These two have had such a long, intimate, and fruitful collaboration that this post could go on for days. We’re going to focus on daywear. We want to work with our theme of the month, which was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. We’ll do posts on Angela Kelly’s evening wear and event wear for the Queen and others in the future.
Angela Kelly was born in Liverpool in 1957, one of six children of a dock worker and homemaker. Angela’s mother was an excellent seamstress and her daughter’s first foray into the world of dressmaking was maintaining and oiling her mother’s sewing machine. With her mother’s tutelage, she also learned how to sew hems and accurately cut patterns. The family’s means were modest, and at 15 Angela took on her first paying job, at a sewing factory, operating the buttonhole machine.
Miss Kelly met the Queen in 1992 while working as the Housekeeper to the British Ambassador in Berlin. The Duke and the Queen stayed with the ambassador, and Angela impressed the Queen and her staff with her discretion and competence. She was hired as an Assistant Dresser to the Queen in 1994 and set about obtaining her Ph.D. in “what the Queen needs”. She familiarized herself with Her Majesty’s wardrobe and determined that it tended to dark green, navy, and red, that some of the styles were dated, and that the hems were too long. She became determined to infuse the collection with brighter colors and fresher, cleaner silhouettes.
Eventually, the Queen invited Kelly to join her when designers came in for fittings. Angela was known for providing candid feedback, often to the dismay of the fashion house. This led to the Queen asking Angela to draw some sketches she DID like. Once the wheels were in motion, a sewing machinist (seamstress) was hired to sew the clothes, and the first in-house design team for Her Majesty the Queen was born.
In 1998 Kelly also became the Personal Advisor and Curator to the Queen. In her advisor role, she advises on accessories and is the liaison with the queen’s health care and wellness professionals. As a curator, she manages the Queen’s personal jewelry and certain pieces of the Crown Jewels. She continues overall management of the Queen’s wardrobe and has also brought other trusted designers and milliners into the fold. The most notable of these is Stewart Parvin, who has taken over many of the outfit designs.
Kelly’s general rules for the Queen’s wardrobe have remained constant. Stand out to Fit In, which means wearing visible colors and styles appropriate to the occasion. Fit and Finish, which are the details that must be perfect as seen from every angle. Research, research, research, which is the pre-work that must be done before a design even begins. Comfort, which is self-explanatory. The monarch is there to do her job, the clothes must not get in the way.
Miss Kelly’s has designed so many daywear items for the Queen that we will focus on only a few high-profile events. Ascot is always a big event on the royal calendar and one that requires clothes that can move through lunch to the racecourse. In 2019, the Queen wore a couple of Kelly designs. The pink dress with the feathered hat caused some consternation. Watching on television, Kelly realized the feathers would be dangling far too low for the Queen’s comfort, so she sent an urgent message to the Equerry to trim them down. No one could lay their hands on appropriate scissors at the racecourse, so the Queen carried on, droopy feathers and all.
Diamond Jubilee River Pageant
The major historic event of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee was the Thames River Pageant. Miss Kelly researched the event for full two years prior, reviewing the types of clothes Queen Elizabeth I used to wear for public events of this type. These historic outfits were often white and richly jeweled. Kelly carried through this theme with a white coat of her own, embellished with gold and silver accents. It was designed to be highly visible against the deep red backgrounds of the boat, and as the weather was not warm, it was also good protection for the Queen.
Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton
For the springtime wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Angela Kelly designed a light yellow dress with interesting neck detail. The Queen paired it with a light-colored handbag, gloves, and shoes, which made it particularly festive for the joyful occasion.
Although not all of Kelly’s daywear ensembles have been successful, her overall approach has decidedly lightened and updated the Queen’s appearance. It has cemented the image of the monarch in the minds of the public. If you are thinking of the Queen, you are likely envisioning her wearing a Kelly design.
More than designer, Kelly has become a confidant and gatekeeper to Queen Elizabeth. She was appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO), and to Lieutenant of the Order (LVO) in 2012.
Spam the Kelly daywear in the comments!