The 15 royal hacks you need to know if you want to look like The Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Anne or a Queen

ByLucinda C. Bard

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Hopes are high that the Queen’s personal dresser Angela Kelly will reveal a few more royal secrets to looking immaculate when the new edition of her book comes out in May. Her first tome resulted in worldwide headlines because it revealed that she was a “flunky” who wore in new shoes for Her Majesty so she didn’t hobble on the cobbles during walkabouts.

Now she is set to release an updated version which will cover the monarch’s time in isolation at Windsor Castle. The Liverpudlian has already revealed that she cut the monarch’s hair when they formed a bubble during the Covid lockdown.

No doubt there will be even more fascinating snippets from the woman responsible for choosing and caring for the Queen’s clothes in her latest version of the The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And The Wardrobe. They are said to be as close as sisters and according to Kelly: “We are two typical women. We discuss clothes, make-up, jewellery.”

READ MORE: Princess Anne’s ‘treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen’ attitude makes her ‘James Bond in a tiara’

Ahead of the new book we have dug out all the hacks you need to know if you want to dress like a royal. And don’t be downhearted. The Duchess of Cambridge may look stunning at events such as the one in Jamaica above but you don’t need to do full on glamour to look like a royal. You just need to know a few secret hacks.

1 Keep it simple and comfortable

You never see the royals tugging at bra straps, holding onto their hemlines or even scratching because of itchy clothing. Every detail is thought through in advance because fiddling with your clothes is a distraction. Angela Kelly even goes as far as sewing in extra lining to cushion the crystals on the Queen’s glamorous evening dresses so they do not dig into her back when she sits down. She also sews weights into the hemlines so the Queen does not have to worry about dresses blowing up on windy days.

Looking relaxed: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (L) and Princess Anne, Princess Royal at Duke of Edinburgh's service
Looking relaxed: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (L) and Princess Anne, Princess Royal at Duke of Edinburgh’s service

Future Queen Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, learned the hard way how important this is when a gust of wind created an unintentional Marilyn Monroe moment as she arrived in Australia 2014. Avoiding anything that might crumple or look messy without constant adjustments or smoothing down will help you be comfortable enough to forget your clothes.

2 Make it modest

The royals are sticklers for modesty and you don’t really see them flashing bare legs, arms or cleavages on official visits. Covering up is considered classy so minis are a no no. Kate Middleton did wear shorter skirts and more risque clothes before she married Prince William and Princess Eugenie once turned up at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in April 2018 in a short floral dress with knee-high black suede boots.

Kate even wore shorts to a sailing regatta in the Caribbean. Generally though, the royal women wear skirts just above the knee and sleeves during the daytime.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex heading back to Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Colour on the Mall
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex heading back to Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Colour on the Mall

Meghan Markle raised eyebrows when she wore a stunning, off-the-shoulder dress by Carolina Herrera to the Trooping of the Colour in June 2018. “They don’t usually wear sleeveless dresses,” English Manner chief executive Alexandra Messervy explained to InStyle at the time.

3 Forget the Little Black Dress

Princess Diana made a bold statement to Prince Charles when she arrived at a Vanity Fair fundraising event for the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park in June 1994 wearing a sexy, off-the-shoulder, black, figure hugging cocktail dress with a plunging sweetheart neckline.

The dress which showed off her long slim legs was widely seen as sending a message that she didn’t care and was free from royal restrictions because it was on the very day he gave an interview about their marriage breakdown.

Daring gown worn by Princess Diana
Daring gown worn by Princess Diana

Wearing midnight black was a bold statement from Diana because in royal circles it is generally reserved for mourning. In the old days widows would wear black mourning clothes for two years and the royals still take a black outfit when traveling in case there is a death within the family while they are away.

But times are changing and Meghan Markle also defied convention in April 2018 when she wore an LBD to the Women’s Empowerment reception held in London. If you want to play it safe, stick to navy.

4 Get a toothbrush for your hair

You can wear your hair up or down, long or short as long as it’s in good condition, neat and not too out there. Princess Anne has had the same signature updo for decades but these days a messy bun is allowed.

