The Greatest Gowns The Royal Family Has Ever Worn
No one does glam like the royals.
When it comes to gorgeous gowns, nobody does it better than the royal family. From the Queen’s glorious gown for her 1953 Coronation ceremony to the beautiful, minimal maternity dress the Duchess of Sussex wore in 2018, here are a few of the greatest gowns the royal family has ever worn.
What’s your favorite?
Princess Margaret (August 1949)
An official portrait to celebrate Princess Margaret’s 19th birthday in 1949 was taken by renowned photographer, painter and designer Cecil Beaton. It shows her in front of a painted backdrop in a formal off-the-shoulder evening dress with butterfly embellishments, holding two pink roses.
In 1950, a book about the princess praised her fashion sense, stating that she “probably sets more youthful fashions than any other teenager in the world.”
Queen Elizabeth II (June 1953)
For Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony on June 2, 1953, she wore a silk embroidered gown with scalloped, graduated tiers and alternating lines of gold bugle beads, diamantes and pearls. It was designed by British couturier Norman Hartnell, but the Queen had a lot of input into its creation. For example, she requested that in addition to the four national emblems (a rose for England, the Scottish thistle, a leek for Wales and a shamrock for Northern Ireland), those of the Dominions of which she was now Queen be added (e.g. a maple leaf for Canada, a wattle for Australia and a silver fern for New Zealand).
The coronation gown is considered to be one of the most important examples of 20th-century design.
Princess Anne (August 1973)
Princess Anne, the Queen’s only daughter, has always been something of an under-appreciated royal style icon. An adventurous dresser who was always willing to embrace fashion trends, she’s never shied away from bold colors or prints.
For the London premiere of “Jesus Christ Superstar” — her first public engagement with fiancé Captain Mark Phillips — Anne gave more than one nod to early 1970s style: a high neck, voluminous sleeves and a bright, all-over floral print. It’s no wonder W magazine called her “a modern fashion icon hiding in plain sight.”
Princess Anne (1978)
Arriving at the Dorchester Hotel in London, Princess Anne — who is the mother of Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips — wore a ruffled white floral dress and white evening gloves. In terms of accessories, well … she was wearing statement necklaces long before that’s what we called them. For evening events, Anne favored a neat up-do.
Queen Mother (August 1980)
For her 8oth birthday celebration at the Royal Opera House, the Queen Mother wore a full-length gown in white chiffon, with an overlay of gold lace. She also wore the diamond and ruby “Indian” tiara, which was originally made as an opal tiara for Queen Victoria in 1853. The opals were replaced by rubies by Queen Alexandra.
Princess Diana (June 1985)
Princess Diana, who married Prince Charles in 1981, looked more like a movie star than a royal in this shimmering, pleated gold lamé evening gown by Bruce Oldfield, which she wore to the premiere of the James Bond film “A View to Kill” in 1985.
“Princess Diana is arguably the greatest style icon of the 20th century,” wrote Harper’s Bazaar.
Over the next decade, Diana turned heads on red carpets all over the world.
Princess Diana (November 1985)
For a gala dinner at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 1985, Diana chose a white, bugle-beaded silk chiffon asymmetric gown by Japanese designer Hachi. Although it was the only one she wore from the label, it was clearly one of her favorites — she had previously worn it to the premiere of “Octopussy” in June 1983. At a Christie’s auction in 1997, the dress raised over $75,000.
Princess Diana (November 1985)
One of Princess Diana’s most iconic gowns, a midnight-blue velvet dress by Victor Edelstein, was another look she recycled. She wore it during a visit to the White House in 1985, where she famously danced with John Travolta, and she re-wore it in 1987 on a state visit in Germany; at the premiere of the film “Wall Street” in April 1988; and for her last official portrait photograph, taken by Prince Charles’s uncle, the Earl of Snowdon, in 1997. The “Travolta dress” was also auctioned, selling for $222,500 in 1997 (breaking Christie’s auction record of $145,000 for a garment) and then for $362,424 in 2013 to “a British gentleman as a surprise to cheer up his wife.”
Princess Diana (May 1987)
Accompanied by her then-husband Prince Charles, Princess Diana attended a gala night at the 40th Cannes Film Festival in honor of actor Sir Alec Guinness. The princess wore a pale blue silk chiffon strapless dress with a matching stole by French-born, London-based designer Catherine Walker. It was the perfect showstopping look to celebrate Diana’s first Cannes Film Festival.
Queen Elizabeth II (November 1987)
In an official portrait with Prince Philip in November 1987, Queen Elizabeth chose a white dress with a dot pattern. She also wore a sparkling tiara and an elaborate diamond necklace, but the most important accessory was the wide blue sash of the Order of the Garter, of which she is sovereign. The Queen’s love of bright colors is well-documented but, for formal portraits, she tends to stick to whites and neutrals.
Princess Diana (January 1989)
It may have been January in London, but Princess Diana braved the cold in a pink and blue floral printed column dress by Catherine Walker to attend a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. She accessorized the gown with a large necklace that matched her sapphire engagement ring. Diana had previously worn the dress to a bicentennial dinner-dance in Melbourne, during a royal tour of Australia.
