You may be familiar with the late Queen Elizabeth II in terms of her daywear style—her trademark blazer and skirt that she rarely deviated from in the last few decades of her public life as monarch. But if you go back a bit farther, you might be surprised at the breadth and depth of Elizabeth's style (she was literally photographed from babyhood onward, with the public eye beginning to intensify its gaze starting when she was a teenager). She had an evolving royal style over the course of her reign, beginning with simple girlish designs and evolving into the mature and polished sovereign that would become her signature—not to mention the many bright colors she would deploy in her wardrobe.
As her stylist Angela Kelly wrote in a memoir, "The Queen is conscious that she must be easily visible to as many people as possible when she is out and about, so I choose mainly striking colors that will be easily seen." This is also a fascinating look at how a public figure goes from youth and exuberance to confidence and ease over time: We watched the Queen grow from new ruler to nonagenarian, all with a large wardrobe budget (and some incredible jewels) at her disposal.
Below, 32 of Queen Elizabeth's most iconic fashion moments, ever.
In a sign of things to come, in the same year she became queen, Elizabeth (shown here with two dogs) is at Balmoral in a sharp skirt suit. This style would continue to be extremely popular for the royal in the decades of her rule, as would the color.
Then-Princess Elizabeth sits here at Windsor Castle and, like all teens do, looks a bit bored as she sits over a book (maybe her homework??). There are subsequent photos taken of her outside and on horseback, where she looks much happier. The patterned dress feels girlish but fun.
Riding a bike while at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, this is a classic look for the young princess. She always seemed at home in sporty-casual outdoorsy wear (although frankly I'm quite impressed she can ride a bike in a skirt!)—although she didn't lean towards stripes as much as she got older.
As an adult, Elizabeth seemed at home in riding outfits. While at formal events she was rarely, if ever, spotted in pants, they would be an intuitive choice for the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Windsor Great Park. I love the sports coat and added flair in the scarf.
Even in her later years, Elizabeth had sharp "casual" outfits. This is the perfect country attire—she was watching Prince Philip compete in the cross country section of the International Carriage Driving Grand Prix Championships at The Royal Windsor Horse Show.
The Girl Scouts were a fitting place for the Queen (and she became a patron of the organization in later life). The 1st Buckingham Palace Company was formed to enable them to earn their badges, and her sister and mother participated too.
Here, Elizabeth is in uniform for her role as Head of the Armed Forces. Elizabeth was a longtime lover of horses; This picture was from the annual Trooping the Colour (which celebrates her birthday), and it is all the more impressive that she's on horseback in a formal ceremony.
Even though Princess Anne threatens to steal the show in her adorable christening gown, then-Princess Elizabeth looks beautiful (and complementary!) in matching florals. Keep an eye on her headgear; Elizabeth was a fan of hats throughout her public life.
While it might not be in vogue today, the early Queen loved her flower-adorned hats. There are many photos of a fuzzy topper atop Elizabeth's head looking like a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, like here (with Philip in Pakistan on an official tour).
Part of her Silver Jubilee tour, Elizabeth is here pictured in New Plymouth, New Zealand, greeting onlookers in a pretty green and white floral dress. As she would come into her role as a royal, she would wear brighter, more distinctive colors so she was visible to crowds.
Bright colors became the Queen's signature—and she looked fabulous in them! It was traditional to spot the Queen as she came out of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham for Christmas celebrations, and this teal zig-zag coat dress is a dash of whimsy.
Red became one of Elizabeth's signature colors, and she was doing tonal before just about everyone else. Here, she's settling in to what would be her style for decades—sharp suit separates and a coat dress. Royals have been following in her footsteps for decades.
Even in an incredibly high-stakes environment (becoming queen at an early age, seen here with Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth including Sir Winston Churchill), the 25-year-old brings in some flair and unique personal style in a big ballgown.
The first monarch to pay official visit to Australia, Elizabeth is (with Philip) at an official outing there. It's obviously impossible to see in this photo, but the dress is actually a beautiful emerald green and accessorized perfectly with white gloves and topper.