The Duchess of Cambridge knows an updo
The Duchess of Cambridge knows an updo

For a more the more formal, complicated chignon styles for special occasions, try the barely there hairnets favoured by Kate to keep them in place. Meghan also gave Birchbox a tip on achieving that sleek royal bun “For my flyaways, I spray hairspray on a small boar bristle toothbrush to lightly brush them down or smooth the hairline.”

5 Check the weather before you choose your coat and jacket

Coats and jackets are a royal staples but you’d better know your weather forecast before you leave the house because you will be wearing them all day. Apparently removing any item of clothing in public isn’t considered “ladylike.”

The Princess Royal shelters from the rain during day two of the Cheltenham Festival
The Princess Royal shelters from the rain during day two of the Cheltenham Festival

It’s such a no-no that when Kate was six months pregnant she was forced to sit indoors wearing her plum-coloured Dolce & Gabbana coat for lunch with Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit during a Scandinavian tour in February 2018. Everybody else looked relaxed in shirts and blouses.

Lugging around a coat over your arm is ugly and impractical but Meghan Markle learned another reason for the rule on a royal visit. After stepping inside on a warm day she took off a black Camilla and Marc blazer to reveal a sleeveless black-and-white pinstriped dress by Altuzzarra underneath. According to the negative headlines, modesty trumps comfort on such occasions.

6 Don’t forget the tights

Can you remember the shocked comments from of royalists when Meghan Markle dared to go bare-legged on the day she and Prince Harry announced their engagement? Or allegations that Meghan and Kate had a massive blow up over whether or not Princess Charlotte should wear tights as a bridesmaid at Prince Harry’s summer wedding?

Bridesmaid Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Maud Windsor after the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank at St. George's Chapel
Bridesmaid Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Maud Windsor after the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank at St. George’s Chapel

Harper’s Bazaar claim the Queen expects all female family members and guests to keep their legs covered and it is part of the strict dress code for weddings and other formal occasions. And it seems many of us agree.

When a young Kate Middleton wore nude tights to her engagement announcement in 2010, sales went through the roof. According to Women’s Wear Daily Selfridges experienced a 46 percent increase Wolford’s went up by 130 percent, Falke’s by 250 percent, and Asda by 500 percent.

7 Don’t put a foot wrong with your shoes

The number one rule is that they must be spotless and polished to perfection. Apparently the Queen insists on black patent shoes with a two-and-a-quarter inch heel and raised arches but we cannot all afford handmade Anello & Davide calf leather shoe. Neither can we employ somebody with the same shoe size to wear them in, or footmen to clean them and pop them into silky bags after each wear.

But we can follow a few royals rules. One source told Harper’s Bazaar the Queen is not a fan of wedges: “She really doesn’t like them and it’s well-known among the women in the family, No footwear other than a closed-toe shoes is acceptable.”

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge during the official arrival at Jamaica.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge during the official arrival at Jamaica.

The Duchess of Cambridge has occasionally worn wedges with more casual outfits, open toed sandals with full length evening gowns and Superga trainers when off duty, but not in front of her mother-in-law. Skyscraper heeled courts by designers such as Stuart Weitzman and Gianvito Ros or high street names like LK Bennett and Russsel and Bromley are her go to shoes when she wants to look royal.

The Duchess of Cambridge wearing wedges on a tour of the Caribbean
The Duchess of Cambridge wearing wedges on a tour of the Caribbean

Apparently the secret to walking and standing in them for long periods is to buy a size slightly too big so they don’t rub, wear them with non-slip tights with gel strips on the bottom by John Lewis and invest in some Alice Bow luxury, Italian leather insoles. A fixed grin should probably be added to that list.

8 Dump the fur

In 2019, it was announced that the Queen would no longer wear real fur in her outfits, effectively outlawing it for all royals. If the Queen doesn’t do it, no one else should. Stick to faux fur to look middle class, country chic.