Princess Diana (November 1989)
Princess Diana’s white silk pearl- and sequin-encrusted column dress was dubbed the “Elvis dress” due to its matching high-collar bolero jacket. Diana wore it to the British Fashion Awards in October 1989, and then on an official visit to Hong Kong the following month. Another Catherine Walker design, it was actually inspired by Elizabethan ruffs. It’s currently in storage at the V&A in London, having been donated by the Franklin Mint.
Princess Margaret (July 1990)
In July 1990, various members of the royal family attended a tribute to the Queen Mother at the London Palladium to mark her 90th birthday. Princess Margaret wore a blue caped dress, along with a matching necklace and earrings. The royal guests enjoyed performances by Michael Caine and Roger Moore, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Howard Keel and Placido Domingo.
Princess Diana (June 1996)
A year before her death, Princess Diana visited the U.S. and attended a gala dinner to benefit cancer research at the Field Museum Of Natural History. She wore a long, sleeveless dress by her close friend Gianni Versace, with Jimmy Choo shoes in the same color — Northwestern University purple. The royal guest of honor was serenaded by Tony Bennett and danced with TV host Phil Donahue.
Princess Diana (October 1996)
Princess Diana wore another Versace gown, this time an elegant one-shoulder design in royal blue, during the royal tour of Australia in October 1996. Diana was guest of honor at the Victor Chang Institute Royal Ball. She accessorized with a matching clutch and heels, a pearl bracelet, drop earrings and the aquamarine ring most recently worn by Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, to celebrate her marriage to Diana’s youngest son, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.
Queen Elizabeth II (2003)
On June 2, 2003, to mark the 50th anniversary of her coronation, the Queen posed with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Charles, Prince of Wales and Prince William at Clarence House (Charles’ official residence). She wore a long pink sequined dress, accessorized with a silver handbag and shoes — and plenty of diamonds, of course. Although the Queen often wears pink, royal style watchers have decided that her favorite color is blue.
Queen Elizabeth II (May 2011)
For a banquet at Dublin Castle during a state visit to Ireland in 2011, the Queen wore a white silk dress adorned with 2,091 hand-sewn embroidered shamrocks. For her accessories, HRH chose the Queen Mary tiara, a diamond necklace, brooch and bracelet, and spotless white evening gloves. The shamrocks weren’t the only nod to the host country; her gown also had a Swarovski-embellished Irish harp pinned to the left shoulder.
The Duchess of Cambridge (April 2011)
Kate Middleton’s breathtaking wedding gown, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, was a lacy, long-sleeved dress with a nine-foot train. Apparently, Kate wanted to combine royal tradition with her own contemporary style — and it worked. Her dress inspired countless copycats and is sure to remain one of the most talked-about royal bridal gowns of all time.
The Duchess of Cambridge (June 2011)
For their first official royal outing as a married couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the ARK 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner in London. Kate stunned in a pearlescent pink sequin gown by one of her favorite designers, Jenny Packham. Well known for recycling her gowns, Kate wore this one again in 2016 for the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices Gala in Norfolk, England.
The Duchess of Cambridge (September 2013)
Jenny Packham was Kate’s designer of choice again for the annual Tusk Conservation Awards, which recognize outstanding figures in African conservation, in September 2013. It was her first official public engagement after the birth of her first child, Prince George, and she stunned in the floor-length sequin gown with a pair of matching Jimmy Choo heels and diamond jewelry. She kept her hair simple in loose waves.
The Duchess of Cambridge (April 2016)
The Duchess of Cambridge looked the part at a Bollywood Inspired Charity Gala at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel during the royal visit to India and Bhutan in April 2016. Her hand-beaded, sari-inspired cobalt blue gown was yet another Jenny Packham design. The Duchess wore it with matching sapphire earrings and clutch.
The Duchess of Sussex (May 2018)
For her wedding reception at Frogmore House, Meghan Markle wore a slinky halterneck gown by British designer Stella McCartney. A statement from Kensington Palace confirmed that the dress was “a bespoke lily white high neck gown made of silk crepe.” Meghan also wore Aquazurra satin shoes with baby blue-painted soles, and a turquoise ring — a gift from her new husband — that belonged to Princess Diana.
The Duchess of Sussex (October 2018)
For the Australian Geographic Society Awards ceremony in Tonga in October 2018, Meghan wore a showstopping dress. Her striking black and white Oscar de la Renta gown featured flying birds all the way from the bodice to the bottom edge. The design was created by Sarah Esmoingt. With black heels, minimal jewelry and loose curls in her hair, the mom-to-be let her gown do the talking.
The Duchess of Sussex (October 2018)
Meghan’s maternity wardrobe for the royal visit to Fiji in October 2018 was praised for being minimal and sophisticated. For a state dinner, she wore a long dress with a trailing cape detail by Safiyaa — and if you like it, it’s still available on the brand’s website. The color? Fijian blue, of course. Long diamond earrings completed the simple but chic look.
The Duchess of Cambridge (November 2018)
It was Jenny Packham yet again for the Duchess of Cambridge’s attendance at the 2018 Tusk Conservation Awards at Banqueting House, London in November 2018. The elegant, floor-length teal gown had lace details, cap sleeves and a beaded belt. But it wasn’t the first time Kate had worn it; its first outing was to a gala at Royal Albert Hall back in 2012.