Fit for a queen: Nine decades of Queen Elizabeth II’s iconic style

WATCH: Queen Elizabeth II had an undeniable presence but it was her signature style that will be remembered along with the grace and grandeur that came with being the Queen of England. ET Canada looks back at some of her most memorable looks from her royal tours and more.

Queen Elizabeth II has died, but her impeccable style and decades of iconic looks will live on forever.

In her 70-year reign as the head of the British Royal Family and ruler of the monarchy, she’s become a fashion icon with an ever-evolving style fit for a queen.

As a young princess who came of age during World War II, the queen often dressed in ways that reflected what was happening in the U.K. at the time, sending a message with her sartorial choices.

Princess Elizabeth attending a state banquet at Rideau Hall, Ottawa, during a State Visit to Canada in 1951. Getty Images

For example, Vogue U.K. reports that the queen used ration coupons to purchase the duchesse satin for her 1947 wedding gown — a typical move for war-time brides.

Story continues below advertisement

Brides Magazine reports that same dress featured a 15-foot train that was inspired by Botticelli’s “Primavera” Renaissance painting, and was symbolic of a period of growth and rebirth for England following the war.

Read more: Queen Elizabeth II: The sweetest, funniest moments from her reign

Her coronation gown was another example of a frock rife with meaning — it featured the floral emblems of many of the Commonwealth nations, including a Canadian maple leaf, an English rose, a Welsh leek, a Scottish thistle, an Irish shamrock, an Australian wattle flower and the fern of New Zealand.

To honour the queen in her passing, take a walk through her fashion evolution and some her best style moments over the years.

A wee princess

As a girl, Queen Elizabeth was often spotted in pleated or smock dresses, knee socks and sensible jewelry typical of young royals, even to this day. According to Marie Claire UK, her father, King George VI, continued Queen Victoria’s tradition of gifting his daughters a pearl each year on their birthday, ensuring a full set by the time they turned 18.

Princess Elizabeth walks through the rain to visit the Royal Tournament at Olympia in London in 1932. The Canadian Press
Princess Elizabeth arrives at the 16th Century Church at Balcombe, Sussex, for the wedding of Lady May Cambridge and Captain Henry Abel Smith in 1931. The Canadian Press

Read more: The story behind the portrait used to announce Queen Elizabeth II’s death

Story continues below advertisement
Princess Margaret (seated) with her sister Princess Elizabeth in 1933. The Canadian Press

The debutante years

The princess as a young woman was a fan of elegant yet simple dresses, cut in timeless silhouettes.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, the two debuntante princesses, circa 1946. Getty Images
Princess Elizabeth reviewing the Guards Grenadier Regiment of which she was Colonel-in-Chief, in the United Kingdom in 1946. Getty Images

Her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947 saw her in the aforementioned wedding dress designed by Norman Hartnell — one of a handful of go-to designers the queen would come to trust with creating her custom wardrobe pieces over the years.

Story continues below advertisement
Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, at London’s Buckingham Palace after their wedding ceremony on Nov. 20, 1947. The Associated Press

In her private life, she continued to wear uncomplicated dresses and overcoats and kept her wardrobe fairly simple.

Britain’s Princess Elizabeth appears on the grounds of the Royal Lodge at Windsor, England, on Aug. 26, 1946. The Canadian Press
Princess Elizabeth, dressed in a blouse and a flowered, flared skirt, goes through the “swing-your-partner and do-si-do” intricacies at a private square-dance party at Government House in Ottawa, on Oct. 11, 1951. The Canadian Press

A young queen

Hartnell was also tasked with creating the queen’s coronation gown, which took almost a year to complete and required the skill of six embroiderers.

Story continues below advertisement
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Coronation Day in 1953. The Canadian Press

Always cognizant of the criticisms of excess directed toward the Royal Family, the queen was a fan of the royal fashion repeat and took careful steps to rewear items from her closet for public events. She rewore her coronation gown on multiple other occasions, including during speeches to the Parliaments in 1953 and again during a visit to Canada in 1957.

The Queen and Prince Philip enter the Senate to open Parliament Oct. 14, 1957. Prince Philip wears the uniform of a colonel-in-chief of the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Queen her Coronation gown. The Canadian Press

It was also during this time that the queen began to experiment with style as she stepped into the public arena and spent much of her time carrying out her royal duties and patronages.

