The Rainbow Queen
Celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June, color authority Pantone Inc. introduced a color code featuring some of Her Majesty’s most famous outfits over her sixty-year reign. For each color (or outfit in this case), there is a Pantone color code number and a brief description of the outfit itself. This color code, officially named “The Diamond Jubilee Color Guide,” illustrates the Queen’s fashion statement as a 5-foot-4 monarch who favors monochromatic outfits. “I can only be seen to be believed,” declared the Queen, concerning her image in a world where most monarchies are reduced to mere ceremonial purpose.
The Queen was crowned at a time when women cut their bangs short like Audrey Hepburn and got their dress blown away by the subway vent like Marilyn Monroe. Fashion and modernity, heavily influenced by women’s liberation, proposed a question to the Queen and her dressmakers: how do you preserve the royalty in the Queen’s outfits while catching up with modern fashion? How do you portray the role of a Queen in this modern world? Back in the time of the Queen’s predecessors, such issue was easier to tackle. Queen Elizabeth I covered herself in heavy velvet gowns with wide, puffy sleeves and lacy ruffs, creating the image of extreme affluence, unquestionable authoritative and even a slight touch of the divine. As the current queen ascended to the throne, however, the political power of a queen had been largely reduced; the queen was no longer closely tied to church and religious authority, and moreover, it has become unwise for the queen to publicly demonstrate her wealth and extravagance, especially during the recent recession. The Queen redesigned her outfits into rectangular shaped coats, low rise pumps, a bright matching hat, a pair of gloves and a stiff, angular handbag. The geometric and monochromatic designs in her outfit demonstrate a timeless simplicity, a kind of simplicity that makes her instantly identifiable as the Queen but does not distance her too far away from her people. As Guy Trebay stated in his New York Times article, the outfit would say the Queen even if the Queen wasn’t in the outfit.
Now that a new member has joined the royal family (as Prince William married Kate Middleton), a breeze of fresh air has come to the royal fashion world. Skinny jeans, leather boots, and even bikinis, the fashion of Kate has revealed a side of the royal family that is unfamiliar to the crowd. While the Queen is trying to make her image identifiable, Kate blends herself in, amongst her people, with her elegant and approachable air. The interesting duo present a brand new image of modern royalty: chic, authoritative, and closer and closer to their more casually dressed people. Every generation pulls away more and more from imperialism, and the fashion reflects this-- who would have thought a pencil skirt could tell us so much?
The Culture Columnist, Asheley Gao:
My name is Asheley Gao and I’m a junior at Cal, majoring in History of Art and minoring in French. I grew up in Asia, the land of dragons and jasmine green tea, as a kid with too much imagination. Indulging myself in exploring different cultures and what they have to offer (art, movies, cuisine, you name it!), I’m on my way to becoming a woman whose country is the whole world. Along with all the excellent writers at Unleashed, I would love to share with you my adventure and take you all around the world.