How to Dress Like a Royal… on a Commoner’s Budget
You may have noticed that there’s a fresh fashion breeze flowing through Buckingham Palace these days. It arrived on the wings of the two latest royals: the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
But, although they embrace a style that is decidedly geared to a younger demographic, they are, of course, still tethered to the royal dress code. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a code that covers so many practical and easy-to-borrow concepts.
The Royal Guidelines
To start with, the Queen requires that the royals’ skirts and dresses not be too short. Unless you’re one of those ladies whose legs remain free from roadmap veins and sagging skin, you will likely gladly embrace this rule.
For most of us, a hemline right below the knee is very elegant. It lengthens the look of the leg and can even make it look slimmer.
The second rule is that heels must not be too high, although both the young duchesses have been seen sporting spike heels occasionally.
Whether you’re wearing a sheath, slacks, a professional looking dress or something like one of the Queen’s coat/dress ensembles, a simple pump in a lower heel, or even a dressy flat, will make the entire outfit look refined.
The Queen mostly wears black pumps, but frankly, I’d like to see her in some beige tones… if that wouldn’t be considered too salacious, that is.
No wedge shoes. Apparently, the queen just doesn’t like them. I can see what she means. When you’re wearing a classic outfit, wedge shoes tend to make the look more casual.
In fact, it may look more like you’re attending a barbecue or lunch with the girls instead of representing the crown at some royal charity event. Although, Kate still wears them in her off-duty hours.
Then there are the stockings – you remember pantyhose, don’t you? They must be sheer and skin tone, unless you are wearing one of the de rigueur black formal suits or dresses every royal must have on hand at all times in case of the unforeseen demise of a member of the royal family.
In such situations, sheer black hose will do. For us, they are a godsend. Especially the darker ones, as they cover a multitude of deviations from perfection.
The Practical Younger Royals
One reason we love Kate is that – unlike a lot of celebrities who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the same thing twice – Kate frequently does.
That’s something we should have learned from the French by now: buy quality, wear it with panache. Repeat. There’s a sensible head on those royal shoulders. Also, the look of quality doesn’t have to come with a royal price tag.
Although the Queen hasn’t worn trousers in public – and I suspect in private as well, except, perhaps when riding her beloved ponies – since the 1950s, the young royals love their pants.
Kate, as a busy young mother, she likes wearing casual pants for errands around town – Yes, she does her own errands, bless her! – and then dresses them up with a blazer. One of the most frequent pairs she wears cost 60 bucks at Zara.
Meghan Markle loves a good classic pant suit. A well-fitting pair of slacks and matching blazer is one of those repeatable combinations that would work for almost anyone, for almost any occasion.
Add a simple heel and a nice top and you’ve got a dinner engagement. Tee shirt or blouse and more casual shoes work when having lunch with friends.
Bags: Conceal or Carry?
Cleavage, being a royal no-no, was a bit of a sore point in the case of Princess Diana. She always used her clutch purse to cover her cleavage when exiting a vehicle while wearing those body-con dresses (also frowned upon.)
But clutch purses are royal de rigueur. You will see the Queen and all the royals sporting them in all manner of occasions.
They are fairly subtle and unobtrusive and say, “I don’t need a large handbag because my people take care of a lot of details for me” (communication, manicure emergencies, etc.). Expensive-looking clutches are available for a song.
For most public appearances, the Queen prefers a sensible top-handle satchel. This is one accessory that could set you back anywhere from the low to mid thousands and up.
Certainly, if you can afford it, a good top handle satchel bag is worth the investment for the long run. But still, it is a style that is widely available at much lower, even bargain prices. And Amazon offers dozens of lookalikes.
Color, Pattern and Print
As for the royal color palette, the Queen wears bright colors. This serves as a nod to the responsibility of her position, so “people can say they’ve seen the Queen.” But she does not approve of the bold mixing of colors.
That doesn’t exclude color or prints on the Duchesses, however. You’ll see both of them wearing stripes and polka dots for summer events (think: Wimbledon and Ascot) and plaids throughout the winter months.
Stripes are an upbeat pattern that almost any of us can wear. Polka dots? Well, if you have a fair amount of the youthful style essence yourself – a more rounded face shape or features – you can carry them off at any age. Plaids are a tad youthful, but in darker colors they can work for us too.
Then there are the coat/dress ensembles the Queen sports regularly. If you can’t find an occasion to wear them – because yes, they are a tad dowdy – you can at least consider wearing a colorful coat.
This is one thing all the royals tend to do, and something I personally wish more people in the US would consider. A beautiful wool blend coat in a brighter color will elevate any outfit as well as your mood. And that’s something we could all benefit from.
Have you borrowed ideas from any of the royals’ personal style? Let us know in the comments below.
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of “Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Better Wardrobe for Every Women – Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes and the Over Fifty”, and “She’s Got Good Jeans.” She writes about fashion, style and the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Please visit her blog Shopping for the Real You.