Story continues below advertisement
Queen Elizabeth II on the balcony of Government House, Melbourne, during her tour of Australia, March 1954. Hulton Archive via Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne leaving the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh after the second day of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The Canadian Press

Read more: Queen Elizabeth II onscreen: The best ‘queen’ cameos in movies and TV

Queen Elizabeth II wears a slim-fitting white lace dress to a garden party in Sydney, Australia, before leaving for Tasmania on the liner ‘SS Gothic’, February 1954. Hulton Archive via Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during a visit to the Mediterranean island of Malta, 1951. The Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Patterns, pastels and expressive millinery

As the monarch became well-settled into her royal role she paired the extravagant with the everyday. She was often seen in lavish ballroom gowns and intricate tiaras while attending state dinners and galas, but chose scaled-back coordinating sets while on tour.

Story continues below advertisement
Duke of Edinburgh, the then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II and the then U.S. President John F. Kennedy at Buckingham Palace in 1961. The Canadian Press
Queen Elizabeth II greets children during a walkabout on Antigua, during of her Silver Jubilee tour of the Caribbean in 1977. Getty Images

It was during this time that the queen had a lot of fun with her hats and headgear. The world saw her wear a wide array of millinery, often in fun prints or adorned with faux flowers.

Queen Elizabeth II wears a polka-dot turban as she opens the Jubilee Garden in 1977. The Canadian Press
Queen Elizabeth II inspecting the guard of honour outside Cardiff City Hall, Wales, in 1977. The Canadian Press
Queen Elizabeth II is shown in a carriage on the way to a ceremony for her Silver Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1977. Getty Images

A recognizable rainbow

It was after the queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 that a palette of block solids and large, playful patterns increasingly became the queen’s go-to ensemble. She was not afraid of colour — she wore almost every hue imaginable in the latter part of her reign — but it became clear that matching skirt and jacket ensembles and colourful coat dresses were her go-to look.

Story continues below advertisement
Queen Elizabeth II visits the Bell’s Sports Centre, Perth, during her Silver Jubilee visit to Scotland. The Canadian Press
The Queen And Prince Philip arrive for a banquet dinner on a trip to Hungary in 1993. Tim Graham Photo Library / Getty Images

By dressing in solid colours the queen ensured that she was immediately recognizable at every event, even from afar.

Queen Elizabeth II walks through a field of ceramic poppies at The Tower of London in 2014. Kristy Wigglesworth / The Associated Press

These outfits became an unofficial “uniform” for the queen and it wasn’t unheard of for British bookmakers to take bets on what colour the queen would don for high-profile events.

Story continues below advertisement
Queen Elizabeth II, flanked by many members of the British Royal Family, attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017. Chris Jackson / Getty Images
Duchess of Cambridge with Princess Charlotte, Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Edinburgh on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2016. Getty Images

Still, the queen kept things simple, dignified and diplomatic by choosing brooches from her vast collection, or including subtle dress details that held meaning for the various organizations and countries she visited.

Queen Elizabeth ll and Nancy Reagan arrive for a concert during an official tour of the U.S.A. on February 28, 1983 in Long Beach, USA. Anwar Hussein / Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Robert Logan, left, general manager of Raffles Hotel, where she stayed on a trip to Singpore in 2006.

She also was often seen with the same black handbag on her arm and classic, low-slung pumps.

Story continues below advertisement
Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she inspects the Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard at Buckingham Palace in central London in 2007. Johnny Green / The Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth II arrives with her private secretary Robin Janvrin on tour in Budapest, Hungary in 1993. Getty Images

As she aged, Queen Elizabeth began to assign more royal duties to her children and grandchildren and attended fewer events. However, she was always a masterclass in royal style, showing up to regal events in the classiest of formalwear.

Queen Elizabeth II leaves the Palace of Westminster in London after delivering her speech at the State Opening of Parliament, Wednesday Nov. 15, 2006. Matt Dunham / The Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth II meets ‘James Bond’ actor Daniel Craig at the world premiere for the Bond film ‘Casino Royale’ in Leicester Square, London in 2006. Getty Images
Click to play video: 'Look at Queen’s impact on Canada' Look at Queen’s impact on Canada
Look at Queen’s impact on Canada – Sep 9, 2022

Sponsored content