12 Times The Royal Family Seemingly Used Fashion To Convey A Hidden Message

So much supposed symbolism

Despite living out their lives under the scrutiny of the public eye, the British royal family are arguably quite private, and rarely speak to the media.

And while this may be in line with Queen Elizabeth’s “Never complain, never explain” mantra, that’s not to say that the royals don’t have their own way of subtly communicating to the public. The answer? Fashion.

Although we can only ever speculate as to the intentions behind their outfits, it stands to reason that the most photographed people in the world (who don’t speak openly outside official statements) might use the lens to their advantage.

12 Royal Fashion Moments With Supposedly Hidden Messages

From the intentions behind Queen’s handbags to Princess Diana’s emotional take on Chanel, keeps scrolling for 11 royal fashion moments that hold supposedly hidden messages.

Kate Middleton Zoom Call rainbow
(Credit: @cambridgemums)

1. Kate Middleton wearing rainbow colours

As reported by Harper’s BAZAAR U.K., Duchess Kate Middleton has worn various different bright colours during virtual calls throughout 2020, which some believe is her way of showing support for the U.K.’s National Health Service. 

Since the start of 2020, rainbows have been used as a symbol of solidarity for healthcare workers on the front line, who are currently facing the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic

Instagram account @cambridgemums first pointed out the Duchess’s unexpected fashion synchronicity, and wrote: “KATE HAS LITERALLY WORN A RAINBOW 🌈 Our duchess of impact has quite literally used her lockdown wardrobe to send a message, and WE ARE HERE FOR IT 👏🏼.”

Queen Elizabeth's wedding dress
(Credit: Getty)

2. Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress

When a then-Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, her wedding dress was designed to be symbolic of the nation, according to royal wedding gown curator, Johanna Marschner.

With a post-World War II Britain still in the thick of rationing food and clothing, the intention was to “send a message of national renewal”. Instead of emphasising luxurious fabric, royal dressmaker Norman Hartnell focused on embroidering the gown with garlands of spring flowers, reportedly inspired by Botticelli’s painting “Allegory of Spring”.

“It is a dress with a message for that particular moment in time,” Marschner told National Geographic in 2011.

“I think you can say that about all the royal wedding dresses—they have become amazing documents that can say a lot about the year when they were worn.”

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry matching in red at the 2020 Mountbatten Festival of Music
(Credit: Getty)

3. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry matching in red at the 2020 Mountbatten Festival of Music

Worn just weeks before they their pending date to step down as senior royals, Meghan and Prince Harry’s matching red ensembles at the 2020 Mountbatten Festival of Music caught the eyes of royal watchers around the world.

While one might be inclined to think their matching red looks simply represent solidarity with one another (or just well coordinated couple dressing), many surmised that there was a deeper message at play, much of which stemmed from Prince Harry’s military uniform. The red uniform, in particular, has a longstanding history in the British military, with the colour said to be used to distinguish British soldiers from their enemies.

Although, the Duke of Sussex has worn the military uniform a number of times before, he has usually opted for the more reserved black version. Thus, the look could be considered multifaceted—representing the military duties Prince Harry is letting go of, while also potentially symbolising the Duke and Duchess’ decision to be united and bold in front of their naysayers.

Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth all wearing shades of brown in January 2020
(Credit: Getty)

4. Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth all wearing shades of brown in January 2020

With Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announcing their decision to step back as senior royals in the first week of January 2020, the first month of the year marked a significant period of change for the British monarchy.

It was also around this time, that the Duchess of Sussex (pictured left, on January 7, the day before their announcement), the Duchess of Cambridge (centre, on January 22) and Queen Elizabeth, who typically favours bright colours and once said she would “never wear beige” (right, on January 12), all began donning shades of brown. According to veteran style reporter Elizabeth Holmes, there was a reason for the royals’ sudden shift towards beige.

“To have them in the same shade, I took very much to be a sign of unity. And then of course she issued her statement of support to the Sussexes on January 13,” Holmes said of the Queen and Meghan’s matching hues. As for Kate, who also wore brown multiple times at the start and end of the month?

“Kate in brown on Monday morning was interesting, too, after she had been roped into the coverage,” Holmes told Harper’s BAZAAR Australia in January 2020.

“Kate wore two pieces of brown: a khaki coat and a brown turtleneck—both of which were very visible in the shoulders-up shot of her driving the kids to school. It could be a coincidence but I think perhaps not!”

Queen Elizabeth's handbags secret message
(Credit: Getty)

5. Queen Elizabeth’s handbags

Although for many a handbag is largely a device for toting things around, and while Queen Elizabeth actually uses the humble accessory for a much more strategic purpose. According to royal historians, the Queen uses her handbag to send secret signals to her staff.

Per Reader’s Digest, if she switches her handbag from its usual position on her left arm to her right arm while she’s talking to someone, her staff know that she wants it to wrap up. If she puts it on the floor, it’s actually a symbol that she needs her staff to intercept an uncomfortable encounter immediately, and if she’s at dinner and puts it on the table, that means she wants the meal to end in the next five minutes.

