Stephen Jones recalls seeing the Queen for the first time as a young boy growing up in rural Cheshire, enamoured by the outfits she would wear while touring the Commonwealth, beamed into his home television from all four corners of the world. “She was acutely aware of fashion’s power, and I believe she was also very respectful of fashion’s craft,” Jones recalls. “She understood that her appearance was a metaphor that could be used in a variety of ways.”
Over the next few decades, as Jones rose to become one of the most celebrated and respected British milliners of all time, the Queen would become a recurring figure in his work, whether it was the silkscreened prints he made as part of his art foundation course in 1975, featuring images of the Queen set against a richly coloured sky, or the tweed crowns he crafted for Vivienne Westwood, memorably captured by Nick Knight for a cover of i-D magazine in 1987 worn by Westwood “As a little girl, Vivienne adored the Queen’s tweeds, so it was completely a tribute,” Jones recalls.
Jones became a member of the royal establishment in the years that followed, whether as a go-to milliner for Diana, Princess of Wales, who was first introduced to Jones’ work by Jasper Conran in the early 1980s, or through his appointment as an OBE in 2010. However, his admiration for the Queen’s style extends beyond the realm of royalty, with Jones noting that when he was knocking around the punk scene or hitting up the Blitz club with the New Romantics in the late 1970s, their iconoclastic take on her style came from a place of admiration, as well. “What we liked best was the glitz, the spectacular jewellery, hats, and clothing.”
Jones reflects on the Queen’s powerful, enduring legacy in the fashion world, from his first childhood sightings of her to the various times he crossed paths with her at Buckingham Palace soirées.
I believe I first heard of the Queen as a young boy in the mid-to-late 1960s. That was during her many trips around the world, particularly to the Commonwealth, and I remember admiring the fact that when she went on a state visit to Pakistan, she wore green, the national colour. I thought how wonderful that could be a reason to wear certain things—that fashion didn’t have to be inspired by magazines, but could be inspired by the place you were visiting, for example. That was immediately apparent to me. I also recall my grandmother having a book, a large sort of fold-out, that detailed the Queen’s Norman Hartnell gown.
Growing up, the image of her was all-encompassing. For example, during the early 1980s, the International Herald Tribune might publish one fashion photograph per day during the shows. I recall only two or three fashion photographs or illustrations appearing in The Telegraph and other newspapers each week. That was the significance given to fashion. For many years, photographs of the Queen were among the most popular fashion images.
The Queen was the millinery’s patron saint. There is no doubt that the millinery industry as a whole would not exist without the Queen. If the Queen had not worn hats throughout her reign, Rick Owens or Jacquemus would not be showing hats—because the hat became a symbol of fashion, where the volume or presence is outside the norm. That is why the Queen wore them as well. The crown is the ultimate hat and a symbol of royalty. Milliners speak the language of indicating status or splendour on the head.