and choosing not to wear a bright color — Kate made a polite, but apolitical, stance.

Princess Eugenie's low-back wedding gown

Prior to her wedding day, Princess Eugenie hinted in an interview with ITV's This Morning (via HuffPost) that she might wear an open-back wedding gown. In doing so, she'd take the opportunity to "[stand] up for young people" who, like her, have scars. When the royal was a preteen, she had back surgery, leaving her with a scar that extends from the nape of her neck to between her shoulders. "I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars and I think it's really special to stand up for that," she explained.

Sure enough, Eugenie wore a stunning, low-back gown. According to the royal family, "the low back feature on the dress was at the specific request of Princess Eugenie who had surgery aged 12 to correct scoliosis." After seeing the way Eugenie confidently showed her scar, some took to social media praising the royal for encouraging them to do the same.

Meghan's colorful nod to Princess Diana

Although Meghan is usually one for neutrals, the Duchess of Sussex debuted a very different ensemble when visiting Birkenhead, England with Prince Harry in January 2019. People reported that the duchess wore a purple Babaton by Aritizia dress with a red Sentaler wrap coat. The color combo was, by all accounts daring. "If you'd asked me yesterday, I'd have said you can't wear red and purple together without looking like a preschooler who chose her own outfit, one person tweeted. "But wow, Meghan looks stunning." 

Not only did Meghan look stunning, she was also subtly paying homage to the late Princess Diana, who, according to People, "blended the bold hues on several occasions, most memorably during a 1989 trip to Hong Kong when she paired a purple skirt with a red cardigan topped by a hat featuring both shades." Both women pulled off the colors perfectly.

The queen's gloves

Have you ever noticed how Queen Elizabeth is nearly always wearing gloves? Well, there's a reason — or two or three — behind her signature mitts. For one thing, they help pull her outfits together, Genevieve James, the creative director and daughter of the founder of the glove maker Cornelia James, which makes gloves for the queen, told Reader's Digest. They also provide protection from germs and dirt that can transpire through shaking hands. Lastly, they provide coverage. "When you're the queen and you're shaking hands, you don't really want to show your arms," James added. "The glove goes a bit under her [sleeve], so you don't actually see any arm."

Queen Elizabeth purchases her gloves in a large order of about 36 pairs per year. "I think the royal family wants to be seen as being economical, not wasting money on things like that," James explained. The queen even has a few pairs of gloves that are from multiple decades ago. Waste not, want not, right?

Meghan's postpartum ensemble

Meghan looked positively glowing as she and her husband Harry introduced their son Archie to the world. The Duchess of Sussex posed for pictures and gave a brief interview while wearing a white trench dress by British designer Grace Wales Bonner. Meghan's wardrobe choice was lovely, of course, but there may have been an even more significant reason behind its selection.

As Vogue highlighted, Meghan's decision to debut the newest royal while donning a British label was "a masterstroke move by the former Suits actress." But, that's not all. Like Meghan and little Archie, Grace Wales Bonner is also biracial. The designer, like the duchess, has been open about navigating the world as a woman of mixed-race heritage. Meghan chose the perfect time to use her platform to introduce millions to Bonner's stunning designs.

Meghan also chose a symbolic accessory to pair with her menswear-style dress: a necklace with turquoise gemstones. Heather Askinoise, co-founder of Energy Muse and co-author of Crystal Muse: Everyday Rituals to Tune In to the Real You, told People, "Turquoise is the perfect crystal for a new mom as it is said to bring blessings to those who wear it." 

Archie's shawl

When proud parents Harry and Meghan presented their newborn to the public, Meghan wasn't the only one wearing something symbolic. The couple's son made his first fashion statement, albeit unbeknownst to him. Royal expert Emily Andrews revealed on Twitter that Archie was draped in a "very traditional merino wool" shawl made by GH Hurt & Son. The shawl, which was the "Leaves & Flowers" edition, was an ode to past royal debuts.

Nottingham Post revealed that the company first made a shawl for Prince Charles when he was born in 1948. According to People, Charles and Diana also gifted their firstborn son, William, a shawl from the brand. Following in the tradition, William and Kate introduced all of their children, George, Charlotte, and Louis, to the public wearing a GH Hurt & Son shawl, according to Andrews. In a statement, the company said they felt "so proud" to have provided a shawl for baby Archie, adding, "In doing so we have continued a royal tradition now going back over 70 years." 

These Trooping the Colour ensembles

In June 2019, Louis attended his first Trooping the Colour parade — and he looked a whole lot like Harry. That's because he actually borrowed an outfit from his 34-year-old uncle. Some three decades earlier, Harry attended the 1986 Trooping the Colour wearing the same thing and was photographed looking out at the crowd from within Princess Anne's arms. Compare the pictures from that Trooping the Colour so many years ago with the one in 2019 and you'll notice another similarity: Kate is donning a similar outfit to what Princess Anne wore at the time: a yellow dress with a wide-brim hat. It would be a stretch to think this was coincidental.

Four years earlier, Prince George was also spotted at the Trooping the Color parade wearing a blue onesie that looked identical to a onesie worn long ago by his father William and, even longer ago, his grandfather Charles. But, why dress the kiddos in hand-me-downs? And why is Kate herself recreating past royal outfits? Royal expert Ingrid Seward told People: "Kate is an art historian and she likes making these set-piece statements." They also "never throw their significant clothes away," according to the expert.

Kate's frequent rewears

Did you happen to notice that Kate's 2019 Trooping the Colour hat was the same one she wore to Meghan and Harry's wedding? This wasn't the first time Kate rewore an accessory. In actuality, she's reworn accessories and outfits dozens of times. As a member of the royal family, there's no doubt that Kate could certainly afford a new designer ensemble for every big event, but there's a reason she doesn't — or so fashion experts speculate.

"I think what it reveals is that the royals want less focus on their clothes," senior style reporter and columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Homes, told The Cut. "It takes the spotlight off of what they're wearing and puts it on the cause." Anna Akbari, an author and former professor at New York University and Parsons School of Art and Design, who specializes in the sociology of style and self-presentation, told Cosmopolitan that Kate has "mastered" a timeless and approachable look. The expert added that her decision to rewear outfits "sends a message that she's real."

Queen Elizabeth's shady tiara

When pictures surfaced of President Donald Trump attending the state banquet alongside the royal family in early June 2019, many started to wonder if the queen was throwing, as one Twitter user put it, "subtle shade" on the president by choosing to wear her Burmese Ruby Tiara. According to the jeweler, this tiara "is one of the most symbolic and personal pieces created for Her Royal Highness by the House of Garrard." The 96 rubies in the tiara were "originally given to the queen as a wedding gift from the people of Burma, intended as a symbol of protection against illness and evil," House of Garrard explained.

Buckingham Palace has neither confirmed nor denied the speculation, but it's not the first time the queen has worn the tiara to a state banquet. Women's Wear Daily reported that she wore the tiara in 2009 when dining with Pratibha Patil, who was then the president of India. According to citizens of the Southern Asia country (via Business Insider), Patil was "widely hated and disrespected." The queen is politically neutral, but does that prevent her from throwing shade? Hmm.