It’s official: Queen Elizabeth II has been a reigning monarch for 70 years! This Sunday, February 6, marked the anniversary of her majesty’s ascension to the throne, making her the first royal in England's history to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. In her seven decades as a ruler, she has not only served as the country’s head of state, but as a fashion icon, too, inspiring, surprising, and delighting us with her royal style, which has evolved right alongside the many phases of her storied reign.
In fact, she's worked with no less than three royal couturiers in her time, with Norman Hartnell designs comprising much of her early wardrobe, Hardy Amies creating many of her ensembles from the '50s to the '90s, and Angela Kelly taking over as her colorful dressmaker in 2002. From her historic coronation gown to the lime green getup she went viral for in 2018, we’ve compiled a list of Queen Elizabeth's best, most iconic fashion looks of all time.
1946: The Debutante Years
Even as a young debutante, then-Princess Elizabeth was plenty elegant, dressing in simple-yet-chic silhouettes with luxe-looking fabrics, as seen in this 1946 photo with her sister, Princess Margaret.
November 20, 1947: White Wedding
The queen was also using fashion as a means of expression years before she ever wore the crown. The gown she wore for her wedding to Prince Philip on November 20, 1947, was rife with meaning. According to the Royal Collection Trust, the Norman Hartnell masterpiece, which featured a 15-foot train with a breathtaking star pattern inspired by Botticelli's "Primavera" Renaissance painting, was symbolic of a period of growth and rebirth for England following World War II.
It also featured 10,000 seed pearls, plenty of crystals, and an ivory silk fabric that the then-princess reportedly collected coupons to pay for, as Britain was still subject to rationing at the time. For her something borrowed, she had the Queen Mary Fringe tiara, which once belonged to her grandmother.
January 1951: A Grand Debut
The royal made quite an appearance on the Mediterranean island of Malta in a pale purple frock with a furry stole.
October 12, 1951: Ready for the Spotlight
The then-princess went for top style honors while visiting Ottawa, Canada, in 1951 in this chic pink gown, which featured a lace floral pattern throughout. She set off the look with the Nizam of Hyderabad tiara and the Greville ruby and diamond necklace.
Jan 1, 1953: Coronation Day
Norman Hartnell was also behind another huge fashion milestone in Queen Elizabeth's life: her coronation gown. Accepted by the royal as the eighth of nine (yes, nine!) designs that the British couturier made for the occasion, it was a masterpiece that took the better part of a year to complete. And considering that it featured floral emblems of both the UK and other states within the Commonwealth of Nations—including the English Tudor rose, a Welsh leek, a Scottish thistle, an Irish shamrock, a Canadian maple leaf, an Australian wattle flower, and the fern of New Zealand—it was no wonder.
Made of silk, the dress reportedly required the expertise of no less than six embroiderers. Naturally, such a work of art was far too precious to wear but once—the queen pulled a Kate Middleton and wore it again multiple times, including to several speeches to the Parliaments in 1954 and another in Canada in 1957.
1954: Style Maven
The newly crowned monarch was radiant while leaving a banquet in Australia in 1954, no doubt in part due to this extravagant floral gown.
1954: A Vision in Pastel
The lacy peach number with a plunging V-neck that the queen wore down under proved she could pull off pastel with the best of ‘em.
April 8, 1957: Silver and Gold
This dress was made to turn heads—literally. Designed by Norman Hartnell to complement the French nation Queen Elizabeth was touring at the time and put the spotlight on her, it featured several motifs tying back to the country, including its flower and bee detailing (the emblem of Napoleon). Embroidered in gold and silver glass, gold beads, and pearls, the gown was nothing short of extravagant, and showcased a large bow at the back for good measure.
1957: Going Green
The British ruler was also a vision in green while visiting with France’s first lady at the time, Germaine Coty. Her outfit of choice featured a full ballgown skirt and delicate beading across the bodice.
October 23, 1957: Guest of Honor
A ball was held in honor of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the end of their 1957 state visit to America, and the guest of honor looked every bit the royal in the jaw-dropping tulle and floral patterned gown she wore for the occasion.
June 1961: Dress Drama
Talk about a moment in fashion history! Both Jackie Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth looked lovely in their respective shades of blue while the American first lady and her husband, John F. Kennedy, were visiting England in 1968.
While there were rumblings that Jackie wasn’t exactly wowed with the queen’s manner of dress (photographer Cecil Barton reportedly claimed in Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting that “Jackie was unimpressed with the palace furnishings and the Queen’s comparatively old-fashioned wardrobe and hairstyle), we find her royal blue ballgown quite enchanting, if not quite as modern as Jackie’s Chez Ninon cut. The buzzed-about moment was also depicted in an episode of The Crown.
April 22, 1966: A Storied Frock
For her Parliament speech in 1966, the queen donned the same Norman Hartnell peau de soie gown that she had reportedly previously worn twice: once to honor former Italian president Giovanni Gronchi at a state dinner at the British Embassy in 1961 and again to the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia in December of 1962. Only this time, she wore it with the Imperial State Crown.
