Who is responsible for the most successful (and failed) outfits of royals on official tours and how designers prepare images for duchesses and princesses.
Royal tours have long been the hallmark of the BCS. Moreover, the public always pays special attention to the wardrobes of monarchs. Some calculate the cost of outfits, others admire the diplomatic tricks of stylists and look for hidden meanings in the jewelry that the representatives of the royal family add to the outfits. Everything can become a reason for journalistic materials: from impressive evening images of fabulous value to labels peeking out from under dresses. And, of course, it is not the “culprits of the celebration” themselves who are responsible for all this.
Sketch by designer Ian Thomas, who designed an outfit for Queen Elizabeth for a tour of Saudi Arabia in 1979
The same dress, made according to Thomas’ sketch
In 2018, during the 16 days of the tour of Australia and Oceania, Duchess Meghan changed more than thirty outfits, and this trip was the loudest and most important for her in every sense. In her second autumn tour of Africa in her life, the scale was smaller, and in general, during her life as a royal, the Duchess has already collected a large enough wardrobe to repeat herself in her exits. And although for the second time Megan did not have the opportunity to change clothes 38 times again, now she is more focused on promoting African and British labels — which cannot but please British citizens and residents of the country.
Duchess Meghan in a Staud dress and Cuyana scarf, Cape Town, September 24, 2019
“Fashion has been a part of royal life for centuries and has been elegantly used by all [royals], starting with the Queen — it helped to make travel abroad as smooth as possible,” says Hannah Furness, The Telegraph’s royal correspondent. – The Queen’s habit of wearing jewelry with references to the country she visits, echoes the love of diplomatic receptions of young duchesses, their desire to showcase local designers. Even the color of the clothes can flatter the receiving party.”
For example, in her first overseas tour, Duchess Megan used the art of color diplomacy. Sussex, long known for her love of black and dark blue, descended from the plane in the kingdom of Tonga in a scarlet outfit, which clearly surprised fashion critics — such a choice was extremely atypical. However, the secret of color therapy was revealed instantly: red is the color of the flag of the kingdom of Tonga, and a dress in this shade became a nice and rather flattering compliment for the host party. The Duchess used a similar method in her first tour during a state reception in Fiji: Meghan appeared in a flawless cape dress in a blue shade from Safiyaa – tone in tone with the flag of the country.
Duchess Meghan in a scarlet Self-Portrait dress, October 2018
The stylist picked up a Sussex outfit in the color of the flag of the Kingdom of Tonga
The Duchess in the image of the brand Safiyaa, October 23, 2018
The shade of the dress duplicated the color of the flag of Fiji
It is important to take into account all the nuances of the trip and understand the culture of the host party – so as not to get into a mess, like the first lady of the United States, who appeared in a colonizer hat during her exit in Africa. Of course, duchesses and princesses do not go to boutiques on their own and physically will not be able to plan the entire wardrobe for the trip. To do this, there are real pros in their big team.
Assistant Personal Secretary Sophie Anew and stylist Natasha Archer during the Dukes of Cambridge’s tour of India and Bhutan, April 12, 2016
Duchess Kate’s main assistant has been known for a long time: Natasha Archer is her devoted wardrobe fairy, responsible for the Cambridge wardrobe for many years, including for tours. The situation with Megan is not so transparent: insiders believe that the Duchess is still being prepared for the events by a long-time friend of the ex-actress Jessica Mulroney, but she does not appear in the photo so often.
Natasha Archer during the Dukes of Cambridge Tour of Canada, September 27, 2017
Unlike tailors who have worked with royals in the past, stylists must take into account many factors, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Susan Kelly, who runs an influential source on Duchess Kate’s style, often talks about the role of Archer and Mulroney, as well as Virginia Chadwick-Healy, a former Vogue editor (she worked with the Duchess of Cambridge while Archer’s main stylist was on maternity leave). “[They are] well aware of the style directions… They study places months before traveling and know what will look good in the photo and what will not. They also understand how the material drapes, which fabrics crumple too easily, which brands can look like pampering and many other fashion facts.” Kelly also notes that stylists are responsible for choosing the color of the outfit for the location. “The royal style is quite difficult to understand. Their clothes should attract attention, but not distract from the important work they do,” says Katie Nicholl, royal columnist for Vanity Fair.
