SOMETHING FELT OFF as I unpacked my clothes into my new closet after a cross-country move four years ago. On hanger after hanger, I stashed my old off
SOMETHING FELT OFF as I unpacked my clothes into my new closet after a cross-country move four years ago. On hanger after hanger, I stashed my old office wardrobe, carefully compiled during a decade of working in New York: black leather jacket, black shift dress, black jeans. Bathed in the sunshine that filled my Northern California home, these staples looked newly dour.
I resolved to expand my personal color wheel but, for the most part, still haven’t made it beyond navy, white and gray. Though I appreciate an occasional pop of color—say, a red lip—most of my adult style has traded squarely in neutrals. The candy shades of my childhood now seem more appropriate for my 1-year-old daughter. I remember grimacing at New York Fashion Week a decade ago when chartreuse was trending.
After studying the style of Queen Elizabeth II, however, I am reconsidering. I dove deep into the fashion of the longest-reigning British monarch while researching my new book, “HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style,” and gained a deep appreciation for the queen of colorful clothes. In more than six decades on the throne, she has worn every shade of the rainbow, from cherry red to electric violet. Her anything-but-timid approach packs the full punch of these colors in solid, monochromatic ensembles.
“I have to be seen to be believed,” she famously once said, and her bright coats and hats, so easily spotted in a crowd (remember crowds?), literally make that possible. To mark the celebration of her 90th birthday in 2016, the queen wore neon green on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, sparking the Twitter hashtag #Neonat90. “We live in a culture where women pass a certain age and they’re meant to just disappear. They’re meant to blend into the background,” said Sali Hughes, journalist and author of “Our Rainbow Queen,” in 2019. “The power of a 90-year-old woman walking out onto a world stage in neon green is amazing.”
The queen’s outfits, teeming with symbolism, are meant to serve a higher purpose than mere fashion. Color lets her send an obvious message, something even the novice style follower can appreciate. Her job is to lift the mood of the country, and those bright colors—like the saturated pink she wore last month in her first public appearance since the start of the pandemic—certainly set the tone. Back when the monarch toured the globe, she often wore the colors of a host nation’s flag.