Secrets of the Queen’s wardrobe

Top-secret dresses for meetings with James Bond, no hats after 6pm and jackets embroidered by indigenous North Americans are just some of the Queen’s wardrobe wonders revealed in a new book.

Written by Angela Kelly, the Queen’s personal assistant, adviser and curator, Dressing The Queen opens the door to the dressers’ floor at Buckingham Palace and gives a first-hand account of working on the Queen’s outfits in her Diamond Jubilee year.

Perhaps one of the Queen’s most famous outfits, the crystal and lace peach cocktail dress she wore to the Olympics opening ceremony, was made twice under top-secret conditions, the book revealed.

After months of planning with the curtain raiser’s director, Danny Boyle, Kelly and her team made two identical versions of the dress to give the illusion that it was actually the Queen, and not a stunt double, parachuting from a helicopter above the Olympic stadium alongside 007.

The book opens the door to the dressers’ floor at Buckingham Palace and gives a first-hand account of working on the Queen’s outfits in her Diamond Jubilee year

The Palace dressmakers worked quietly for months on the dress, never knowing why two were required for the Queen’s opening of the London 2012 Games, according to the book.

Another notable outfit, for the Diamond Jubilee river pageant, was influenced by Queen Elizabeth I, and managed to offer the Queen some protection from the wet weather as she travelled down the River Thames on the Spirit of Chartwell.

In the book, Kelly wrote: “We never imagined the weather would turn out so badly, but I am glad that we gave the Queen some protection from the wind and rain with the frill that ran round the coat’s neckline and down its front, and the matching white cashmere pashmina.”

Another famous outfit, the gold dress the Queen donned for the Diamond Jubilee pop concert, was influenced by the golden figure of the Queen Victoria Memorial, around which the stage was constructed, according to the book.

Fittingly for a concert that featured a programme of British music from the six decades of the Queen’s reign, the gown was bought in 1961.

The book, which features lavish colour photographs of Kelly and her team, design sketches and coverage of some of this year’s major events, also revealed that the Queen rarely wears a hat after 6pm.

Kelly wrote: “After 6pm the Queen does not usually wear a hat but may wear a headpiece, and to the evening state banquets, a tiara.”

For state occasions a tiara is always required, Kelly said.

She wrote: “The Queen is very fond of the ‘Girls of Great Britain and Ireland’ tiara, which was given to her grandmother, Queen Mary, on her marriage in 1893.”

The tiara forms a shadow which appears as girls holding hands – the girls of Great Britain and Ireland.

That was in turn given to the Queen as a wedding present and is shown in her portrait on some coins and banknotes.

Trays used to present the Queen’s vast collection of jewellery feature lace covers handsewn by Queen Mary, with her own “M” monogram stitched in. The book also revealed the Queen’s diplomacy, as she chose to wear a predominantly green dress on her May 2011 visit to the Republic of Ireland, the country’s traditional colour. It was the first time a British monarch has visited the country.

Kelly wrote: “As a sign of respect for Ireland and her long-held affection for the country, the Queen chose to wear a day outfit that was predominantly green in colour.”

For the evening gown she was to wear to the state banquet in Ireland on May 18, 2011, the Queen was very specific in her guidance, according to Kelly.

Her gown featured more than 2,000 silk shamrocks sewn on by hand and an Irish harp design, made of crystals, replaced the Royal Family Order normally worn on the Queen’s left shoulder during state occasions.

Among the other titbits revealed in the book, Kelly said her team occasionally weigh down the Queen’s dresses to avoid embarrassment in blustery conditions.

She wrote: “The Queen under­takes a wide range of engagements, many of which take place in the open air, where a sudden breeze could cause embarrassment.

“If we think this is a possibility, we will very occasionally use weights, discreetly sewn into the seams of day dresses.”

Dressing the Queen features over 250 colour illustrations.


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