LONDON.- Funerals, it must be said, rarely provide opportunities for bold fashion statements. Their dress codes are among the simplest and most mandatory of all.
A funeral for a British monarch has particularly strict protocols. Monday’s service honoring Queen Elizabeth II displayed the pinnacle of European formality, as the event was greatly facilitated by people whose attire had been decided well in advance by royal, military and church tradition. Three of the four children of the queen, for example, wore military uniforms, the expected funeral dress for working royals with military titles, as they walked in the royal funeral procession. So did Prince William. (Prince Harry, who relinquished his status as a working royal in 2020, and Prince Andrew, who had his military titles stripped earlier this year amid a scandal, were the exceptions, and in instead they dressed in simple jackets).
Even so, finding subtle ways to communicate through clothing choice is a skill, as well as a royal tradition in its own right: Elizabeth herself, who died on September 8, was known for sending messages of support and affection, as well as asserting her own power, through the clothes she wore in public. On Monday, what are now the three most prominent women in the royal family put into practice the same strategy. all dressed tasteful funeral ensembles with loving touches in honor of the queen, but managed to send a trio of different messages.
KatePrincess of Wales and wife of Prince William, wore a double-breasted black blazer dress with sharp shoulders and pleats, a narrow waist, and a moderately deep V-neckline. The angular garment was a black version of Alexander McQueen’s dress which he wore earlier this year at a Platinum Jubilee event. She paired the ensemble with a wide-brimmed black hat, as well as two selections from the queen’s extensive jewelry collection: a pair of long pearl earrings (presented to the queen by Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa of Bahrain in 1947 ) and a spectacular pearl necklace (made from pearls given to royalty by the Japanese government and that Princess Diana wore in 1982) that stood out strikingly against the dark tones of the day.
As Kate moves up the line of royal succession to queen consort-in-waiting, your profile is raised even higher in the public eye; her husband’s time on the throne, once a distant eventuality, now feels more imminent. The flashy outfit she summoned the power suits and edgy fashions of the 1980s, and indicated comfort with being in the national spotlight.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, on the other hand, chose a round neck dress with a subtle black cape, combining it with discreet diamond and pearl earrings that the queen gave her. Her caped dress, literally a shroud, a way one can disappear, had a solemn and demure look and, like her sister-in-law, Meghan sported a silhouette she had worn before, repeating the Stella McCartney pattern she wore from blue at the queen’s birthday concert in 2018.
Ahead of Monday’s event, tabloids and magazines speculated whether Meghan (who with Harry “retired” from royal duties in early 2020) would attend the funeral, due to the strained relationship with the royal family she has described in the past. Meghan has also expressed her dismay at the portrayals of her in various British media outlets, and a modest dress like this is what you wear when you want to minimize your chances of drawing attention; when you would like to blend in with the landscape and be excluded from the narrative. When you’d like no one to talk about your clothes, except perhaps to note that you matched the tone of the occasion appropriately.
Carlos assumes the throne in a climate of uncertainty about the future of the monarchy. He has considered “scaling down” the monarchy, as other nations have in recent years, stripping some less prominent members of the royal family of their titles and thereby reducing the tax burden on civilians. But the choice of Camilla’s funeral dress did not indicate such a break with history. She wore a slightly boxy black dress with a starched collar, a small elegant hat and a brooch on the left shoulder: a combination of silhouette and accessories often associated with Elizabeth (the brooch, according to the British outlet Metro, was from Queen Victoria, who her grandchildren gave her for her Diamond Jubilee).
Although Camilla was surrounded on Monday by the hallmarks of a changing world, for example, the cool low-toe loafers her granddaughter wore, not to mention the live streaming cameras set up around the perimeter, she communicated that, at least for the moment, the monarchy as the world knows it endures.
By Ashley Fetters Maloy