12 April 2013

Flashback Friday: Beatrix's Style

You don't have to know much about Queen Beatrix to know her style. That hair, those hats - you'd recognize them anywhere. The Beatrix Style we know today is one that has evolved over the years, of course; born in 1938, the monarch's fashion history includes exactly what you'd expect from most decades, becoming more and more unique until eventually she was left with something that was solely her own.
The young Princess
In her younger years, Beatrix wore what you'd expect from a young woman at the time, though she struggled, at times, to find a good match for her own looks and shape. It wasn't until the 1960s, I'd say, that she really hit her stride. The stride came along when a few key people entered the Princess' life. Of course there was Claus von Amsberg, who she married in 1966 - there's a certain confidence and a happy glow that came along with marriage and motherhood. But there are also meetings in this decade that changed Beatrix's style on a more superficial level.
As a fiancée, a bride, and a new mother. The wedding gown is by Caroline Bergé-Farwick. The engagement dress was later worn by Princess Mabel.
First came the hair. Beatrix called on Alexandre of Paris, the man responsible for many notable coiffures of the time, including memorable gravity-defying updos seen on the likes of Princess Grace. For the future Queen of the Netherlands, the famous hairstylist prescribed a short and strategically voluminous 'do which balanced out the shape of her face. It was a true 1960s style, but Beatrix has kept very close to that initial creation ever since. All other headgear (hats, tiaras) must conform to the 'do, not the other way around. Perhaps she's kept it all these years because it is the only thing she's comfortable with, or perhaps she keeps it because it is an integral part of her public face, an instantly recognizable trademark.
Queen Juliana's abdication and Queen Beatrix's inauguration, 1980. Beatrix's outfits are from Theresia Vreugdenhil, who also restored the ermine robe.
The 1960s also brought the woman that was to have a great hand in shaping the sartorial side of Beatrix's look. In 1965, Princess Beatrix met Dutch couturier Theresia Vreugdenhil. For the next four decades, Vreugdenhil would be a primary dressmaker for the Queen. She led a team including milliners such as Harry Scheltens to create the Beatrix style we know today, and was responsible for such memorable outfits as those worn for Queen Beatrix's inauguration. Vreugdenhil stopped working for the Queen in 2007 and passed away in 2012. Sheila de Vries and others are now responsible for the Queen's clothes.
Prinsjesdag outfits
But Beatrix's style is not entirely the creation of dressmakers and milliners and so on. If you recall, this is a woman that provided the design ideas for her own wedding gown, so her interest in her own style has been keen all along. And you can tell when you look at the clothes - these are clearly designed specfically for the Queen and her own comfort and confidence level.
Eveningwear through the years
The chief Beatrix Look starts at the top: if not the hair (which is a hat on its own), then a hat or tiara. She experimented with different shapes of hats initially, but settled on a wider model - wide enough to encompass That Hair - often with a flat top, and perhaps some ornamentation stuck on for good measure. They are Beatrix Hats, a uniquely identifiable variety of millinery. Her tiaras are nestled into The 'Do, even if that means only a small piece of the tiara can be seen over the hair.
Hats and hats and hats
The outfits of the Beatrix Look often feature a neckline with some sort of intricate design detail: ruffles, folds, even feathers. The waistline is usually either above or below the waist when it is defined, though it often isn't. She prefers a wrap, perhaps fur-trimmed, to guard against the cold. The sleeves are usually three-quarter length and are big - this is not a queen afraid of some pouf. The skirt length for day wear is below the knee, nearing the too long point. And all the same features apply for gowns, substituting a floor length skirt. The fabrics are rather lush, some collected over the years by the Queen.
A standard Beatrix run of outfits - from the 2011 state visit to Germany (click to enlarge)
Is she fashionable? Maybe not, but that's not the point. This goes beyond the outfits that get splattered on the front page. It is uniquely Beatrix, an instantly recognizable silhouette which is comforting in its familiarity. It's a part of her show, just as the neatly matched day outfits of Elizabeth II or the sweeping theatrical evening outfits of Margrethe II are a part of their own images. Who else could pull off a big hat, big sleeve, frilly neckline and maybe even a flared skirt all at once, and do it successfully?

What part of Beatrix's style do you find most memorable? 

Photos: ANP/PPE/Corbis/Getty Images/gahetNA