Cambridge in Bhutan, April 14, 2015
Dukes of Cambridge during a visit to the Taj Mahal, April 16, 2016
That is why we will never see duchesses in trendy outfits from Vetements or Off-White. Creating images out of time is the main goal of royal stylists, which is shared by the monarchy, so the first parties are always given to classics and the principles of long-term relevance of outfits. One of the Queen’s key fashion designers, Hardy Amis, who began working with Her Majesty back in the 1950s, wrote in his memoirs: “Style is much more preferable than chic. Style respects the past; chic, on the other hand, is ruthless and exists exclusively for the present.”
Queen Elizabeth during a visit to the Kingdom of Tonga, October 30, 1982
Her Majesty during a tour of New Zealand, March 1, 1977
The same requirements apply to younger royals – Duchesses Megan and Kate. Their wardrobes are planned for several months: assistants carefully study the obligations of the schedule and local customs, which also need to be remembered. To take into account absolutely everything, the royals and their assistants hold special meetings with designers.
In 2018, journalists found a letter written by Princess Diana’s maid of honor Anne Beckwith-Smith to designer Elizabeth Emanuel in 1986. The message gives some insight into the briefings that designers conduct when planning tours. “Certain special clothing requirements must be met—” she wrote. – Their Royal Highness will visit Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia… In all cases, modesty is the main task.”
Princess Diana in a dress by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, November 17, 1986
Diana during a tour of Saudi Arabia, November 18, 1986
By the way, Diana has been working with Elizabeth Emanuel and her husband David for a long time. And it was they who developed the main base of the princess’ wardrobe during her tour of the Middle East. According to the memoirs of the founders of the brand, Diana invited them to the palace to discuss all the details of the upcoming trip. It was quite unusual for Elizabeth and David — as a rule, Diana herself came to their studio on Brook Street. “I drew so many sketches for this meeting, and it was like we were working on her wedding dress,” Elizabeth recalled in an interview for The Telegraph. “There were too many sketches on the table, so we just sat on the floor with all the fabric samples. We ended up making some outfits for the Middle East tour, I think eight or nine, and you can see some of the models we ended up using in the picture. We had a list of what she would do [on tour] and the customs of each region.”
David and Elizabeth Emmanuel prepare a wardrobe for Diana’s trip to the Middle East, August 6, 1986
When Princess Diana visited Australia and America in 1985, her wardrobe for the tour included 20 day dresses, 12 hats, more than 12 evening dresses, 15 shoes and bags, 19 pairs of earrings, two tiaras and eight necklaces – all packed in suitcases and bags with color coding.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Princess Diana and Prince Charles during the Royal couple’s US tour, November 9, 1985
However, careful and advance preparation of outfits does not protect designers from force majeure. One of these was encountered by the founder of THEIA Couture brand, who was preparing an outfit for the Duchess of Sussex’s state dinner in the Kingdom of Tonga in 2018. “When her stylist contacted me to see if I could make a dress for the Australian tour, I dropped everything we were doing at that time (and my wedding show was just a week away) and immediately started working on Her Highness’s dress,” recalled designer Don O’Neill. However, after the work on the outfit was finished, a surprise awaited the designer. “We finished the dress in two days, sent it and received confirmation that the Duchess liked it, but with one caveat. We needed to redo it with an additional seam allowance. We immediately understood why this additional volume was needed,” O’Neill said. At that time, the general public did not yet know that the Duchess was pregnant, and the designer actually became the owner of exclusive information.
Dukes of Sussex at a state reception, October 25, 2018
The Duchess’s outfit from THEIA Couture
The luggage of the royals for tours is not limited only to clothes, shoes and accessories. Cosmetics occupy a separate place. Duchesses often make up on their own, but hair stylists often go on trips with them. Megan used to turn to George Northwood (Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s favorite) for help “the dukes paid for his services privately. And Kate in 2016 invited stylist Amanda Cook Tucker to tour Canada with her: once she even posted a photo on Instagram (which was promptly deleted) and showed make-up luggage for a trip with Kate — it included 13 brushes, six combs, two hair dryers and a lot of styling products.
Duchess Kate’s hair stylist Amanda Cook at Canada Airport during the Dukes of Cambridge Tour, September 27, 2016
The Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte in Canada, October 1, 2016
“If everything goes according to plan, the hairdresser and stylist will fade into the background, only occasionally spying on the backs and dragging bags with mysterious outfits,” explains royal expert Hannah Furness. “If not, a minor glitch can bring a smile and remind the public that they are just people.” A striking example of such an incident is the appearance of the Duchess at Fuamotu Airport in that very red Self-Portrait dress. A label peeked out from under the hem of the outfit, which the stylist probably forgot about. And although the tag was soon quickly smeared on the photographs of photo reporters, such an incident amused journalists and became the subject of several dozen ironic articles in influential publications around the world.