We can’t get enough of the royals’ fashion. And we’re in luck because now there’s a book that has detailed all the significant looks from Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duchess of Sussex—including engagement announcement outfits and wedding gowns.
Veteran fashion journalist Elizabeth Holmes (@eholmes) created an Instagram Story series called “So Many Thoughts,” where she details the legendary fashion choices of these royal ladies. However, the segments quickly gained popularity and Instagram was just not enough for Holmes to express all of her thoughts on the royal’s fashion choices. So, she decided to turn it into a book: HRH: So Many Thoughts On Royal Style.
“As a reporter, I was eager for an opportunity to do a deeper dive into the royal family’s sartorial approach,” Holmes told Brides exclusively. “Learning more about the ways in which the Queen and Diana, Princess of Wales have used their fashion adds history and context to the royal fashion we see today.”
The book depicts how each woman’s style impacted the royal family member—and history for that matter. And it all began with their engagement outfits—the look that for some marks their official entrance into the royal family. “They are the beginning of the very public life these women live as wives of princes,” Holmes says. “Their engagement outfits set the tone of what we are likely to see from their style.”
And these engagement outfits have truly been a memorable part of the royals’ history. Princess Diana has impacted the royals in so many ways, and her engagement outfit is not excluded. Her iconic electric blue skirt suit is still so remembered today. In fact, the hit Netflix show The Crown just recreated the look—to a tee. This fashion moment was so pivotal for Diana, a then 19-year-old making her royal family debut.
“Diana was just 19 years old when Charles proposed and she wasn’t terribly fashionable,” Holmes explains. “With the help of some editors at British Vogue, she transformed rather quickly into the style icon we remember today. But for that engagement photocall, she was still very much figuring it out. She went shopping by herself and picked out the off-the-rack suit at Harrods that matched her ring (and her eyes). It was indicative of her early royal style, in that it was brightly colored but very modest. It made her look older and more mature, the part of a working royal.”
Although Diana didn’t start out with the most fashion experience, she went on to become an important figure in fashion that is still talked about today. She even set precedents with her bold choices that strayed from some of the typical royal fashion choices—something we see reflected today in the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s choices. In Meghan’s two years as a member of the royal family, she has made a splash with her fashion choices (as well as her decision to step down as a senior royal member), which are a bit rebellious when compared to the royal dress code.
“[Meghan’s] engagement outfit was particularly indicative of her style to come, with a modern twist on royal fashion. She wore a statement coat—royal women have fantastic coats!—but it was slightly more relaxed with a shawl color and a belt. She also wore nude pumps (another royal style) but Meghan’s had a tie at the ankle, making it a bit more fashionable.”
Which in turn, allowed a peek into her future choices. “I would also say Meghan has embraced trendier styles, much like Diana did with her royal fashion in the 1980s,” says Holmes. “Meghan’s wide-leg trousers, for example, feel very of-the-moment, much the way Diana’s statement shoulders did in her day.”
Although Diana and Meghan have made some similar choices, their wedding gowns were quite different Holmes notes. “Diana’s was her teenage dream of what a princess should wear, with voluminous sleeves, sparkles, lace, and bows. It nearly swallowed her up!” She says. “Meghan, by contrast, was strikingly different. She did not need the dress to play the part as Diana had. Modern and minimal, it put the focus on her and her elegant statement veil, embroidered with symbols of the Commonwealth nations.”
They sort of gave the world a glimpse into their future choices with their engagement looks and wedding gowns—both style-wise and royally. Holmes told Brides that all of these ladies’ style choices really became indicative of the role they would play as a royal family member.
“The Queen has set the stage for the royal fashion we see today, approaching her clothes like a uniform. It’s all about function as much as it is about fashion, with bright colors that allow her to be spotted in the crowd and silhouettes that allow her to wave and shake hands.”
On the other hand, Diana chose very bold looks for empowerment. “Her big, bold choices gave people a reason to care about her and what she was doing, and helped her reclaim her voice amid her troubled marriage.”
Today, the duchesses may be the most talked about style stars in the world. Everyone’s eyes are always on these two to see what their next move will be—and what they’ll be wearing while doing it.
“Kate made royal fashion accessible, entering the family as a commoner with a sensible style,” says Holmes. “She wore clothes that were affordable, and in doing so allowed a new generation of royal family fans to see themselves in their storied ranks. And Meghan modernized royal fashion, infusing her savvy, sophisticated style into the equation.”
At the end of the day, these women’s style choices—including their engagement outfits and wedding gowns—are about so much more than just looking good. “I think it’s important to remember royal fashion serves a bigger purpose,” explains Holmes. “The colors, brands, and styles represent who they are and what they value. What’s more, it’s an invitation for more—because if you like something they are wearing, you might learn more about the work they are doing. I commend them for their thoughtful dressing!”
So do we. And we commend Holmes for her thoughtful depiction of their influential fashion choices. Read her book, which is available for purchase now, to learn more and gain insight into the very real way fashion has changed royal history.