Middleton Royal Dress Code

Law of Fashion: 29+ Strict Rules the Royal Family Must Follow


| LAST UPDATE 09/13/2022

By Rose Fairchild

From Angela Kelly to Alexander McQueen, the Royal Family has unlimited clothing options. But, their fashion became limited after rules came into play, making styling far more complex than we realized...

Bag Is Always in the Left Hand

The ladies within the Royal Family are to hold their bags in their left hand. While there is no historical background behind this rule, we can only wonder whether this makes greeting others more feasible.

Royal Fashion Handbag Rules Royal Fashion Handbag Rules
John Keeble via Getty Images

As confirmed by Royal expert Myka Meier from Beaumont Etiquette, holding their bag on the left side does, in fact, provide practicalities. Their free right hand has been delegated to be the official side to wave and greet incoming introductions.

Military Uniforms Worn Only on Special Events

This next rule actually dates back to the 19th century, when the male members of the Royal Family served in the British army. That's right. The clothes worn during this time were saved and beautifully decorated for special occasions and events they attended.

Royal Rules Military UniformRoyal Rules Military Uniform
Chris Jackson via Getty Images

In honor of the British army and other historical moments - such as Remembrance Day and Trooping The Color - the traditional colors on the uniform represent the family's association with these events. In 2015, the family gave their tribute to Trooping The Color by wearing royal red with a blue sash.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Women Also Wear Military Uniforms

It is not just male members of The Royal Family that don the military uniform - the female members also do so on special occasions. In the 2014 event, Trooping The Color, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne, was dressed in the famous black military uniform.

Royal Fashion Women MilitaryRoyal Fashion Women Military
Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images

Though the uniform represents serving the army, Anne instead received it as a gift for reaching her twenty-fourth military appointment. Marking another moment in history, Slate noticeably pointed out Princess Anne was considerably the first female in The Royal Family to wear the garments since Queen Elizabeth I in 1588.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Uniform Worn at Weddings

Yes, royal weddings do count as special events. For that reason, uniforms are expected to be worn on these celebratory occasions. For these events, it is not just the groom who should wear the uniform, but all members who have access to it and attend the wedding are encouraged to wear it.

Royal Fashion Uniform WeddingsRoyal Fashion Uniform Weddings
Danny Martindale via Getty Images

It is no question the grooms should look their absolute best on their wedding day. When Prince William tied the knot with Kate Middleton in 2011, William wore his finest red military jacket, while Prince Harry dressed in black when he married Meghan Markle in 2018.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Queen Approves the Wedding Dress

In the case of a royal wedding, the bride's mother takes a step back, especially when it comes to the wedding dress. The Queen must approve no matter what - even if the bride falls for her perfect dress. From the perfectly fitted dress to its detailed designs, the nation will view this dress as representing the Queen's decisions.

Queen Rules Wedding DressQueen Rules Wedding Dress
Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images

Before purchasing the most important white gown of a woman's life, the Queen has to review it and give the dress her blessing. Of course, this approval period must take place before the wedding day. If the dress is dismissed, there are no exceptions, and it's back to square one.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Clothes Should Not Wrinkle Easily

While the Queen needs to approve every wedding dress, this has not gone down so well in history. When Princess Diana married Prince Charles in 1981, her 10,000 pearled and ivory taffeta wedding dress wrinkled from the journey to the church. The Queen noticed as she entered the church, but the guests were blinded by her beauty.

Royal Wedding Dress DianaRoyal Wedding Dress Diana
Keystone/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Due to this unfortunate event, the royals learned their lesson. To avoid history repeating itself, The Royal Family now avoids fabrics that wrinkle the same way, like linen and silk. Instead, dresses are now preferred to be from a thicker material like tweed and wool, accentuating the dress to look perfect at all times.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Pantyhose Are a Must

Although it has not been made an official royal rule, the Queen has not been shy when encouraging all ladies of The Royal Family to wear a pair of pantyhose when necessary. While this rule has been mythically projected in films, it is relatively accurate.

Megan Markle Queen PantyhoseMegan Markle Queen Pantyhose
John Stillwell - WPA Pool via Getty Images

As a trusted rule, The Queen will solemnly swear to wear a pair whenever she is seen in public. The newer generation of family members is apprehensive about attending to this rule, although it is seen as royal tradition. They will respect their Queen and wear them for events, but it is unlikely they will comply for casual outings.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tiaras: For Married Women Only

It is within every royal ladies' dream to have a tiara placed on her head. But a tiara is not given to them just because they now have royal status. Tiaras are a symbol of marriage and are only worn by married women within the family. Yes, really.

