After 90 years in the public eye, Queen Elizabeth II has power dressing down to a fine art. The mastery of her style far extends the uniform style that we are accustomed to today of the nonagenarian in neat skirt suit with the same Launer handbag and Anello and Davide shoes that she has worn for 50 years.
Within the iconic silhouette of her majesty, there are so many neat and crucial considerations made in order to present herself correctly to the world. Like a sartorial view of modern history, Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style, the exhibition of the Queen's wardrobe that opened in Buckingham Palace's State Rooms, walks you through a visual feast of the her life through her clothing.
Part of three exhibitions to open this year to celebrate the Queen's birthday – the first opened in Holyrood House in April and a further will open in Windsor Castle in September – the curator Caroline de Guitaut has opened up the royal wardrobe to reveal the intricacies and details behind some of the Queen's most iconic looks, as well as revealing some lesser known pieces.
What may come as a surprise to some is the Queen's interest and involvement in the fashion industry, throughout the vast ballrooms of gowns there are glimpses of Dior's 'New Look' style from the fifties, geometric prints of the seventies and ornate couture.
As a princess, Elizabeth would attend British fashion shows often to promote their work and her relationship with couturiers is demonstrated throughout the exhibition with the likes of Sir Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies and later Angela Kelly credited continuously throughout.
As de Guitaut highlights, "the most notable significance of her majesty's wardrobe is her steadfast support for the work of British fashion designers. Constant dialogue, constant collaboration and that's why the finished items… entirely allow her majesty to undertake her duty to the best degree possible".
Throughout the years, the monarch has used her clothing to speak to the world without words; from wild feathered hats to patriotic embroidery. The array of bright colours that are instantly associated with her majesty are presented in a rainbow throughout the staterooms, but as de Guitaut states, these are borne, not from a desire to show off, but to stand out and ensure that onlookers are able to view the Queen instantly.
The exhibition certainly gives you a sense of the physical burden of royalty from a young age – coronets, heavy lacework, furs, gold embellishment all piled up upon the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as they attended their father, George VI's Coronation aged 11 and seven.
Opulence and splendour of ceremonial dress stayed with Princess Elizabeth from childhood. In her twenties the first pieces from Norman Hartnell were directly influenced by the couturiers of Paris in sleek black Duchesse satin, a vision in black with a tiny waist for an eligible young queen in 1948 and world's away from the colourful woman in the public eye but showed a keen eye for design.
Once crowned, one of the big steps was to create a new uniform for the first female monarch since her great-grandmother Queen Victoria. These women broke the mould formally created by a succession of male royals in uniforms as head of the British Army and opened the door for new designers.
In 1952, at the age of 21, Royal College of Art student Marion Foale had her design selected by royal garment makers Ede and Ravenscroft to create a new robe for the new Queen to wear as Mantle of the order of the British Empire. New, refreshing and revolutionary, Foale's design changed classic masculine trousers for a noble full-length gown and a rather daring full zip.
Aside from the grandeur of the military attire, there are few items as exciting and enduring as her majesty's incredible gowns for her wedding and coronation gowns, but both were created to convey very definite messages.
Taking Sandro Botticelli's Primavera as his inspiration, Hartnell took the royal ration cards and turned them into a masterpiece that raised the moral of the nation in 1947 bringing a new found sense of optimism for a country still reeling in the after effects of the second world war. The chance to see the plethora of beaded flowers and 9ft silk tulle train is not to be missed.
When it came to Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1952, Hartnell employed his skills as a costume designer to create a masterpiece that would have as much impact on screen as it would have in person. The first coronation to be televised, the dress had to be an utter vision.
Working closely with the Queen, the design, as de Guitaut points out "echoes the whole essence of the Queen's Coronation… while reflecting the mood of the time." The eighth of nine designs to be submitted, Elizabeth II requested that in addition to the embroidered details of the four national emblems; the shamrock, thistle, leek and the rose, that references to the dominions should be added to include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Pakistan.
The blend of bugle beads, sequins, trimmed fur and golden thread is utterly compelling. This ceremonial costume come as close to the regalia worn by the first Queen Elizabeth II whilst remaining totally in line with the fashions of the fifties.
However, style did not stop at home. Visiting 116 countries during 265 official overseas trips, every wardrobe was considered and created to carefully meet the needs of royalty overseas. In the same way that Kate Middleton's style abroad is carefully scrutinised, when the Queen travelled throughout the 20th century the same care and attention had to be taken. Lamé, silks, scooped backs are the trademarks of her trips in the height of sixties and seventies. Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies and the vibrant prints of Ian Thomas are all there in their lavish technicolour, reminiscent of a glorious past.
The woman in power we see now is still as glorious, powered by the designs of Angela Kelly, whose official title is Personal Assistant, Advisor and Curator to the Queen, has been the personal dresser to the Queen since 2002 and heads up a team of designers and stylists.
Working closely with her majesty, Kelly has continued the legacies started by the Queen's past favourites and from the Olympic Opening Ceremony pink beaded dress to the playful, optimistic yellow coat and hat worn for Prince William's wedding to Miss Kate Middleton, the key moments of the modern Queen are all on display allowing you to relive the key moments of the last 90 years with a totally alternative and fashionable perspective.
Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style From the Queen's Wardrobe is at the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace from 23rd July to 2nd October 2016.