The Chic Queen: A lifetime of effortless style by the longest serving monarch

Nobody's wardrobe works harder than the Queen's

Every outfit worn in public is carefully calibrated to inspire or remind, to signal gratitude or respect, to convey a sense of power or familiarity. 

Her Majesty neither sets trends nor follows them – but while she is deaf to the siren call of fashion, she has her own singular style. 

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A Norman Hartnell black and white satin 'Magpie' dress, which was copied and in the shops in 24 hours
Hartnell New Look coat in white grosgrain with a blue trim

1950s: A Norman Hartnell black and white satin 'Magpie' dress, which was copied and in the shops in 24 hours (left) and (right) a Hartnell New Look coat in white grosgrain with a blue trim 

1960s: Her wardrobe for her tour of India and Pakistan, including this Hartnell gown, impressed the fashion world 

1960s: Her wardrobe for her tour of India and Pakistan, including this Hartnell gown, impressed the fashion world 

An A-line coat and floral hat for a society wedding
A sea-green suit and bucket hat for a trip to Canada

1960s: An A-line coat and floral hat for a society wedding (left) and (right) a sea-green suit and bucket hat for a trip to Canada 

It's one she has honed in recent years with the help of trusted couturier Stewart Parvin and her dressmaker Angela Kelly. 

Smart day dresses with a matching coat and a snappy smallbrimmed hat that will never cast her face into shadow have become her workaday staple. 

She is unrestrained in her palette and tends towards block colours that make her easier to see in a crowd or at a distance. 

She will often choose a colour with a coded message such as emerald green for her historic visit to Ireland in 2011. 

And even in her 80s she still demands ornate evening wear, heavily bejewelled or embroidered, the better to display her priceless collection of gems. 

The Royal 'wardrobe watch' began when she was just three and appeared on a magazine cover wearing yellow and a single strand of pearls, starting a fashion for buttercup and primrose copycat outfits. 

1970s: On her way to Parliament in a Hartnell mink-trimmed silver and white coat 

1970s: On her way to Parliament in a Hartnell mink-trimmed silver and white coat 

1970s: A spotted shifts dress, straw hat and matching scarf in Thailand
Shift dress and colourful headgear during a tour of Fiji

1970s: A spotted shifts dress, straw hat and matching scarf in Thailand (left) and (right) a shift dress and colourful headgear during a tour of Fiji

1980s: In a turquoise suit and headpiece, the Queen chose the colour of the sea for a visit to the Solomon Islands
A pink princess line coat on her tour of New Zealand

1980s: In a turquoise suit and headpiece, the Queen chose the colour of the sea for a visit to the Solomon Islands (left) and (right) a pink princess line coat on her tour of New Zealand 

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As a beautiful young debutante in the 1940s, her glamorous dresses were copied throughout the Commonwealth, as was her wedding gown. 

The exquisite Norman Hartnell dress she wore for her Coronation was considered a couture masterpiece. At her insistence it incorporated an emblem for every part of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries from the Tudor Rose of England to wheat, cotton and jute for Pakistan. 

From that moment it was clear her wardrobe would be tailored to Elizabeth the monarch rather than the woman, and while she would nod towards major trends she would draw her own stylistic arc. 

In the 1950s she looked delightful, her elegance compared to that of Grace Kelly in designs by Hartnell and Hardy Amies. In the 1960s her hemline crept up – a nod towards the miniskirt; in the 1970s she wore a maxi and by the 1980s she had adopted the decade's padded shoulders and pussy cat bows. 

1990s: The Queen waves serenely during a Durban walkabout in a floral Hardy Amies suit and wide-brimmed hat
A rare style disaster at a Royal Variety performance

1990s: The Queen waves serenely during a Durban walkabout in a floral Hardy Amies suit and wide-brimmed hat (left) and (right) a rare style disaster at a Royal Variety performance

2000s: In fur once again on her Golden Jubilee tour of Canada
A striking gown with beaded grapes on a tour of Turkey

2000s: In fur once again on her Golden Jubilee tour of Canada (left) and (right) a striking gown with beaded grapes on a tour of Turkey 

But by the 1990s she had lost her way, and stood accused of looking dowdy in matronly outfits that did nothing to flatter the figure she'd kept in trim. 

At the turn of the Millennium she abandoned the harsh colours and ugly prints for softer hues and sharper tailoring. Oddly, the criticism of her was prescient: as she has aged, the mature style to which she has latterly been drawn suits her more and more. 

Today, as she heads for her 90th birthday, she is acknowledged again as one of the world's deftest and most devastatingly successful power dressers.

2010s: Elegant in a lilac dress patterned with silver swirls for a pre-wedding dinner with William and Kate
A Karl Rehse coat and Philip Somerville hat to visit Norfolk

2010s: Elegant in a lilac dress patterned with silver swirls for a pre-wedding dinner with William and Kate (left) and (right) a Karl Rehse coat and Philip Somerville hat to visit Norfolk 

 

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