Being a part of the royal family is an amazing privilege, but it comes with a lot of traditions and rules, some of which affect even their fashion choices. Here are 16 style protocols that they follow.
Royal women usually hold bags in their left hand.
Handbags are a common accessory during royal outings where a lot of meeting and greeting takes place. According to royal expert Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette, you can spot Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton holding purses in their left hands simply so their right hand is free to wave, shake hands, and greet the public.
Queen Elizabeth prefers dresses and skirts over pants.
Meghan is quite fond of pantsuits—like the black Givenchy blazer and trouser set she wore while visiting Ireland in July—but apparently the Queen prefers skirts and dresses to trousers.
Even though Meghan has worn pants numerous times before, according to the Daily Mail, Prince Harry may have nixed her plans to pack a formal suit by Stella McCartney for their upcoming royal tour of Australia.
That being said, Princess Diana was known for wearing tuxedo suits to events, so while Her Majesty doesn’t prefer the style, it may not be completely prohibited.
Wedding dresses need the Queen’s approval.
It’s a tradition that the Queen needs to approve the final version of a royal wedding dress. Apparently, Queen Elizabeth had to approve of Kate Middleton’s Alexander McQueen gown in 2011, and she did the same with Meghan Markle’s dress for her wedding to Prince Harry.
Colorful nail polish isn’t allowed.
Every time you see Queen Elizabeth or Kate Middleton step out, you might notice their nail color is always neutral. They either wear subtle pinks or clear polish when on official business because only natural-looking nails are allowed at royal events. To illustrate this point, please see the Duchess’ natural nails while she’s taking a swig of beer.
The Queen’s been wearing Essie’s “Ballet Slippers” shade for 28 years.
Not just anyone can wear a tiara.
Tiaras are worn only to the fanciest of royal events, and typically, they’re worn for the first time by brides. Kate Middleton borrowed Queen Elizabeth’s Cartier Halo tiara for her wedding to Prince William in 2011, and she’s even worn Princess Diana’s tiara on several occasions.
This is a privilege reserved for married women only—single women and children never wear them. “It signals the crowning of love and the loss of innocence to marriage,” Geoffrey Munn, author of Tiaras – A History of Splendour, said in an interview with Forbes. “The family tiara was worn by the bride, and from that moment onwards it was the groom’s jewelry she was expected to wear. It was a subliminal message that she had moved from her own family to another.”
The Queen uses her handbags to send secret messages.
You may notice that the Queen is never without a handbag, and that’s because she uses it to send signals. For example, when she wants to leave dinner, simply setting her bag on top of the table lets her aides know that the party is ending shortly and that she wants to leave.
Also, when she’s in conversation and switches her purse to her other hand, it means that she would like to politely wrap it up. “It would be very worrying if you were talking to the Queen and saw the handbag move from one hand to the other,” royal historian Hugo Vickers told People.
Clutches had another purpose—such as hiding cleavage.
Princess Diana’s handbag designer Anya Hindmarch famously called her clutches “cleavage bags.”
“We used to laugh when we designed what she called her ‘cleavage bags,’ little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars,” Hindmarch said in an interview with the Telegraph. And in photos, every time Princess Diana got out of a car, her clutch was right there to shield her chest from prying photographers. So clever!
Clutches are also used to avoid shaking hands.
Clutches are also used to avoid hand shakes. Kate Middleton often holds her bags in front of her with both hands when shaking hands might be awkward, etiquette expert Myka Meier told Good Housekeeping. This is why Meghan Markle’s bags, which usually have a shoulder strap or top handle, seem out of the ordinary when it comes to protocol.
However, according to Meier, the type of bag worn depends on the occasion. “As we see Meghan attending more formal events,” she said, “we are likely to see her accessorizing with more clutches.”
The Queen wears bright clothing — but not because she loves color.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a photo of Queen Elizabeth NOT wearing bold colors—and for good reason. In the documentary The Queen at 90, Sophie, Countess of Wessex (the Queen’s daughter-in-law) said, “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen.’”
If she’s wearing one of her brightly-hued monochromatic outfits, the public can easily catch a glimpse of her in a large crowd. According to the Queen’s biographer, Robert Hardman, she was quoted as saying, “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am.”
The Queen wears hats due to an old tradition.
For basically every formal occasion, the Queen wears a hat that perfectly matches her bright outfits. Apparently it comes from a very old tradition that women should keep their hair covered. “Up until the 1950s, ladies were very seldom seen without a hat as it was not considered ‘the thing’ for ladies to show their hair in public,” Diana Mather from The English Manner etiquette consultancy told BBC. “But all that has changed, and hats are now reserved for more formal occasions.”
On the rare occasions when the Queen isn’t sporting a hat, you might see her wearing a crown or a headscarf instead.
Royals are expected to travel with a black ensemble on hand.
One of the more morbid rules is that a spare black outfit is always needed in case a member of the family dies. This way, when they arrive back in the U.K., they are dressed appropriately to fit the somber occasion.
Then-Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya when her father passed away in 1952. She didn’t bring a black change of clothes with her and consequently had to wait inside the plane for one to be delivered before stepping out.
Prince George only wears shorts.
Other than the fact that George looks adorable in them, the reason he’s always photographed in shorts is because dressing boys in shorts is a longstanding tradition among British royalty and aristocracy.
“Trousers are for older boys and men, whereas shorts on young boys is one of those silent class markers that we have in England,” said British etiquette expert William Hanson in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK. He said that they start wearing pants around 8 years old.
Do NOT wear wedge shoes around the Queen.
You may have seen this this photo of Kate Middleton playing volleyball in these cork wedges all over the Internet in 2013, but the Queen apparently isn’t a fan of the style.
“She really doesn’t like them, and it’s well-known among the women in the family,” a royal source told Vanity Fair. Kate has worn the style multiple times but only without the presence of the Queen.
Speaking of shoes, the Queen reportedly hires someone to break hers in.
Queen Elizabeth makes so many royal appearances, all of which usually require heels or dressy shoes. Since she’s constantly on her feet, having someone to break in her shoes means she skips all the uncomfortable rubbing and blisters that come with wearing new shoes. In an interview with Evening Standard, designer Stuart Parvin said, “The shoes have to be immediately comfortable … she does get someone to wear them. The Queen can never say, ‘I’m uncomfortable, I can’t walk any more.’ ”
According to the publication, a staff member will wear a pair of beige cotton ankle socks while breaking in the Queen’s shoes can only walk carpet during this period. Dream job, right?
Weighted hems are a common trick to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.
Remember these photos of KMid’s yellow Jenny Packham dress dangerously catching the breeze on a tarmac in 2011? Queen Elizabeth has a hack for preventing that.
Stewart Parvin, one of her couturiers, told the Daily Mail he sews weights into the hem of the Queen’s clothes, which prevents them from blowing up in the wind. “Surprisingly, it is nothing fancy,” Parvin told the publication. “I use curtain weights, lead weights, from Peter Jones’s curtain department. We call them penny weights.”
Pantyhose is *highly* suggested, although not required.
You may have noticed that Meghan Markle was not wearing pantyhose during her engagement photo call in November. *Gasp.* It’s but one example of how Markle breaks certain royal protocols.
While not technically an official rule, it’s definitely encouraged as the Queen, Kate Middleton, and the late Princess Diana all wore them. The Duchess’ pantyhose is also super impressive because it’s so sheer, you can barely tell she’s wearing a pair at all.