Fabrics that make the grade are collected and cherished over the years and stored in a stockroom on the Dressers’ Floor at Buckingham Palace, which Kelly regularly revisits for inspiration. The golden dress worn at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert 10 years ago—and inspired by the golden figure on top of the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the Palace—was made from a fabric purchased in 1961. Other fabrics have been stored here since Her Majesty was a princess. It’s ironic that some of the world’s best designers have only in recent seasons discovered “deadstock” in their drive to claim greater sustainability credentials, but this kind of thriftiness and approach to style has long defined the Queen. Remember, her Norman Hartnell wedding gown was purchased using clothing ration coupons. Granted, she received extra coupons from the government, but the point is it was a show of stealth and camaraderie, not excess and status. It’s a fine line Her Majesty has masterfully balanced her entire life.
Before clothes are made, the Queen approves every sketch and fabric sample. She has a keen interest in fabrics, in particular a fondness for Singaporean silk. It’s understood that during visits to Singapore, local tradespeople will bring their wares to the airport for her arrival. The Queen will browse and make her selection and purchases will be collected on the return home. Said to be incredibly decisive, Her Majesty rarely changes her mind about an outfit that she has previously agreed to. The monarch even does her own make-up every day and for every event (the filming of the Queen’s Christmas message is the only exception).
“Her Majesty is always thrifty and likes her clothes to be adapted and recycled as much as possible,” writes Kelly. “Typically, the lifespan of an outfit can be up to around 25 years.” After two or three public appearances, designs are altered or they become relegated to off-duty wear. Much like most of us, in fact, in the way that something will often start off as “for best” before it gradually loses desirability as it clocks up years and wear; unlike most of us, though, I imagine it’s harder to lay claim to never getting it wrong.