Princess Diana Tiara WeddingPrincess Diana Tiara Wedding
Anwar Hussein via Getty Images

Usually, the wedding day is the first time the newlywed will have a tiara placed on her head. Women are expected to then wear their tiara at outings after their wedding day, specifically at an event after 6 p.m. However, if they attend another wedding, the rule is less strict out of respect for the other bride.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Black Only On Funerals

While The Royal Family typically wear the respected colors of historical events, they are permitted to wear all black and only black if they attend a funeral. Aside from funerals, they are also in black for Remembrance Day, honoring those who lost their lives in war.

Royal Funerals Black ClothesRoyal Funerals Black Clothes

On Remembrance Day, The Royal Family are seen in all black as they attend a Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall. The only spot of color on their outfits is from the red poppy attached to their black garments, known as a symbol of remembrance.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Always Keep a Black Outfit Handy

In case of a turn of events, all family members must keep a spare black outfit with them at all times. Unfortunately, these events can come unexpected, and if they are abroad, it is essential to have this outfit with them in case of emergency travel.

Royal Funerals Queen FashionRoyal Funerals Queen Fashion
Keystone/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

After King Georgia VI tragically passed away in 1952, it became apparent to the family this should become a rule. At the time of his death, his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was in Kenya and flew home immediately. However, she was not allowed to get off the plane or attend the funeral until she was dressed in all black.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Keep The Coat On

This rule does not comply with the cold English weather. Kate Middleton, as well as the other royal ladies, is rarely seen without her coat off. Why? The official royal rule and the Queen state that taking off a coat is not considered ladylike - making it an official instruction.

Royal Coat Kate MiddletonRoyal Coat Kate Middleton
Peter Drury-Pool via Getty Images

Whether inside or outside, it is compulsory to keep the coat on no matter how high the temperature. If any lady within the family is in a public environment, they must comply with this strict rule out of respect for the entire family. Definitely one of the more difficult rules on our list...

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Jeans Reserved for Casual Events

When the royals can finally lose the details and expensive garments, jeans are often the go-to attire. Jeans are not forbidden in the royal closet but are to only be worn for casual events, like family time or daily outings. Then again, royal-casual is still reasonably smart. For the men, it's polo buttoned shirts and khakis.

Royal Fashion Jeans KateRoyal Fashion Jeans Kate
Chris Jackson via Getty Images

Etiquette consultancy, The English Manner, noted The Royal Family usually avoids jeans as much as possible. The comfortable pair of trousers are worn for more chilled activities, like "the duchess walking the dogs." The royals are always seen as "overdressed" to stay on the safer side, as the public sees them. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Nail Polish Preferences

While their closet might be flamboyant, their nail polish must remain plain and simple. For the royals, it's no time to get excited with new season nail colors. They are forbidden to choose bright colors, though they might be tempted when the sun shines...

Royal Nail Polish ColorRoyal Nail Polish Color
Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images

Their nails will never stand out as the only choice of paint allowed is either nude or nothing at all. According to sources, Queen Elizabeth II is quite a fan of nail polish make Essie, favoriting the 'Ballet Slippers' shade for 28 years. While there is not much to choose from, this keeps a trip to the salon less stressful.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

A Weighted Hemline

The royals must avoid any Marylin Monroe moments. Unlike Monroe, who had a lightweight hemline, all royal dresses and skirts are created with weighted hemlines. This way, their clothes are magnetized to the ground and remain close to their bodies.

Kate Middleton Dress WaistKate Middleton Dress Waist
Chris Jackson via Getty Images

Unfortunately, Middleton nearly experienced a Monroe moment. On a windy day back in 2011, Kate's yellow dress had a mind of its own, almost getting her royal highness into some photographic trouble. The Queen needed to remind the ladies to include curtain weights inside their clothes to dismiss any stubborn gust of wind.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Dresses Over Skirts

The Queen has made it clear to her family members that dresses are more of a preference than skirts or trousers. It is not forbidden to choose one over the other. However, The Queen simply prefers this - and it would be highly unexpected to choose a decision against her majesty's. Right?

Camilla Royal Dress CodeCamilla Royal Dress Code
Anthony Devlin - WPA Pool via Getty Images

When Kate and Meghan are with the Queen, there is utmost respect, opting for the dress option. Still, they can choose a skirt or trousers when participating in other royal duties. Previously in royal history, Princess Diana made the bold choice to wear a tuxedo suit when trousers were barely normalized for royal ladies.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Dresses & Skirts Must Be a Certain Length

While dresses and skirts are the preferred clothing option for the royal ladies, they must be appropriate for the public eye. Not just any dress is allowed, as the length of their clothes must look acceptable and modest. Though this might seem obvious, it is still reminded to the princesses and even the Queen.

