While they may have access to the world's most talented designers, it's not all fun and games when it comes to dressing like a royal. We were surprised to learn there are some strict rules they must follow...
Bag Held In The Left Hand
While we'd love to provide some interesting historical reason for why a royal lady must hold their bag in their left hand, it's more a matter of practicality than anything else. According to royal experts, at least.
Royal expert, Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette, explained that the reason royals are often spotted holding their bags in this way is that the right hand is the designated hand for official handshaking and waving duties. With the left hand occupied, the right hand is ready to go!
Military Uniforms Only for Certain Events
The military uniform may look great on them, but the Royal Family members are only permitted to wear it to the most formal royal occasions. Since the 19th century, the royal men who served in the British army have adorned their clothes of honor for only state occasions and special events.
Over the years, we've seen the various colored uniforms appear at momentous state moments such as Remembrance Day, Trooping The Color, and all other services which honor the British Army. In this picture, then-Prince Charles, William, Harry, and Phillip are all wearing their military uniforms for the 2015 Trooping the Color.
Military Uniform For Women Also Allowed
While it is certainly more common for the royal men to adorn military uniforms at state events, the female members of The Royal Family are also permitted to do so if they wish. Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, famously wore her black military uniform to Trooping the Color in 2014.
Interestingly, Anne did not actually serve in the army but received the garb when she received her twenty-four honorary military appointments. At the time, Slate reported that she may have been the first royal woman to publicly adorn a military uniform since Elizabeth I in 1588.
Uniform For Weddings
Considering that the royal uniform should be worn on all special occasions, it seems fitting that royal weddings are included in this list. Any time a member of The Royal Family attends a fellow royal's wedding, they are expected but not forced to wear their military uniform if they have one.
More importantly than the guests, it is tradition for the royal grooms themselves to wear their military finest on their wedding day. In 2011, Prince William ironically wore his red attire to his wedding to Kate Middleton; in 2018, Prince Harry wore his black uniform to marry Meghan Markle.
Queen's Approval For Wedding Dresses
Talking of weddings, the brides are subject to certain restrictions too. The world will be watching when they exit the car in their long white gown, so for this reason, it needs to be exquisite. Beautifully designed and perfectly fitting, royal brides will spend hours on their dresses leading up to the big day.
One critical part of this preparation period was receiving the approval from the most important royal of all at the time, Queen Elizabeth II. The reigning monarch must be shown the dress in advance of the big day so she can give it the green light. Without this, they are forbidden to wear the dress.
Avoid Clothes That Wrinkle Easily
One royal wedding gown that didn't go down as intended was Princess Diana's. In 1981, as she entered the church to marry then-Prince Charles, many couldn't help but notice how her dress had wrinkled during the car ride over. While Queen Elizabeth may not have been impressed by this, the public still loved her greatly.
The royals learned a valuable lesson from this event and now avoid fabrics such as linen and silk that can easily wrinkle in this way. With the paparazzi always ready to catch them in the moment, they tend to opt for more heavy fabrics such as tweed and wool. This will help them to appear polished and pristine at all times.
Oh, the dreaded pantyhose. Despite Hollywood movies making us think they're synonymous with royalty, the reality isn't so clear-cut. All the female royals having to wear tights was never made an official rule. However, during her reign, the Queen made no secret of the fact that she expected the ladies to wear them.
While it was impossible to catch the Queen herself without her trusted pantyhose on, the younger generation doesn't feel so fondly about them. Of course, following royal tradition, they will usually wear them at state events, but when they're out and about, they'll likely leave them at home.
Tiaras Only For Married Women
For anyone thinking of dating a prince for a few weeks, getting their hands on a tiara, and then backing out before the commitment of a royal marriage, sadly, this is not quite how it works. Officially, only married women in The Royal Family are permitted to wear a tiara.
In most cases, the royal ladies will wear a tiara for the first time on their wedding day, and from then on, they are expected to wear it to all state events such as royal banquets. This only applies to functions after 6 p.m. - unless it's a wedding, where this time restriction is relaxed.
Black Only For Funerals
We'll rarely see a royal dressed in black. Not because they're not a fan of the color. Rather because black is traditionally reserved for funerals and somber events such as Remembrance Day (the national memorial for those lost in battle). Aside from this, wearing black is considered a major fashion "crime."
At the annual Remembrance Sunday Service, all members of The Royal Family will be seen at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, where they will be appropriately dressed in all black. The noticeable red poppy pinned to the outfits is not to add a pop of color to the outfit; it is the national symbol for consolation and remembrance.
Always Pack A Black Outfit
With that in mind, all members of The Royal Family must ensure they have at least one black outfit packed when going abroad. If a royal dies back home while they are away, this will help to ensure they are able to dress appropriately for their return home to England.
This rule came into place after King George VI's death in 1952, when his daughter, the then-Princess Elizabeth, was in Kenya. Upon hearing the news, she returned to England - but without any black clothes in her bag, she could not leave the plane until an appropriate outfit had been brought to her to change into.
