A couple of years ago at Windsor Castle, I struck up a conversation with a member of the staff. She was very friendly and easy to talk to. The conversation took a few turns and she nonchalantly revealed that she had previously worked as an assistant dresser to The Queen. Obviously that was fascinating so I wanted to ask a million questions about what that was like while trying to behave like a normal person and not overstep the mark.
To her credit she was very discrete and spoke of her amazement that Kate had done the tour of Canada without an official dresser and that while The Queen had been wonderful to work for, she wanted to try something new which lead her to a new role.
So of course I was excited to be given a copy of Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly. Since starting as one of the Queen’s dressers in 1994, she has risen up the ranks and now holds the unique title of Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to Her Majesty The Queen (Jewellery, Insignias and Wardrobe). So, yeah, she has a pretty awesome resume.
Published back in 2012, it’s an insightful book with gorgeous pictures that shows how much thought and effort goes into the creation of each of The Queen’s many bespoke outfits and gowns, how not a scrap of fabric is wasted (the Queen’s stock room includes fabric from 1961), and how they are all carefully maintained.
It also reveals a bit of the close working relationship that Angela and The Queen clearly have. The fact that the Queen even gave her blessing to the book is huge! She has also given Angela a grace and favour home in Windsor, as well as the honour of the Royal Victorian Order which recognizes personal services to The Queen. In a 2007 interview with The Telegraph that the Queen consented to, Angela explained
“I just want everything to be right for The Queen – to make life easier for her because she is so busy. My job is to ensure that when The Queen meets people she looks right.
“I would never overstep the mark and I remain in awe of The Queen. But she has allowed me to become closer to her over the years. We [the royal dressers] are not treated like flunkies. It’s not like that. The Queen treats us with real respect.
“I don’t know why the Queen seems fond of me – because I don’t give her an easy time! I do think she values my opinion, but she is the one who is in control. She always makes the final decision.”
Here are a few tidbits from the book – for more I recommend reading it yourself!
Secrets of a Tiara
The Girls of Great Britain of Ireland Tiara is gorgeous (to learn more about it, click here if you like), and my favourite tiara of all time. It’s even cooler now that Angela Kelly pointed out this special design feature I hadn’t previously realized. In shadow, it looks like a row of girls holding hands! See?
Also, Angela is one of the very few people who has access to the vaults that stores the Queen’s jewellery. As she puts it in the book,
“It is a great honour and privilege to be entrusted with the care of the Queen’s private jewellery and to help select the items that are worn on a daily basis. Again, the final choice is always made by The Queen, but based on a selection that I will have made to complement the outfit she will be wearing and appropriate for the occasion.”
Queen Mary’s Jewellery Trays
The jewels that The Queen selects on any given day are presented to her on special trays that also once belonged to the Queen’s grandmother, Queen Mary.
The lace cover that is pulled back actually has Queen Mary’s monogram on it and were sewn by Queen Mary herself.
Umbrellas for Every Occasion
The Queen knows that she needs to stand out in a crowd, and that people want to see her no matter what the weather. So, she has a large collection of see-through umbrella’s trimmed with every possible color to match her outfits.
There really is so much more in the book – I could go on and on! So, what do you think? Sounds like a fascinating job to me. For much more on how the outfits are created and jewellery maintained, I recommend checking out the book yourself!