31 March 2012

Random Royal Appreciation: The Windsors Pay Tribute

A service of thanksgiving was held yesterday to celebrate the lives of the Queen Mother (who died on March 30, 2002) and Princess Margaret (who died just a few weeks earlier, on February 9). Naturally, there was a big royal turnout, and everybody wore pretty much their usual fare - precisely as you would expect for an event like this, which is about fashion last.

Queen Elizabeth
As expected, Queen Elizabeth wore one of her mother's brooches - a diamond and pearl shell brooch that was a favorite in the Queen Mum's later years and has now become a favorite all over again.

Princess Michael of Kent, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Countess of Wessex
As expected, Princess Michael wore a big hat, the Duchess of Cornwall wore a better one, and the Countess of Wessex wore one with an explosion of feathers (which surely the Queen Mother, prone to feathery explosions of her own, would have appreciated).

Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice of York
The York sisters got it almost right, just missing a secure hat fastening (Eug) and the right jacket (Bea). (And maybe also the right hat.)

Lady Sarah Chatto; Viscount Linley, Arthur Chatto, Charles Armstrong-Jones, Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Samuel Chatto
Lady Sarah was elegant as always, and the kids were much more grown up than you thought you remembered them to be (as always).

Prince Harry of Wales and the Princess Royal
If anything, Princess Anne was the one who came closest to surprising (and even then, not really) with her ever-so-slightly Yorkish hat tilt.

And speaking of Anne: she's a grandmother once again! Peter and Autumn Phillips welcomed daughter Isla Elizabeth (a jubilee baby indeed) on March 29th. Isla and big sister Savannah Phillips, born just over a year ago, are Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh's first great-grandchildren. The announcement yesterday was a lovely note to a day devoted to remembering another Elizabeth.

Photos: Daylife/Getty Images/APA Picturedesk

Week in Review: Crown Princess Victoria, 18-24 March

  1. At a lunch for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, 23 March. Like I said, I'm so glad to a) see her, b) see her in a color, and c) see her in something other than a tent that I won't fuss that she went the full Kermit with the shoes.
  2. New pictures of the parents with Princess Estelle were released, so awwwww.
  3. a and b) And new formal photos of Victoria and Daniel were released (maybe taken quite some time ago?). The Six Button Tiara depresses me.
Photos: Svenskdam/Kungahuset

Week in Review: Crown Princess Mette-Marit, 18-24 March

  1. Welcoming the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to Norway, 20 March.
  2. At the official dinner for the British couple, 20 March.
Photos: Daylife/Getty Images/TV2

30 March 2012

Flashback Friday: The White Wardrobe

In the Buckingham Palace gardens
The Queen Mother passed away on March 30, 2002. In addition to celebrating the second of her two favorite tiaras yesterday, today we're commemorating her style with a post that many of you have written to request.

I don't know about you, but when I think of the Queen Mother, I don't generally think of a fashion icon. In the span of my memory - and I'm willing to guess most of yours as well - she was firmly settled into the last phase of her style, which was anything but fashionable. But search back in history and you'll find a different story; a time and a place in which Queen Elizabeth and her unique style captivated the public. Today, we're flashing back to what has become known as the White Wardrobe.