Pool photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

When a skirt or dress is long enough to cover the knee - even when sitting down - this is usually the preferred length. This is not always compulsory, but it does keep the royal ladies on the Queen's good side. Still, dresses and skirts should never be "more than three or four inches above her knee," according to Harper's Bazaar

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Necklines Are Monitored

From head to toe, the Queen has her eye on all royal ladies to ensure they are dressed modestly. Regarding the necklines and dress code, no cleavage or a huge amount of chest area should be shown. Considering the press can capture a shot from any angle, the ladies take extra caution to avoid any slip of skin.

Royal Necklines Fashion RulesRoyal Necklines Fashion Rules
Max Mumby/ Indigo via Getty Images

Although, slightly breaking this rule will not banish any lady from The Royal Family. Both Princess Diana and Meghan Markle have strayed away from this rule slightly. It is merely impossible to find every piece of clothing that completely covers the neckline. That being said, some skin is shown sporadically.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Exiting a Car Properly

Considering the rule of thumb for royal dress code and dress length, it makes sense the family has specific regulations when exiting a car. As we know, the paparazzi can be sneaky when it comes to angled shots, so any time a dress might provide the risk of a slip, the ladies are prepared.

Princess Diana Paparazzi CarPrincess Diana Paparazzi Car

A siding accessory like a clutch or pashmina can be helpful in these situations and great cover-ups. Keeping them both close to the body when wearing more revealing clothing is an excellent way to keep the paparazzi from getting the money shots. Even some of their handbag designers refer to the accessories as "cleavage bags."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Hats Worn at Formal Events

It seems that specific schedules compile with the royal ladies' fashion rules. As it is compulsory to wear headwear, whether this is a hat or tiara, preferences change before and after 6 p.m. Where hats are worn at all formal events, this is replaced with a tiara in the evening.

Royal Hats Fashion TrendRoyal Hats Fashion Trend
Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images

This rule is relatively traditional, as it is less stringent today. Apart from formal events, including weddings, the royal ladies of today's generation, like Kate and Eugenie, have been seen from time to time with no head coverings. Still, the rule comes into place out of respect on specific occasions.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Queen Always Has Her Hair Covered

When taking traditional duties into context, the Queen is rarely seen with her hair on display or uncovered. Traditional beliefs state married women should never have their hair seen or uncovered in public. As a married woman for 73 years, the Queen prefers to respect tradition to her own extent.

Queen Hair Scarf FashionQueen Hair Scarf Fashion
POOL/Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images

According to BBC sources, it was up until 1950 when ladies were "very seldom seen without a hat" as it was not very common for them to show their hair to the public. Though it is not always a hat, the Queen styles her headwear elegantly with a headscarf, or even better, her crown. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

No Trousers For The Mini Princes

There have been numerous times when Prince George and Prince Louis have rocked the royal blue pair of shorts. It turns out there is a history behind this clothing choice. It is a tradition that the future royal generations and aristocrats only wear shorts, and never trousers.

Prince George Shorts StylePrince George Shorts Style
Chris Jackson via Getty Images

William Hanson, a British etiquette expert, explained to Harper's Bazaar UK the younger generation of Princes wear shorts until they reach the age of eight. From this age, they reach the next stage in which they are allowed to wear trousers. It's "one of those silent class markers that we have in England," he added.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Stiletto Over Wedges

It is reported that the Queen is not too fond of wedges. Unfortunately, for Kate Middleton, a massive fan of the shoe, and other members of the royal family, it is better to avoid wearing them in front of Her Majesty. Of course, the wedges come out to play in their free time.

Royal Honeymoon Fashion WedgesRoyal Honeymoon Fashion Wedges
John Stillwell - WPA Pool via Getty Images

When members of the family know the Queen will not be in their presence, this is their opportunity to wear the beloved wedge. For Kate Middleton, her go-to is a pair of Stuart Weitzman wedges, pictured above when she spent time alone with Prince William on their honeymoon.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Wearing Gloves Is Encouraged

Apart from acting as a lavish and glamorous royal fashion statement, there is a deeper reason behind using gloves as an accessory. As a duty to shake hands with specific public members, it is within reason the royals protect themselves from germs.

