How does one dress down when one is expected to dress up? I’m thinking, specifically, of the dilemma facing the King, who’d like to keep his looming coronation low-key. Let’s move on from which family members should or should not be present to the crux of the matter: what, in god’s name, does one wear to be anointed these days?
Britain’s new king is signalling that he wants a slimmed-down monarchy. We’re told his May coronation will be “smaller” and “less expensive” than that of his late mother back in 1953. But such terms are relative when the act of popping a heavy crown on a young head all those years ago cost the equivalent of $82 million today.
As for “smaller”; seating stacked to the rafters meant the late Queen had more than 8000 in Westminster Abbey for her coronation. Her son wants to cull that back to about 2000 – on the one hand, removing the indignity of countesses having to clamber up to the cheap seats, and on the other, causing consternation across the realm as to who might need to dust off their tiara at all.
What’s certain is that those watching will expect a show. But given the calibre of the spectaculars laid on so recently for royal occasions, what should the costumes be this time? One needs to turn the wattage down, especially since so many of one’s subjects can barely afford to turn the electricity on. But one can’t command the necessary gravitas while wearing sweats, can one?
King Charles, as we know, is admirably “make do and mend”. While taller than his late mama, her coronation robe comes – handily – with a massive train which allows for letting the hems down. Alteration is so on trend. Should embroiderers be unpicking the E from the ER by royal appointment and reusing the golden thread to make CR? No matter if tiny stitch holes remain: visible mending is also super current.
But what of the ermine trim? Has one moved beyond decking one’s person in pelts? Strictly speaking, the choice is sustainable – those animals are long dead – but there’s Brand Buckingham to consider. Might a forward-thinker use faux? Perhaps a call – Palace to Paris – to request that Schiaparelli’s creative director despatch the lion’s head worn by Kylie Jenner at his recent show? It’s bold enough to be seen from the back of the Abbey, made from silk fake fur, and would amplify another key message for the good of the planet: borrowing is the new black.
It’s being said that the King shall not wear the silk stockings and breeches combo of coronation tradition. Good move: expecting a septuagenarian to dress up as a pantomime Prince Charming would be unwise, especially considering past controversies involving princes and costume parties stirred up by a certain recent memoir.
King Charles III, we’re told, will wear military uniform instead. Multiple re-wears underline a commitment to sustainability.
But hasn’t military regalia gone right out of fashion? The leader of a country engaged in an actual war, it should be noted, sports not a hint of braid; indeed, when Ukraine’s President Zelensky met the UK’s most senior royal recently, he was wearing – wait for it – sweats. With gravitas.
Sweats under second-hand royal robes, then? Well, the only fast rule of any style choice is that you won’t please all of the people all of the time. Even if, in this case, those commenting might technically be “one’s people”. Dress up or dress down?
Told you. It’s a tough call.