Royal Repeats: Repurposed Looks from the Royal Wardrobe


Upcycling takes a royal twist as members of the British Royal Family embrace sustainability with style. Royals like the Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and Catherine, Princess of Wales have set a precedent by repeating, re-styling, and upcycling their luxurious wardrobes. From an upcycled vintage wedding dress to re-wearing outfits across various royal engagements, we've highlighted a few notable appearances where upcycling was royally practiced.


Queen Elizabeth II

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth had a fascinating and unique royal wardrobe. Among her collection, the ability to elegantly repurpose her attire stands out, particularly with the coronation gown, where the Queen has gracefully chosen to re-wear this dress. The photographs shown below, capture a unique moment in royal fashion history. On the left, we see the Queen in her majestic coronation gown during the ceremony held on the 2nd of June, 1953. This regal dress, a masterpiece of rich silk fabric adorned with intricate embroidery, was crafted by Sir Norman Hartnell, a designer of renowned prestige at the time. The Queen has repeated this dress on multiple royal engagements. One such occasion is the image on the right, where she is seen wearing the same gown during her 1954 visit to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Currently, this dress is preserved as a part of the Royal Collection, as one of the most significant designs of the 20th century.

Diana, Princess of Wales

The ever-loved People's Princess, Diana, the Princess of Wales, remains an enduring icon known for her profound kindness and also for her impeccable and stylish sartorial choices. Beyond her fashionable wardrobe, Princess Diana was frequently seen upcycling her dresses during her royal visits. She sometimes made minor alterations to breathe new life into her outfits, while at other times, simply re-wearing and re-styling her attire showcased her knack for versatile fashion. The princess continued this sustainable practice in the realm of royal fashion.

Catherine, Princess of Wales

Catherine, the Princess of Wales, widely known as Kate Middleton, is a prominent advocate for sustainable fashion. She frequently repurposes and re-styles her wardrobe for different events, from royal engagements to red carpet appearances, showcasing the practice of re-wearing with elegance. As a notable outfit repeater, the princess promotes a mindful approach to fashion and thoughtful wardrobe decisions.

Princess Beatrice

Princess Beatrice of York, for her wedding during the pandemic in 2020, chose to wear an upcycled vintage dress for her private ceremony in a royal chapel. This special dress was borrowed from her grandmother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. It was Beatrice's choice to upcycle amidst the pandemic conditions. Crafted from Peau De Soie taffeta (a soft satin material), the gown was originally designed by Sir Norman Hartnell in the 1960s for the Queen, who herself has repeated the gown on previous occasions. For the wedding, the dress underwent minor alterations, including the addition of puff sleeves, to tailor it to Beatrice's style. The tiara worn by Beatrice was also borrowed from the Queen. This gown, rich in history and sustainability, is now on display at Windsor Castle.

Upcycling Royal Curtains

In December 2023, a unique upcycling project brought a new lease of life to "out-of-use" royal curtains from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, as they were upcycled into luxurious kimonos. This upcycling initiative was suggested by King Charles. These handmade kimonos were crafted by students at the King's Foundation, an educational charity, where it was reported that each kimono took between 8 to 10 hours to complete. This upcycling project was created to serve a charitable purpose, as the kimonos were to be auctioned off for charity.

As the curtains draw to a close on our exhibit of royal upcycling, we catch a glimpse of the British Royal Family's sustainable fashion through their consistent practice of repurposing and restyling their ensembles. From transformed gowns to the creation of kimonos fashioned from royal curtains, they continue the sustainable practices. 

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