Royal Gloves Handshake TraditionRoyal Gloves Handshake Tradition
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

It is essential The Royal Family avoid health altercations as much as possible. While they are exposed to many people worldwide, at numerous events, the gloves work as a protective source for practical health reasons. As seen above, Winston Churchill greeted her Majesty with the glove on.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Dress in Accordance With Host Countries

Whenever The Royal Family visits a new country, out of common courtesy, the family members go beyond efforts to honor the country they arrive in. By doing so, their fashion choices are affected by wearing the colors and designs that accommodate the countries' cultures.

Kate Middleton Fashion IndiaKate Middleton Fashion India
Danny Martindale / Contributor via Getty Images

In 2016, Katie Middleton landed in India via their Royal Tour to Canada. To respect the Indian culture, Kate dressed in a tunic made by Indian fashion designer Anita Dongre. When the dress became available on the designer's website, the website crashed due to high demand and was dubbed 'The Kate Effect.'

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Avoid Fur if Possible

In the 14th Century, King Edward III planted a rule to dismiss fur clothes at all costs. Since then, The Royal Family has continued to respect this rule, despite very few occasions. However, since the 14th Century, this rule has become less extreme due to the increased fur fashion industry.

Royal Fashion Queen Fur Royal Fashion Queen Fur
Anwar Hussein via Getty Images

Considering the few occasions this rule is broken, this might only apply to Her Majesty herself. In 1994, the Queen visited Moscow, Russia, and wore an oversized brown fur coat as she paraded through the waving crowds. Aside from this event, small fur accessories like gloves and hats are allowed.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Heels Up To 6-Inches

While the Queen prefers a smart stiletto over a wedge, there are still rules regarding this specific shoe. The heel should not be higher than six inches as her Majesty feels the royal ladies might "hobble around" in public if the heel is any higher, as stated in Harper's Bazaar Australia.

Royal Rules Heel HeightRoyal Rules Heel Height
Paul Grover - WPA Pool via Getty Images

Another reason for the limited heel height is purely due to their status as The Royal Family. As representatives of their country, looking thoroughly professional is critical, so losing their balance in a pair of heels would not look very good on their part.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Clean & Tidy Shoes, Always

Just because they are not at eye-level doesn't mean shoes go unnoticed. There shouldn't be a spec of dust nor a swipe of mud on any shoes owned by family members. Whether this is a sneaker or a stiletto, all shoes must be squeaky clean and tidied to perfection.

Royal Shoes Kate MiddletonRoyal Shoes Kate Middleton
Richard Pohle - WPA Pool via Getty Images

Don't think this rule is just for the ladies and their heels. Men care about their shoes too. After the release of the documentary, Serving the Royals: Inside the Firm, Princess Diana's butler shared Prince Charles's shoe routine, flat ironing his shoelaces - a routine to keep the shoe prestige. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Natural Hair Look

No matter if they seek some summer balayage, the royal ladies must never touch their hair and keep it completely natural. It is the simple look that works for them, making it look like an easy up-do. The same goes for hair cuts and silky smooth blow-dries.

Meghan Markle Hat HairMeghan Markle Hat Hair
Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images

When it comes to hairstyles, the rule stays the same. Everything must look simple, neat, and tidy. This usually calls for a low and slicked-back ponytail or a ballerina bun, keeping as many baby hairs in place to finish their professional look.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Simple Makeup

Another way to pull off the effortless and natural look is by avoiding anything to do with dark eyeliner, smoky eyeshadow, or exaggerated lip color. A little pink blush will do the job, but their make-up artists are to keep their look simple yet beautiful, staying away from anything too bold to comment on.

Royal Makeup Kate MiddletonRoyal Makeup Kate Middleton
Indigo via Getty Images

Any bold makeup look might give off the wrong message to the public. As a family who sets an example for the entire British people, the natural makeup look allows the ladies to remain engaged with everyone and not overpower those whose status below them, which is essentially everyone.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Queen's Wardrobe

We all know the Queen likes to make an entrance with yet another brightly colored and buttoned-up jacket or skirt with a top hat to match. We don't think there is a color Her Majesty has not pulled off, and there are reasons behind her rainbow wardrobe.

Queen Elizabeth Bright OutfitsQueen Elizabeth Bright Outfits
Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images

In 2016, the Countess of Wessex acknowledged Her Majesty's wardrobe. The simple reason behind the bright colors is, so the Queen is seen easily. Her biographer, Robert Hardman, reported the Queen believes no one would recognize her without her bold outfit choices. Even after a 70-year reign, Her Majesty remains pure and modest...

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below