In 1938, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were scheduled for a state visit to Paris. Pleased with the success of a gown Norman Hartnell designed for her for a 1937 Belgian state visit, the queen commissioned more than 30 new outfits for her trip. But five days before the relatively new monarch and his consort were scheduled to depart, Queen Elizabeth's mother died. Countess Strathmore's death sent the Court into mourning.
Details and sketches of the wardrobe
The visit was delayed three weeks, but the question of how to proceed still loomed. The brand new Hartnell wardrobe had been made in an array of colors and was no longer appropriate; neither, however, was the black clothing required of traditional mourning. This was an important visit: Hitler was looming large in Germany, and the alliance between Britain and France was crucial. The state visit was intended to solidify the friendship between the two countries, and a queen in stark black wasn't going to project the right image (not to mention, it certainly wouldn't do for the July weather).
During the visit
Hartnell came to the rescue with an old idea made new: use white for mourning. There was plenty of precedent; French queens had used white in the past, and Queen Victoria requested a white funeral. Queen Elizabeth agreed, and Hartnell and his staff went to work whipping up an entirely new wardrobe in just a couple of weeks.
A few of the dresses and gowns from the wardrobe
When George VI came to the throne in 1936 after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, he famously asked Hartnell about a new image for his wife and showed him some of the romantic Winterhalter portraits around the palace as inspiration. The White Wardrobe is the absolute embodiment of that romantic image: lace and satin and crinolines in day dresses and evening gowns. Even the accessories rise to the occasion - could there be a daintier accent than a parasol? The queen's new look was designed to flatter her figure and lengthen her petite frame, rather than stick to any sort of trend.
The creations on the queen, in Paris (first three), later at Buckingham Palace (fourth from left), and a refreshed and redesigned dress during the family's 1947 tour of South Africa and Rhodesia (far right)
When the trip arrived, Queen Elizabeth left England in black and arrived in France in dazzling white. Dressed like a cloud, she was an ethereal sight to behold. There are several accounts of her presence inspiring gasps from the crowds, from the moment she stepped off the train to the flutter when she opened her parasol (in fact, she temporarily revived parasol production in Paris and London). The white color proved to be the perfect thing to make her easily seen in the crowd, as did her seemingly outdated style. Her romantic image was the opposite of what many French women were striving for with their sleek up looks and raised skirt heights; and as is the case more often than not, timeless elegance and working with what suits you before anything else easily surpassed the trends.
A sampling of the press the tour garnered, with this quote from a French diplomat: "To-day France is a monarchy again. We have taken your Queen to our hearts. From now on she rules over two nations."
The visit was highly anticipated by France - the government spent a fortune renovating the suites the king and queen were to stay in - and the end result did not disappoint. The royal couple won over the press and the French, solidifying the Entente Cordiale just before Europe was engulfed by World War II. The queen's fashion made a particularly grand impression: here was proof that couture existed outside of Paris. Norman Hartnell was immediately awarded membership to the Academie Française; Christian Dior would later recall the wonders of the queen's Paris wardrobe "whenever I try to think of something particularly beautiful." The queen herself was so pleased with the outcome she asked Cecil Beaton to photograph her wearing it in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, and Hartnell's position as the royal dressmaker was firmly set (resulting in several notable commissions to come, like this one, this one, and this one).
The White Wardrobe on display
The White Wardrobe, still remembered as a fashion high point today, was the subject of Buckingham Palace's summer exhibit in 2005. I was lucky enough to see it for myself, though I confess to being so dazzled by the Oriental Circlet displayed alongside the frill that most of it pales in comparison.

And you? Are you captivated by the White Wardrobe?

Photos: PA/The Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II/Michael Pick/Norman Hartnell

29 March 2012

Tiara Thursday: The Oriental Circlet

Today's tiara happens to be my personal favorite example of Prince Albert's keen eye for design. He oversaw the creation of many wonderful pieces for his wife, Queen Victoria, including this piece made by Garrard in 1853 for around £860.
The Oriental Circlet
The design of this tiara may have been inspired by a collection of Indian jewels which were given to Queen Victoria a few years before. There certainly is a distinct feel to the piece created by the Moghul arches and lotus flowers present in the design, hence the "Oriental" in the name. The "Circlet" portion of the name comes from the way the tiara wraps itself nearly all the way around the head as a circlet would. It's a big tiara: the original diadem consisted of more than 2,600 diamonds with opal accents, all set in gold. Opals were one of Albert's favorite stones, and after receiving this tiara Victoria commissioned an opal necklace, earrings, and brooch to go with. The opals have since been replaced with rubies (and you will accordingly sometimes see this referred to as the Indian Ruby Tiara or even just the Indian Tiara).
Queen Victoria
Many changes have occurred since the tiara was created. For the initial design, Victoria supplied around half of the diamonds from her existing collection - some of which were once set in jewels owned by Queen Charlotte. The ownership of Queen Charlotte's jewels was disputed by Victoria's relative the King of Hanover, and when it was decided that they rightfully belonged to Hanover this tiara had to go back to the workshop. The Hanover diamonds were removed in 1858 and replaced by a mix of diamonds taken out of other royal jewels and new ones from Garrard.

Beaton's famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth
Queen Victoria left this set to the Crown in her will, and when Queen Alexandra inherited it after Victoria's death she changed it again. Apparently believing opals to be unlucky, she replaced them with rubies from a necklace given to Queen Victoria by the ruler of Nepal. She also reduced the size of the tiara: there were originally 17 opals and arches, but only 11 rubies and corresponding arches exist on the piece today. That's actually quite a significant change. Additionally, the original ledger page from Garrard's notes that parts of the tiara were removable to be replaced with "large single diamonds" for "when a lighter and more simple tiara is required". I don't know that any image of the tiara in this simplified form exists, nor do I know if it could still be done after all these modifications - but I like the thought.