9 Choose jeans and trousers carefully

According to People, a royal source close to Queen Elizabeth revealed that “the Queen prefers women in dresses or skirts rather than trouser suits”. At one time jeans were for walking the dogs. Despite this Princess Anne has always worn trouser suits and Kate is often seen in dark denim and the odd pair of classically cut trews. Ripped jeans as worn Meghan Markle for the Invictus Games are considered a tad too casual for the royals.

10 Watch how many times you wear something

According to experts monarchs traditionally can’t wear the same things more than twic Royal observers thought the Queen being thrifty when she was seen in the same lilac coat three times. But Matthew Storey, curator at Historic Royal Palaces, told The Telegraph it was part of the mourning dress which has been part of European royal culture for centuries.

“Widows were required to wear black, then either white or mauve, for at least three years before being able to return to richly coloured clothing,” he explained.

Even though the other royals know this rule is seen as a bit “fast fashion” and so last year, they choose timeless outfits so they can spread wearings out over the year. Many of the royals recycle their clothes and Princess Anne often wears the same favourite coats over and over again.

11 Make sure your spouse and kids are dressed appropriately

You could look perfectly regal but your spouse or children could let you down by not sticking to the rules. Off duty the children are seen in casual clothes from the high street but formal occasions they must look the part and take note of small nuances. Hand me downs are fine but they must look like the kids from the 1950s.

Prince George in shorts on royal visit
Prince George in shorts on royal visit

Males don’t escape the spotlight either. William Hanson told Harper’s Bazaar that boys under eight should wear shorts. He said: “Trousers are for older boys and men, whereas shorts on young boys is one of those silent class markers that we have in England. Although times are (slowly) changing, a pair of trousers on a young boy is considered quite middle class–quite suburban. And no self-respecting aristo or royal would want to be considered suburban. Even the Duchess of Cambridge.”

12 Keep the bag small

Keep your bag small and never place it under your arm, on the ground, or on top of a table until you are a ready to leave. The Queen uses her clutch to signal to advisors when she needs to move on and the Duchess of Cambridge often holds her bag in front of her to avoid shaking hands.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks to singers Ed Sheeran and Gregory Porter
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks to singers Ed Sheeran and Gregory Porter

Luxury handbag maker Anya Hindmarch told The Telegraph Lady Diana ordered little satin ‘cleavage bags’ that she would use as cover when getting out out of cars.

13 Use your head for hats

At one time it was simple: hats before 6pm and tiaras afterwards. But not all the younger royals stick to this. Some wear headbands and Meghan Markle went bareheaded when she attended the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge with the Queen in 2018, prompting etiquette tutor Diana Mather to tell the BBC that it spoilt the glamorous look.

Her Majesty The Queen and The Duchess of Sussex open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in Widnes in 2018
Her Majesty The Queen and The Duchess of Sussex open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in Widnes in 2018

Eleri Lynn, curator of an exhibition Diana: Her Fashion Story, told People magazine that the late Princess of Wales also stopped wearing them because ‘You can’t cuddle a child in a hat”. However change could be in the air because Kate’s stylists were criticised for sending her to the Caribbean in flying saucer hats from another age.

Getting it right is a tricky one. And don’t think wearing a tiara might be easier. Unless you married you will be breaking royal protocol.

14 Forget the blue eyeliner and red nail polish

Subtle and soft are the rules. Clarins created a special shade of red lipstick for the Queen in 1952 to match her coronation robes but you don’t really see the royals in bold colours.

Apparently Lady Diana was talked out of wearing her favourite blue eyeliner when she became a royal and Kate became a talking point when she did her own make up for her wedding and didn’t tone down the eyeliner.

According to the Essie website, back in 1989 the “Queen’s hairdresser asked for a bottle of “ballet slippers” as it is “the only colour nail polish Her Majesty would wear.” Other royals follow her lead keep their nails nude or neutral.

15 Fling the Bling

Unless you are an oligarch don’t even try and compete with the royals when it comes to the crown jewels. Just make sure you don’t make a faux pas like Princess Michael of Kent who wore a controversial blackamoor brooch to a Buckingham Palace Christmas banquet in December 2017.

She was heavily criticised for wearing the 16th century Venetian jewellery which portrays racist, images of African slaves and servants.

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