The Queen of England has an extensive and famous wardrobe filled with elegant dresses and gowns. As the longest reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II has amassed quite a collection over her 70 years on the throne. But what exactly does Her Majesty do with all of those iconic outfits once she’s worn them? Here’s a look behind the scenes at what happens to the Queen’s dresses after they’ve made their public debut.
Does the Queen re-wear outfits?
Yes, the Queen frequently re-wears many of her dresses, coats, and hats. While she never wears the exact same outfit to the same event, she often brings them out again for future engagements. This practical habit allows her wardrobe to be sustainable and cost-effective. It also shows her thriftiness and avoidance of excess.
Some notable re-worn items include the lime green coat and matching hat she wore to Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018, which was first seen in 2015. She also re-wore the powder blue Angela Kelly coat dress to pose for her Jubilee portrait in 2022, over 10 years after its initial debut.
How often does the Queen change outfits?
The Queen changes her outfits multiple times a day when carrying out public engagements. She’ll select a day dress or coat dress for the first engagement, often adding a hat. For any subsequent events on the same day, she’ll opt for different colors and styles to provide variety. This constant costume change gives spectators at each appearance a fresh new look.
Who helps the Queen select her outfits?
The Queen’s trusted senior dresser, Angela Kelly, helps Her Majesty select and coordinate the outfits for her engagements. Kelly has worked closely with the Queen for over 25 years. She oversees the creation of the Queen’s wardrobe and curates looks from the vast collection of dresses, coats, hats, accessories, and jewelry amassed over the decades. Kelly also travels with the Queen to help her change throughout the day.
What happens to the dresses after they’re worn?
Once the Queen wears an outfit for an official event, what are its next steps? Here are the main protocols:
Sent for dry cleaning and repair
After wearing, the outfit is sent straight away for dry cleaning to remove any stains or perspiration. Many of the Queen’s dresses are also inspected for any needed repairs or replacements, like popped stitches, missing buttons, loose embellishments, or torn hems. Her dresses undergo meticulous maintenance to preserve their appearance and ensure they’re ready for the next wearing.
Pressed and stored in customized wardrobes
Once returned from the cleaners, each outfit is professionally pressed and stored in one of the Queen’s many customized wardrobes located in palaces across the UK. The voluminous gowns and dresses require ample space, so closets feature double-bar racks, wide shelving, and plenty of room for her vast collection. Outfits are usually stored in protective cotton shroud bags.
Rotated through the current season’s clothing
The Queen’s dressers rotate her clothing seasonally. Dresses worn in the summer are stored away for the cooler months. Coats and wool suits make way for lighter dresses and gowns when spring arrives. This method keeps the wardrobe organized and ensures items aren’t worn again too soon.
Some pieces are kept for posterity
While the majority of the Queen’s clothes remain in rotation for reuse, some historically significant outfits are carefully preserved for the Royal Collection. Wedding gowns, coronation robes, and dresses debuting major state occasions like Jubilees are kept. The clothes document her life and reign for future generations.
Sold privately or auctioned for charity
Rarely, some dresses or accessories are deaccessioned if they are determined to be no longer useful. These pieces may be sold privately to dealers or auctioned off for charity. For example, over 200 of the late Queen Mother’s dresses were auctioned by Christie’s in 2006, raising ?952,000 for charity.
Where are the Queen’s outfits produced and stored?
The creation and storage of the Queen’s wardrobe is a major operation spanning numerous locations:
Many clothes made in-house
The majority of the Queen’s dresses, coats, and daywear are custom-made by her in-house team of dressmakers and tailors, led by Kelly. They maintain busy sewing workrooms underneath Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle to source fabrics, create patterns, and bring designs to life. This personal touch ensures a flawless fit.
Couture gowns and wedding dresses
For especially lavish eveningwear and one-off occasion pieces like her wedding gown, the Queen has turned to British couturiers like Hardy Amies, Ian Thomas, and Stewart Parvin. Their London ateliers craft intricate, custom couture for Her Majesty. Princess Diana’s iconic wedding dress was also made by husband-wife design duo David & Elizabeth Emanuel.
Hats created by famed milliners
The Queen’s milliners create unique hats to match each outfit. Some favorite royal hat makers include Philip Somerville, Frederick Fox, and Rachel Trevor-Morgan. Their London studios block and hand-finish hats with ornate embellishments. The best are chosen for their ability to create diverse shapes and styles while staying securely pinned to the Queen’s head.
Accessories and jewelry from luxury brands
The Queen’s elaborate accessories come from top luxury brands. Launer London crafts her ever-present handbags. Cornelia James provides gloves. Anello & Davide makes her classic black shoes. For jewelry, Boucheron, Cartier, and Garrard lend sparkling tiaras, necklaces, brooches, and earrings.
