Clarabella Speaks.

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves" - Shakespeare

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Queen Elizabeth: A Style File. From princess to model.

What comes to mind when you think of the Queen? What does she represent for you? and why do you love her (or not as the case may be)?

Let me give you my thoughts. For me, Elizabeth II is the United Kingdom at its most refined, its most eloquent and its most luxurious. But more than that, she is like a grandmother figure for us all. I have heard several people say that she reminds them of their granny, and this, I think, is an important factor  (at least for younger generations), in the special place that we have for her in our hearts. This comparison determines, to a certain extent, our image of the Queen: it is often difficult to imagine that your grandmother was ever young and so you think of her as wise, without considering the life experience that has made her so; you treat her with respect, not only because that is what you should do, but also because you feel that she would not understand nor accept your more modern values, without considering that she once faced the same quandary and that she is less conservative than you may imagine.

You would be surprised just exactly how much a person's outfit translates, and creates, this image. I didn't realise how influential it was until I decided to do a style file on the Queen. Looking back on her outfits and style over the past 60+ years added a new dimension to my understanding and opinion of the woman who I consider as my sort of royal granny. These are my favourite images, (the most revelatory, if you like) with an explanation as to why...

The Queen as Daisy Buchanan:
'Elegant glamour' sums up this photograph perfectly. It also depicts what it is that every girl fantasises about when they read classics such as The Great Gatsby. We want to be her, not because she's royalty, but because of this fantasy.

The Queen as the eternally youthful princess:
Why do little girls dream of being a princess? For the beauty and elegance and luxury that we see in this photograph.

The Queen as a feminine power:
I am mesmerised by this photo. HRH looks so feminine, so elegant and so dainty yet by her stance, and by that of the soldiers, it is clear that her power, and the respect that she commands, is immense.

The Queen as a style icon:
I chose this photo for the interesting hat. It seems more frivolous than royal and I think it reminds us that the Queen is human and that she shared/shares normal female interests, such as aesthetic appeal.

The Queen as a 60s girl:
I never thought I'd see the Queen in boots like this, it's just so retro!

The Queen as a commoner:
Those boots, that coat! I wouldn't pass any remarks if I saw a similar outfit on Eastenders. I find it quite a surprising choice of outfit for a Queen, but it is refreshing and it keeps things interesting.

The Queen as a model:
I think this is my favourite photo. Striking a pose she looks so carefree, so relaxed, so unofficial. The outfit is fabulous - she has a wonderfully vintage air about her.

The Queen as a fan of glitz and glam:
This photo and this outfit are exciting and glamourous. We all want to have an occasion that requires an outfit like this.

The Queen as your granny: 
I have definitely seen a photo of my granny in a similar outfit. It's such a heart-warming, comforting photograph and the best bit is she looks so normal and so happy. When I look at it I imagine a grandmother looking out contentedly at her family playing in the garden. It's so british, so familiar and so wonderful.

The Queen as the Queen of Diamonds:
This outfit is so regal. When you imagine a Queen, this is what you see. She almost reminds me of an Ice Queen, but one that replaces hostility with warmth.

The Queen as herself:
There is no pretence here. Nowadays at official functions the Queen often wears a coat/skirt combination and while they are always beautiful outfits, I like the simplicity of a dress without a jacket or hat. It's also quite unusual to see her in print and I think it suits her. It's youthful and happy, which is exactly how she looks.

Before I did my research for this, I saw the Queen as an adorable little woman, quintessentially british and an important presence in our lives. Now, I still think that, but I also see her as a young woman with more responsibility than we could ever imagine and who carried out her duties with such grace; as a mother who enjoyed her family life as well as her own; as a normal woman who enjoyed her fashion, and as a strong woman who set a wonderful example for us all.  I had never considered the Queen beyond the woman of my lifetime but now, with the help of some outfit analyses, I have a better understanding of the woman who has reigned this country for 60 years, and with the surprises that came with some of the photos, came also a renewed respect.

So ask yourself the same 3 questions again: What comes to mind when you think of the Queen? What does she represent for you? and why do you love her (or not as the case may be)? Have your opinions changed, even just a little bit?
I hope they have because there are so many (surprising) elements to the wonderful woman we call the Queen.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


So I think it's time for a new post, and what better topic than a royal visit. For any of you not from Northern Ireland, this is no ordinary royal visit (if there is such a thing), no, THE QUEEN CAME TO MY CHURCH!

The excitement that you can sense began when my invitation from Buckingham Palace arrived in the post, making me, as Noel Thompson put it, one of the 750 "dignitaries" who were invited to take part in the service (i'm not going to correct him...).

However, excitement quickly turned to doom when I read on said invitation that "Ladies" were to wear hats. WHAT?! This unfortunate piece of news had me reconsidering my reply of acceptance. I had absolutely no desire to wear a ridiculous contraption on my head that was going to age me by approximately 20 years, and so my shopping antennae went in to overdrive as I searched for the perfect hat. 

I decided my only option was vintage, and so I went on the search for a turban/long-sleeved maxi dress combo, which proved impossible to find. I was envisaging something along these lines, with a plain dress but colour co-ordination was a major issue and in the end I had no choice but to rethink...

10 days to go and the pressure was on as I was still dress and hatless. Thankfully French Connection came to the rescue and I got myself a beautiful and sophisticated navy, long-sleeved, v-necked dress. When I finally found my hat in Ding-Dong Vintage, Durham, the shop assistant told me that the outfit was very Chanel, and with that I was sold (she also told me I suited hats which was a blatant lie, and so obviously her remarks were ploys to secure my purchase, but they worked nonetheless - far be it from me to give up on the chance to channel Chanel)! 

Fit for a Queen?
However, even if I had been Coco Chanel herself, nothing would have taken attention away from the beautiful little lady we call the Queen, and beautiful was indeed an apt description (little too - she is tiny!). I fear I may have lost out on the style-stakes to her gorgeous blue, wedge wood outfit, but hey this is the Queen, a worthy winner if ever there was one. (style file to follow!)

Seeing her walk down the aisle and looking up to see her sat right there was surreal - I can't put my excitement into words - and to make things even better, apparently I looked like an Olsen twin (in my world that is quite possibly the best compliment I could get). It really was my perfect day!