Keep Coat On
Ever noticed that Kate Middleton is rarely seen without her coat on? Well, this isn't because she tends to run cold but rather because of an official royal rule. As Her Majesty the Queen put it, taking off one's coat in public is considered "unladylike," so she instructed the women not to do so.
Even if the event takes place inside someone's home, if the cameras are there, it is still considered an official public engagement, and the rules remain applicable. In fact, even if the heating is on and one's sweating away, the coat must always stay on. No one said being a royal was easy!
Jeans Only For Casual Events
This one may be surprising, but jeans are not entirely forbidden in the British monarchy. Yes, royal and denim don't exactly go hand-in-hand. But jeans, cardigans, and blazers will often be acceptable for the more casual outings. This is when the men will wear polo or buttoned shirts and khakis.
Diana Mather, from The English Manner etiquette consultancy, explained that while The Royal Family mostly avoids jeans, they are permitted for private and casual events. "If the duchess is outside walking the dogs, for example, then jeans are fine," she clarified. In summary, the royals go for the 'always overdressed' approach.
Specific Nail Polish Colors
Anyone looking to marry into The Royal Family might want to be aware that royals are forbidden to wear bright color nail polishes. For anyone who uses their nail paint color as a form of self-expression, being a royal lady may not be the best fit. Not that we're judging, of course.
Royal nails are expected to be unpainted or nude colored when on official royal business. Queen Elizabeth II was a loyal fan of the Essie shade, 'Ballet Slippers,' and has been rocking the nail color for over twenty-eight years. Not overly exciting, but it helps ease the overwhelming sense of choice at the nail salon!
While a lightweight hemline may have helped to create Marilyn Monroe's famous windswept moment, unsurprisingly, the royals aren't looking to follow in her footsteps. As iconic as the resulting photograph was, the princess's dresses and skirts are expected to stay firmly in place.
In 2011, Kate Middleton had her almost-Monroe moment on a windy day in a yellow dress. We imagine this was when HRH reminded the female royals to have the hemlines of their dresses and skirts weighted down with curtain weights. This helps to ensure a sudden gust of wind does not end in an undesirable paparazzi moment.
Despite their ability to fly up in the wind, the Queen made it clear that she preferred the royal ladies to wear dresses and skirts over pants. It wasn't not entirely prohibited to do so, but any Princess looking to get into the Queen's good books made sure to dress accordingly.
Although Kate and Meghan often wear pants in public, when they attended events with the Queen, they usually tried to dress in her preferred clothing of choice. Back in the day, when pants were less normalized in the Royal Family, Princess Diana made waves when she appeared in a tuxedo suit.
Skirts & Dresses at Appropriate Length
That being said, not all dresses are guaranteed the royal green light. All dresses and skirts worn by the princesses and the late Queen herself were - and still are - expected to be modest in design. As obvious as this one may seem, it is important for it to be stated.
According to Harper's Bazaar, the skirts and dresses should never be "more than three or four inches above her knee." While ideally, they should be long enough to keep covering the knee when sitting down, it has become more than acceptable for this not to be the case. They do need to be able to walk, after all.
Necklines were also closely monitored by the Queen's staff. No cleavage should be on show is the takeaway message, and female royal members should make an extra effort to ensure the chest area will not be on display from any angle the cameras may catch them.
That being said, there have been plenty of royal members, past and present, to have broken this rule. From Princess Diana to Meghan Markle, even the royals can't help but lower their necklines once in a while. Understandably, this rule is a bit difficult to keep at times.
Rules For Exiting a Car
On that note, if one is going to opt for a more risqué dress, they need to come prepared. Exiting a car can be a very revealing moment for the royals, especially with paparazzi photographing them from every angle. Luckily, the royals have devised a clever solution.
Having a clutch close by can help cover up any body parts that a royal does not want a photographer to capture. Princess Diana had the art of leaving the car with a clutch down to perfection as she swiftly covered her neckline with a matching accessory. So much so that her handbag designer referred to them as "cleavage bags."
Hats On Formal Occasions
There's something about the royals and 6 p.m. Yet another one of these fashion rules that is constricted by this time frame is hair coverings. In theory, any royal woman seen in public before 6 p.m. should be seen in some headwear, whether it be a hat or headband. After this time, the hats are swapped out for tiaras and crowns.
However, in practice, this rule has gone away with the times, for the most part. The younger royal women such as Kate and Eugenie are frequently seen without head coverings. However, this rule seemingly still applies for formal events and weddings, where the headpieces will be out in every shape, size, and color.
The Queen Covered Her Hair, Always
Even on the rare occasions where Her Majesty was not rocking a hat, she was rarely seen outside of the palace with her hair fully on show. This is because of an old traditional belief that married woman should not uncover their hair in public. Well, what's the reasoning behind it?
"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," Mather told the BBC. While the Queen may not have always worn a hat, she was often seen with a crown or head scarf instead.