Princess Diana wearing Chanel
(Credit: Getty)

6. Princess Diana choosing not to wear Chanel

Arguably the reversal of using fashion to convey a hidden message, Princess Diana could not bring herself to wear Chanel right after her divorce—most notably its iconic intertwining Cs logo—because of what they symbolically signified to her.

“She went back to her bedroom, and she came out holding like handfuls of shoes and bags and just dumped them all down on the couch,” Australian fashion designer Jayson Brundson told iHarper’s BAZAAR Australia of a time he styled the late Princess in 1996, the same year in which she divorced Prince Charles.

“Then I said, ‘What do you think?’, so I went through them all and I found a pair of Chanel shoes, and I said, ‘Well these would look great with the Versace’ and she said ‘no, I can’t wear linked Cs, the double C.

“So I asked why, and she said, ‘it’s Camilla and Charles’.”

Kate Middleton's green Jenny Packham gown at the 2018 BAFTA Awards
(Credit: Getty)

7. Kate Middleton’s green Jenny Packham gown at the 2018 BAFTA Awards

In 2018, most award show fashion rather literally faded to black, with many celebrities choosing to wear noir in solidarity with the Time’s Up movement. However, the Duchess of Cambridge stood out immediately at the BAFTA Awards for her dark emerald green gown by Jenny Packham, leaving both the fashion set and royal fans wondering why she went against the grain.

Incidentally, the dress likely spoke more of protocol than politics, with the royal family encouraged to remain bipartisan at all times (they don’t even vote, to make sure they don’t influence the public).

Despite not being black, however, some commentators believed her gown may have still been in line with the intention of the movement. Several people noted that the colour of her gown could have potentially been a nod to the Suffragettes, who wore green to represent hope.

Queen Elizabeth's ruby tiara at a meeting with President Donald Trump
(Credit: Getty)

8. Queen Elizabeth’s ruby tiara at a meeting with President Donald Trump

While the royal family goes to great lengths to remain politically neutral, some royal watchers believed the tiara Queen Elizabeth wore to meet U.S. President Donald Trump during his state visit to the U.K. in June 2019 was anything but.

According to the crown’s jeweller, the 96 Burmese rubies in the tiara created for Her Royal Highness by the House of Garrard was “originally given to the queen as a wedding gift from the people of Burma, intended as a symbol of protection against illness and evil.” 

We’ll leave you to read between the lines on this one…

Princess Diana's black Christina Stambolian 'revenge dress'
(Credit: Getty)

9. Princess Diana’s black Christina Stambolian ‘revenge dress’

Widely considered to be one of the most iconic ‘revenge dresses’ of all time, Princes Diana’s form-fitting Christina Stambolian was certainly worn to send a message. Stepping out in the LBD in June 1994, the former Princess of Wales donned the ensemble on the same day that her ex-husband, Prince Charles, gave his first televised interview about his relationship with Camila Parker-Bowles. The dress dominated the headlines the following day, emphasising Diana’s newfound independence from the British Royal Family.

Meghan Markle's blue Victoria Beckham dress
(Credit: Getty)

10. Meghan Markle’s blue Victoria Beckham dress

There are ‘revenge dresses’ and then there are ‘renaissance dresses’, and Meghan Markle’s blue Victoria Beckham body-con number is definitely one for the latter.

Worn for the first of her final engagements as a senior royal, the Duchess’ entire ensemble and demeanour was a sight to behold (as captured in the now-iconic umbrella photo).

Following a brief sojourn to Canada, Meghan returning to the U.K. in a bold cerulean dress with a figure-hugging fit—after wearing all that brown—made it immediately clear that the former actress was marking a new era in her life—and that a change in style was just the beginning.

Princess Diana cleavage bags
(Credit: Getty)

11. Princess Diana’s “cleavage bags”

More tactical than ‘meaningful’ per se, Princess Diana’s clutches served a greater purpose than simply carrying her necessities. In fact, the late Princess of Wales used the accessories, which she called her “cleavage bags”, to prevent photographers from taking photos down the front of her dress while she was exiting cars by holding them tight against her chest as she stepped out.

Meghan Markle wearing Princess Diana's bracelet in her Oprah interview,

12. Meghan Markle’s wearing a lotus-print Armani dress with wearing Princess Diana’s bracelet for an interview with Oprah

When clips of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s groundbreaking 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey began to circulate onlineeven before its official airingroyal watchers quickly determined the supposed symbolism contained in the Duchess’ ensemble based the teasers alone. According to the internet, there were two messages in Meghan’s outfit, the first being that she chose to wear a bracelet that belonged to her late mother-in-law, Princes Diana—the same bracelet that was used to help craft Meghan’s engagement ring—”so Diana could be with them”, per People.

The second hidden message appeared to stem from the Duchess’ silk Armani dress, which featured a lotus motif over the right shoulder and chest. Interestingly, the lotus has long been considered a spiritual emblem for rebirth and enlightenment, with the flower also considered resilient and able to flourish despite challenging conditions—a theme that appears to echo the Duchess’ new life with Harry and Archie in L.A., as well as her ability to overcome the challenges she’s faced since becoming a member of the royal family.

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