As guest of The States Of Guernsey and in a dress designed by Sir Hardy Amies, Queen Elizabeth looks every inch the royal sovereign. In her later years, Elizabeth would favor shorter (easier to walk in) dresses, but her ballgown era was something to behold.
At a banquet put on by First Lady Nancy Reagan, the Queen met George Burns, Frank Sinatra, and other Hollywood greats in a pretty white and floral gown. There are more famous gowns from her trips to the U.S., but this one's my favorite.
Pink was another of the Queen's favored bright colors, but (in my opinion) she never looked more fun and fabulous than in an event at her official tour of Hungary. With Philip, she accessorizes perfectly with black and white clutch and white gloves.
Elizabeth could not look more delighted as she sits with Anna Wintour—in the front row, of course—at London Fashion Week. She's attending Richard Quinn's runway show (he was about to be presented with the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design).
What I really appreciate about the new Queen Elizabeth's style in her early years was her commitment to a great gown. Here at the Empire Theater for the Royal Film Show, this dark gown with collared white contrast front is such a standout for the young royal.
Here to attend the premiere of Casino Royale, and meet the new James Bond (Daniel Craig), Elizabeth looks like Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service M (that's Judi Dench's character, in case you missed it) in this shimmery pink set with contrasting black flowers.
At the re-opening Of The Royal Opera House, the Queen is wearing a fan-adorned gown that just feels so regal. My favorite part is that she's gone with metallic gold shoes and clutch (which is something we didn't always see her do) and is matching to perfection.
Listed only as an "evening function" that took place not long after the death of her father, Elizabeth is dressed as the new monarch in incredibly opulent style. The stole, the necklace, the crown, the flower pattern on the ballgown—it's an impressive signifier of her new role.
Still the impressive monarch so many years later, this look has some common DNA with her very first looks (fur stole, crown, big necklace, white gloves, floor-length sparkly gown). A style icon: always innovating but keeping the base look the same.
Fun fact: Princess Beatrice's wedding gown (she married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2020) she wore a modified version of this dress—it was a loan from the Queen, which feels incredibly special—with the bubble hem replaced with an a-line structure.
At a performance of a Boy Scouts revue, The Gang Show, Elizabeth arrives in robin's egg blue and a lot of tulle. This was still evocative of her early style (big, a-line, eye-catching) but still had some of the color and flair she'd be known for in her later style.
This Ascot outfit (matching with the Queen Mother) wouldn't look that out of place today. In the '60s, the Queen's style was feminine but relatively classic. With the floral pattern and the asymmetric detail, this might be one of my favorite daytime looks of hers, ever.
There can sometimes be an extra meaning in what colors the Queen chose for formal occasions. According to a color theorist for this look (at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding) “Green is the color of growth and rebirth. A person who wears green is the regulator and open-hearted...Green is a highly significant color worn as a sign of respect and intention for the future.” Whether that's true or not, it's still a lovely, bright, eye-catching hue that was pretty standard for the monarch.
At a garden party on tour in Sydney, Australia, the new royal is dressed simply in white lace. This is all classic, from the t-strap heels to the midi length of the dress to the double strand of pearls. Even the hat might be something we'd see at Ascot.
Then-Princess Elizabeth is giving us major style here. It feels very fresh and young (she wasn't even 20 here, so it makes sense) and I love that the clutch matches her hat. Frankly, my favorite part might be that she's wearing platform peep-toe heels.
Many people may not be familiar with Elizabeth's wedding gown when she wed Prince Philip after World War II. It was Chinese silk (which was still in short supply, and she had to use ration coupons!), and it drew comparison to fellow icon Grace Kelly's wedding dress.
At her Platinum Jubilee (70th year of service—the first British monarch to do so!), Elizabeth was still wowing the crowd in her pale blue ensemble. She was 96(!) year old and donning her trademark pearl necklace and earrings, with a jaunty hat—so everyone could see her on her birthday!
There's very few dresses that can compare to Queen Elizabeth's coronation dress. With all eyes on her as a very young royal (and with some very large shoes to fill), the gown has a ton of symbolism about the role she was about to take on—and took months to complete. Like her wedding gown, it was designed by Norman Hartnell, and (believe it or not) she rewore the dress on several occasions. A literal queen.