Does Royalty Have a Place in Fashion? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Does Royalty Have a Place in Fashion?

Life&Style writer Josie Hart discusses the royal family's influence on and power within the fashion industry

The Queen looked on smiling, amused as she sat alongside Anna Wintour at Richard Quinn’s show at London Fashion Week. Nothing was going to get this seasoned professional to break into laughter at models covered up to their faces in bold prints. Despite causing quite a conundrum when she arrived at the show unannounced, Queen Elizabeth did what she had to do, showing her support for Britain’s rising creative talent. The reason for her visit was to present Quinn, who is a Central St Martin’s graduate, with the Queen Elizabeth II award for British design. The collection demonstrated a deserving winner, paying tribute to classically British fashion by combining trench coats with dog tooth and bold 60s florals with scarves inspired by the Queen herself. After the show Quinn commented on the influences of the Queen’s wardrobe on his collection naming her “a fashion icon”. The royal family’s wide expanse of space in the spotlight and in the media has meant that their influence on fashion is undeniable and unavoidable. But seeing the Queen sitting in the FROW and being named a “fashion icon” puts into question whether the ties between royalty and fashion are too strong and are intervening with their true work and purpose.

Kate Middleton’s attendance at this or that event is common front-page news. You have to keep page turning to find out what’s happening in parliament or about the latest environmental travesty.  The issue isn’t that they reported her attendance but that the headline is that she wore a blue dress or a kitten heel at said event. Why should her working wardrobe be headline news? Take for example the time she wore a deep green Dolce and Gabbana coat. The fact that she was visiting a fire station in Sunderland to honour emergency service heroes is made just an irrelevant by-line detail. It’s arguable that the royal women are being portrayed as just figures of fashion inspiration rather than working women attempting to highlight and impact British culture and tradition. Meghan Markle is the latest Royal woman to be subjected to such a fate. Her sheer Ralph and Russo engagement photo dress caused such controversy that it makes you wonder why we care so much about what the royals are wearing. Surely more fashion aware and involved individuals should be a greater focus of fashion following.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s a good thing that royal wardrobes attract so much attention. The royal family often make effort to represent British stylists and designers. Therefore, attracting attention to their clothing and involving themselves in the fashion industry is an important part of their role. The UK, and London in particular, is a central hub for global fashion so it makes sense that the Royal family, who serve to represent our country, should uphold an interest and involvement in fashion to maintain the status and global influence of British designers. This was after all, the reason for the Queen’s FROW appearance. Also, the publicity stylists or designers gain from dressing royalty is a one way ticket to a status of relevance within the fashion world. The royals provide a platform for new trends and designers to gain huge exposure. This, as well as the fact that the role often requires formal dress, means that the attention the Royal wardrobes receive is very important.

Therefore, whilst the Queen may have looked out of place, casting her ever famous gaze on Quinn’s patent leather gloves and knee high boots in her impeccable powder blue suit, her contribution to British fashion means she had rightly earned her place on the FROW. Whilst the attention to the royal women’s outfits rather than the men’s cannot be deemed an accident and is an issue to address, the Royal family have been significant in putting British fashion on the map and upholding its status there.


5th March 2018 at 9:00 am

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