15 April 2011

Flashback Friday: Rania's Transformation

Our story today is another one that fascinates me because much like the Queen Mother, Rania was a girl that didn't sign up to be Queen.
Rania al Yassin was raised in Kuwait by Palestinian parents. She met Prince Abdullah of Jordan after graduating from the American University in Cairo and working for Citibank and Apple.
The two met in January of 1993, were engaged two months later, and married on June 10 of that year. Abdullah was King Hussein's oldest son, but he wasn't the future King. (In the 1960s, Hussein named his brother Prince Hassan bin Talal the heir to the throne.) Rania herself has stated that she never expected to be Queen.

As Princess Rania, she carried out her duties in a wardrobe that is very typically 1990s, and very safe.
Clearly a woman experimenting with finding the right hair color and makeup (just like the rest of us!).

Over the years, the King contemplated different lines of succession involving varied members of the royal family. Abdullah did not become the heir to the throne until January 25, 1999. On February 7, King Hussein passed away and Abdullah ascended the throne. The new King named Rania his Queen on March 22. Quite a sudden change, isn't it?

It wasn't until after Rania became Queen that she began to transform her style. To illustrate:
In 1999, Rania donned a gold Elie Saab frock, a Cartier tiara, and her royal order to mark the King's ascension. She wore the same gown ten years later to celebrate that anniversary, and the changes she made are incredibly self-evident. It's not just the toned-down hair and makeup; it's the scaled down pomp. No order this time, just a fashionable belt. And from a full-on tiara to a glorified headband. Compared to the other queens we know so well, Rania's turned herself into a different breed entirely.

These days, she favors a day style that switches from business casual to prim and proper, but she always tends towards the "less is more" sartorial philosophy.
It's the wardrobe of a well-off professional mother of four, really.

In the evenings, she goes couture with favored designers including Giorgio Armani and Elie Saab.
Her style, particularly in the evenings, has more of a Hollywood flair than many other royals. Of course, she's more likely to be meeting celebrities at a benefit gala than she is to be hosting a state dinner, though her role includes both.

Rania has a different situation than most of the royals we talk about here, and I think it has to be considered when discussing her style. Most royals these days are figureheads that stray from strong political roles; King Abdullah wields political power. Many royals stray from controversial issues; Abdullah and Rania have become ambassadors for their religion and advocates for peace. They are representatives of an embattled region. Rania's image needs to be that of a modern Arab woman, relatable yet admirable, and the designer clothes and part-Hollywood/part-professional style help accomplish that.

That's not to say that Rania always gets it right. She walks a fine line, and she's drawn criticism for her style (fighting poverty while wearing designer clothes, for example), among other elements of her seemingly jet-set lifestyle. All of which serves to fascinate me even more: the girl that never expected to be Queen is a Queen with an incredibly sensitive and difficult job to do.

What's your take?

Photos: Corbis/Seeger Press/Getty Images