For all the changes she made, the tiara doesn't seem to have been a favorite of Queen Alexandra - well, at least enough of a favorite to wear for portraits and the like - and the same goes for Queen Mary. It passed to Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) when her husband inherited the throne, and she finally made good use of the revised tiara.
The Queen Mother
Despite having multiple tiaras to choose from, the Queen Mother used only two in her later years - this one and the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara we now see on the Duchess of Cornwall. She often paired it with the magnificent set of huge rubies which was once set with opals, just like the tiara, and was also left to the Crown by Queen Victoria.
The Queen Mother
When the Queen Mother died in March of 2002, the tiara passed to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, along with the rest of her estate. This is one of the pieces that she technically could have asked for earlier - after all, it was left to the Crown, and she's been in charge of the Crown since 1952 - but she let it be, supposedly saying "Mummy will give them back."
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth debuted the tiara during a state visit to Malta in 2005 - and we've not seen it publicly since (despite my fervent wishes that she'd swap in this one and swap out the Burmese Ruby Tiara in her regular tiara rota).
Click to see it in action.
This is a huge, huge personal favorite for me and I don't typically go for the rubies. It's architectural, but not overly so; it's huge but not a monster. And it's just my kind of pretty, plain and simple.

Does this make your list of favorites?

Photos: Getty Images/Corbis/Polfoto

Week in Review: Princess Charlene, 18-24 March

  1. Opening a daycare center, 22 March.
  2. At the Martell Cocktail Event, 23 March.
  3. The annual Rose Ball, 24 March.
Photos: Monaco Matin/Purepeople/Bestimage/Daylife/Reuters

Week in Review: Crown Princess Mary, 18-24 March

  1. Opening a conference on vulnerable children, 19 March.
  2. Welcoming the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to Denmark, 24 March.

28 March 2012

Wedding Wednesday: The Duchess of Anjou's Gown

 HRH The Duke of Anjou and Maria Margarita Vargas Santaella
November 6, 2004
La Romana, Dominican Republic

A reader request today, from a long time ago, for what you might call a would-be royal wedding, I suppose. Put it this way: if France still had a monarchy, and if the line of inheritance had run a specific way, this would have been the wedding of the King of France. (Is that enough ifs for you?) Louis Alphonse of Bourbon is the Legitimist claimant to the French throne - just one of a few claimants, whose differences depend on specific debates over the line of succession. He is the head of the House of Bourbon, and claims for himself the title of Duke of Anjou.
He married Venezulan heiress Maria Margarita Vargas Santaella in 2004, when he was 30 and she was just 21 years old. Their wedding ceremony took place amongst lavish settings in the Dominican Republic, with more than 1,500 guests joining in the celebrations.
The groom's uniform is from the Order of Malta, worn with the French Order of the Holy Spirit. The bride's imposing gown comes from Spanish designers Victorio & Lucchino. The satin dress features plenty of lace, including a gorgeous veil of Chantilly lace, and a lengthy train.
Occasionally in royal weddings you get a dress that is very clearly what the bride once dreamed a princess dress might be in her childhood, rather than what would truly suit her as an actual princess. I think this is what we have here. All that lace, the terribly unflattering top, the massive train - it's nearly swallowing Maria Margarita whole. I don't think it's doing the gorgeous bride many favors, I'm afraid.
The couple now have three children: daughter Eugenie and twin sons Louis and Alphonse. The prince works in finance, but we occasionally we see them pop up at large royal gatherings, like the Prince and Princess of Monaco's wedding.

What do you think of this bride's gown?

Photos: TheRoyal Forums/Hola/Profimedia

Random Royal Appreciation: Charles and Camilla in Sweden and Denmark

Time to pick up where we left off with the Adventures of Charles and Camilla in Scandinavia! When we last saw them, they were finishing up in Norway and headed to Sweden where they were met by Prince Carl Philip and received by his mother Queen Silvia.
Arrival in Sweden. First picture, L to R: Queen Silvia, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Carl Philip
How cute is Silvia's little suit with that bow? A classy butt bow: it can happen. Camilla, meanwhile, was still sporting the Balmoral tartan she departed Norway in.
L to R: Princess Madeleine, Prince Carl Philip, the Duchess of Cornwall, King Carl Gustaf, the Prince of Wales, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel
The next day, the royal family - all of them! - hosted the British visitors for lunch. Now this is a treat, isn't it? Victoria's out and about for the first official time after little Estelle's birth, and she's wearing a color and it's not a tent so we won't talk about the shoes. Even Madeleine's there, though not in one of her more flattering outfits. Camilla wore a navy outfit that she seems to wear all the time.