Featuring beaded embroidery that spanned from the bustline halfway down the skirt, the dress was certainly one to remember; Years later, her granddaughter Princess Beatrice would walk down the aisle in the same piece (albeit an updated version of it) for her wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
May 7, 1969: Making a Splash
The queen was all smiles while making a state visit to Austria with daughter Princess Anne. She wore a simple-yet-stunning A-line gown as crafted by Hardy Amies that was reflective of the fashion at the time.
February 6, 1977: Fashionable Flair
Showing off a bit of flair, the queen posed for her Silver Jubilee portrait while wearing a white-and-gold frock with a zig-zag pattern, along with her royal cape and crown.
June 7, 1977: Pretty in Pink
A very special 25th anniversary (better known in England as a Silver Jubilee) requires a very special frock, and that’s exactly what Queen Elizabeth turned up in for her celebrations. According to the Royal Trust Collection, Hardy Amies was behind this peachy-pink getup, which was comprised of pink silk and chiffon with a matching Simone Mirman hat.
July 29, 1981: Mother of the Groom
The queen didn’t need to wear white to stand out from the royal balcony on the day her son famously wed his late ex-wife, Princess Diana. Her piercing turquoise gown, which she wore with a brooch and white pearls and gloves, was hard to miss.
March 5, 1983: Royal Ruffles
Queen Elizabeth went for bold while visiting San Francisco in March 1983, toasting to the Reagans at a banquet for which she donned a lavish pearl-and-diamond tiara and a cream-colored gown with voluminous ruffled sleeves.
March 9, 1983: Orange Blossom
The queen cleverly tipped her hat to the sunshine state in 1983, when she accompanied First Lady Nancy Reagan to a Star’s Concert in California bedecked in a Hardy Amies creation. The gown featured the state’s flower of orange poppies embroidered on the top and a flowing white skirt at the base.
May 3, 1993: Pepto Pink
If the ‘90s were wrong as far as fashion is concerned, we don’t want to be right—especially after catching a glimpse of the utterly mesmerizing Pepto Bismol pink frock the queen arrived for a banquet in Hungary in.
February 19, 2002: Signature Shade
If you ask us, no shade has ever suited Queen E. quite so well as the icy blue beaded Stewart Parvin number she was photographed in while attending a dinner at the Governor-General King’s Residence in Jamaica. The sparkling tiara atop her head only served to emphasize its detailing.
November 15, 2006: Stealing the Show
We couldn’t take our eyes off the queen in November 2006, when she waltzed into the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament in a sparkly white body-skimming column gown, a fur stole, and a tiara.
April 29, 2011: Spring Fling
For grandson Prince William's wedding to the Duchess of Cambridge, the British icon opted for a springy yellow dress from royal dressmaker Angela Kelly along with a matching topper, the latter of which featured handmade silk roses. Never one to shy away from symbolism, we've no doubt that the queen fully intended to evoke the warmth, happiness, and sunshine that is often associated with the color with her choice of wardrobe.
July 27, 2012: Sartorial Gold
The fashionable royal struck sartorial gold with the peach-and-crystal ensemble she sported to the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, and for good reason: it took dressmakers months to make two of the same gown, one of which was worn by her majesty, the other, a stunt double who appeared to jump out of a helicopter for a skit with Daniel Craig. “Even [the seamstresses] didn’t know why two dresses were required for the same event,” Angela Kelly later wrote in her book, Dressing The Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe.
May 29, 2018: Making a Statement
Queen Elizabeth chose yet another cheery hue at the nuptials of her younger grandson, Prince Harry, to Meghan Markle: lime green. Dolled up in head-to-toe Stewart Parvin, she added a few contrasting pops of color in the form of a purple plume on her Angela Kelly hat and her stark white gloves. According to color consultant June McLeod, who spoke to Good Housekeeping at the time of the affair, the shade was a respectful one. “Green is the color of growth and rebirth,” she told the outlet. “A person who wears green is the regulator and open-hearted. Green is a highly significant color worn as a sign of respect and intention for the future.”
June 14, 2018: Setting Herself Apart
The queen shared many a giggle—and a fashion photo opp—with Meghan Markle in June 2018 when she took her new granddaughter-in-law on an outing to Chester. She wore an eye-popping Stewart Parvin number for the occasion, which, as Prince Edward's wife Sophie Rhys Jones explained in a 2016 documentary, was likely entirely purposeful. “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say, "I saw the Queen,’” Rhys Jones said at the time.
February 6, 2022: Going Platinum
For her big Platinum Jubilee kickoff, the monarch sported a demure shade of light blue (a hue that has been known to symbolize trust, loyalty, and stability) in the form of this crepe design by her royal dresser, Angela Kelly. Accenting the look was a sprinkling of white floral embroidery at the waist and a diamond Cartier brooch.