Large wardrobes across residences
The Queen’s clothes, hats, and accessories are stored in extensive wardrobes spread across her residences. Buckingham Palace has the largest, while others are found at Windsor Castle, Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle, and Holyrood Palace. This dispersed storage system allows quick access at each location.
Who inherits the Queen’s wardrobe?
The Queen’s death will raise questions around the destiny of her vast wardrobe collection amassed over 70+ years. Here are some possibilities:
Pieces passed down or gifted to royal family
It’s likely many iconic dresses and accessories will be passed down privately within the royal family as heirlooms. Custom pieces may be gifted by King Charles to Queen Consort Camilla or Catherine, Princess of Wales. The women could receive items altered to fit. Younger royals may also inherit special occasion gowns like wedding dresses.
Significant items preserved by Royal Collection
Exceptionally historic outfits like coronation robes or wedding dresses could be preserved by the Royal Collection for public display in exhibitions and museums. This will allow the general public to view and appreciate key pieces from her personal collection.
Auctioned for charity
The royal family has sometimes opted to auction the close’s of deceased royals to benefit charities they supported. A public auction of some Queen’s outfits could raise millions. Proceeds would likely go to one of her many patronages.
Archived privately as records
Day dresses, coats, and common accessories not chosen for other purposes may simply be archived privately for posterity. While not accessible to the public, they’ll help provide a complete record of the Queen’s wardrobe for historians and biographers.
Exhibited in a future Queen Elizabeth museum
There has been speculation around using the Queen’s clothes as part of a new museum or exhibition space dedicated to her life. Displaying a rotating selection of her iconic outfits could let the public view them in context. It would also educate new generations.
The Queen’s wardrobe by the numbers
After over seven decades on the throne, the Queen has racked up some staggering statistics regarding her clothing and accessories. Here’s a numerical look at Her Majesty’s wardrobe:
Over 5,000 outfits
The Queen is estimated to own over 5,000 outfits, including dresses, skirt suits, coats, gowns, blouses, etc. She requires such an extensive wardrobe to meet the demands of her engagements and provide plenty of choice and variety.
To coordinate with her dresses and coats, the Queen has over 200 hats in a rainbow of colors and a multitude of styles. Her milliners craft new hats constantly to keep pace with her robust wardrobe.
The Queen has around 50 dazzling tiaras to choose from for white tie, state banquets, and royal weddings. The Crown Jewels contain many she frequently loans out to other royals.
30+ pairs of shoes
Handmade shoes with a classic 2-inch heel are custom-made for the Queen by Anello & Davide. She’s estimated to own over 30 pairs in black, white, and nude to coordinate with outfits.
To carry her essentials, the Queen uses stylish handbags from Launer London. She’s believed to own over 200 of their custom-made bags to match each outfit.
The Queen loves accenting her dresses and coats with ornate brooches. She has around 50 in her collection, many passed down or gifted from relatives like the Queen Mother.
|Outfits (dresses, coats, etc.)
Inside the Queen’s wardrobe and dressing rooms
As the monarch, the Queen has access to extensive spaces to store, display, and don her royal attire. Here’s a look behind the scenes:
At the London residence and headquarters of the monarchy, the Queen has multiple dressing rooms and enormous walk-in wardrobes for her clothes and accessories. They take up around 25 rooms total. Full-length mirrors, chandeliers, and custom storage help her prepare for engagements.
The ancient castle, the largest occupied by any monarch, contains dressing rooms and wardrobes specially built for George IV. The Queen utilizes the ornate spaces while in residence. Outfits are selected from her stored clothing.
Palace ‘modesty room’
At Buckingham Palace, a special ‘modesty room’ allows final inspections of the Queen’s head-to-toe look once fully dressed. A mirror lets her view herself from behind to ensure proper coverage and fit.
For visits across the U.K. and abroad, the Queen’s dressers pack a traveling case with options for multiple outfits, shoes, hats, and accessories. This allows her to change throughout a trip. Cases are shipped ahead to their destinations.
The Queen’s wardrobe spaces utilize methods to track and rotate her vast collection. Outfits are cataloged by date and occasion. Garment bags, shelving systems, and customized storage rods keep everything neat.
Queen Elizabeth II’s expansive wardrobe serves as a visual timeline of her lengthy reign and the evolution of fashion across over seven decades. While the public may only glimpse these remarkable dresses briefly during engagements, their preservation and careful storage ensures they’ll be enjoyed and studied for generations to come. The Queen’s thoughtful reuse and donation of many pieces also provides a model of sustainability that many can emulate in caring for their own clothes. Her iconic style will undoubtedly influence British fashion for years after her reign ultimately ends.