Other events included a Diamond Jubilee reception and a museum visit, as well as a private dinner and visit to the Drottningholm Palace Theater (see below - even Princess Christina pitched in!). 

Then then it was off to the last stop of the trip, Denmark.
Arrival in Denmark, with Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik
Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary met them at the airport, where Camilla's understated coat was no match for Mary's burst of Spring color and print and sleeveness (it's a word).

The royal couple were hosted by the whole Danish royal family for an official dinner. Princess Marie turned out - because apparently everybody puts their maternity leave on hold for Chas and Cams! - as well as the elegant Princess Benedikte. Camilla wore an oft-repeated gown but couldn't hold a candle to Mary's elegant strapless dress...or Queen Morticia Margrethe's spiderweb.
A spiderweb topped with the dreaded Golden Poppies, no less! Oh, Marge. Is it Halloween already? Let's take solace in the wondrous diamond demi-parure that is part of Camilla's collection and all the sorts of dress ornamentation displayed by the Danish princesses.

There were hats and plenty of purple on display (YUM) during the rest of the trip. Aren't the ladies oh-so-elegant at the wreath-laying ceremony on the far right above? I might be inclined to give this hat-off to Camilla, surprisingly enough.

The last day brought some fun for our royals: billiards for the gents and a visit to the set of The Killing for the ladies.
Might have been more fun for Camilla than for Mary. Everybody duck!

And that's that! Charles and Camilla have plenty of Commonwealth visiting up their sleeves this year - next up is Canada in May.

Photos: Daylife/Getty Images/Reuters/Svenskdam/BT/Profimedia/APA Picturedesk

27 March 2012

Week in Review: Princess Letizia, 18-24 March

  1. Audiences at Zarzuela Palace, 22 March.
  2. a and b) Attending a wedding, 24 March. Letizia goes flapper? Really? Look at her little Pablo y Mayaya fascinator! I wanna see the whole thing, Felipe Varela dress included, because I am in disbelief.
Photos: Zimbio/Diez Minutos/Stella Pictures

Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 18-24 March

  1. Attending the 55th anniversary of the Foundation for the National Tree Day after attending a funeral for the victims of the Belgian bus crash, 21 March.
  2. Attending a second funeral for the victims, 22 March.
Photos: Purepeople

Week in Review: Princess Mathilde, 18-24 March

  1. Receiving the team for Expo 2017, 21 March.
  2. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Queen Astrid Hospital, 22 March. Gorgeous suit. This is how I like my Mathilde - nice and tailored.
Photos: Imageglobe

26 March 2012

Royal Fashion Awards: The Rose Ball, 2012

The annual Rose Ball was held in Monaco this weekend, bringing out the usual assortment of Monaco characters and their misbegotten sartorial attempts. Shall we?

Best Distraction
Princess Charlene's Hair
 The evening's theme was "Swinging London" - as in the swinging 60s - and my favorite swinging touch is Charlene's hair. Love how cute and playful this is. I shall remember this 'do. The dress, I shall not.

Worst in Bedazzling
Princess Caroline
Uh oh. Someone let Caro loose with her Bedazzler in the remnants of the clown wardrobe from the Monaco circus. Points for wearing some legit bedazzling in the form of a pair of earrings from her mother, though.

Most Ridiculous
Charlotte Casiraghi
Charlotte, you know, she can carry off some pretty ridiculous stuff with her attitude. Things that usually only work on the runway can work on Charlotte. Sometimes. Not this time - alas, this one didn't even work on the runway (Chanel Couture, far right). She looks like she crossed a costume designer on Swan Lake's opening night. 

Best in "Of Course"
The Duchess of Castro
I ask you, what else would you expect from Camilla here? Actually, this might be kinda tame, now that I think about it.

Who wins your best and worst dressed awards at this year's Rose Ball?

Photos: Daylife/Getty Images/Reuters/Style.com