No Trousers For Young Princes
Prince George and Prince Louis may look adorable in their shorts, but apparently, they are not wearing them solely for the cuteness factor. Long royal tradition holds that the children of the British royal and aristocrats should be dressed in shorts and not long pants.
"Trousers [pants] are for older boys and men, whereas shorts on young boys is one of those silent class markers that we have in England," British etiquette expert William Hanson told Harper's Bazaar UK. Once the boys turn eight years old, they will swap out the shorts for long pants.
No Wedges Around The Queen
Kate Middleton loves her wedged sandals. Unfortunately, the Queen disapproved of the style of shoe. For this reason, it was highly suggested that members of the Royal Family not wear wedged shoes in her presence. But when Her Majesty was not around, the family members were free to wear them.
Kate Middleton was often caught wearing her favorite Stuart Weitzman wedges when not in the presence of the Queen. Here, she is pictured with Prince William the day after their wedding on route to their honeymoon. Confident the Queen would not be joining them on the trip, she took out the wedged shoes for the occasion!
Gloves Are Highly Encouraged
The Covid pandemic may have turned us all into paranoid germaphobes, but the royals have long been practicing the art of protecting themselves from unwanted germs. That is the main reason behind those luxurious and stylish gloves we often see Queens and Princesses wearing.
Considering how many people the royals are forced to shake hands with, their health is constantly at risk. Gloves can help to ensure meet-and-greets don't turn into super-spreading events. It's not personal, it's just practical. Even Winston Churchill was made to shake the hand of Queen Elizabeth through a glove!
Clothes Should Honor Host Countries
This is perhaps one of the more interesting rules on the list. Whenever members of the Royal Family travel abroad, it is expected that they make an effort to honor their host country through their fashion choices. This could include the country's colors, emblems, or even a local designer.
During the couple's 2016 Royal Tour to Canada, Kate Middleton wore a maple leaf brooch. Earlier in the tour, the couple visited India. Here she wore a tunic dress by an Indian designer named Anita Dongre. A few hours after the photos were posted, the website crashed from overwhelming demand. 'The Kate effect,' as they say.
Fur Should Be Avoided
The 'no fur' rule dates back to the 14th century when King Edward III decided that no one was allowed to wear fur, including the royals. This decree has become overlooked since, with many citizens now wearing fur. For the most part, the Royal Family still keeps to this rule - but there have been a few exceptions over the years.
The royals may be seen sporting a fur hat or gloves at public events, but they tend to avoid complete fur outfits. The Queen broke this rule during her infamous visit to Moscow, Russia, in 1994, where she walked through the crowds in an oversized brown fur coat. To each their own...
Height Limit on Heels
The female members of The Royal Family are free to wear heels. However, they should not be higher than six inches. According to Harper's Bazaar Australia, there are two main reasons for this rule. Firstly, the Queen did not want the women to be 'hobbling around' during public appearances.
Not only to ensure they look professional, but it would also be very awkward if they fell into the arms of a stranger! The other reason given for this rule is so that they don't appear "too tall." While we're not exactly sure what this one means, we have some ideas...
Keep Footwear Clean & Tidy
On the topic of royal footwear: this one goes without saying that all royal shoes should be kept in pristine condition - no roughed-up, muddy sneakers, or scruffy combat boots. Clean, tidy, elegant shoes at all times are a must, as illustrated below.
And this does not just apply to the women! In a documentary titled, Serving the Royals: Inside the Firm, Princess Diana's former butler revealed that the then-Prince Charles often had his shoelaces pressed flat with an iron. Talk about dedication to the monarch!
Neat & Natural Hair
Unfortunately for the royals, dying their hair a bright color or cutting it to fit a new trend is out of the question. Royal hair is expected to look natural and effortless at all times. Kate and Meghan's shiny blowouts aren't just for the fun of it! They're following royal protocol!
Most importantly, it should look neat and tidy. Even when it is tied in a tight bun or ponytail, it should look beautifully put together. Meghan Markle's iconic bun look is likely her own take on this rule, with its few flyaway hairs to keep it modern.
As much as we all love a bright red lip or a smoky eye, these looks are out of the question for the royals. They may have access to the best make-up artists in the world, but they are not permitted to go bold with their appearance. Subtle and natural all the way.
The royals believe that loud makeup looks give off a message of immodesty and can cause the women to seem out of touch with the general public. Subtle and natural makeup will help the royal women to appear relatable and 'at one' with the citizens of England, reportedly.
Queen Elizabeth's Bright Uniform
Up until she passed away, Queen Elizabeth always made sure her colorful outfits brought the words 'bright' and 'cheerful' to our minds. So did Her Majesty just love a pop of color, or was there something more behind it? In a 2016 documentary, the Queen's daughter-in-law, the Countess of Wessex, addressed the topic.
She revealed that the colors helped the Queen stand out from the crowds and helped people feel confident that they saw her. According to her biographer, Robert Hardman, the Queen believed that nobody would know who she was if she wore beige. It's hard to tell why - after all, she's on the country's bank notes!