Style: Elizabeth, the original sustainable fashion influencer

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Long before the term "sustainable fashion" entered the lexicon, the Queen was already making considered, quiet, responsible clothing choices.

Although it's Catherine, Princess of Wales, who has earned a positive reputation as a re-wearer of her outfits, which are paid for by the royal family, the habit was already part of the Queen's fashion manifesto more than 60 years ago.

One of Elizabeth's most famous "rewears" even occurred in Australia, during the 1954 royal tour, where she donned the iconic wattle gown by Hartnell not once but twice, something celebrities in the Kardashian era would never dream of doing.

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But the Queen wasn't just a "regular" celebrity, and the royal family aren't just fashion plates. Everything they wear has careful consideration and meaning. Royal fashion has its own signature (and rules, oh, the rules!), and for many years now, sustainability has been one of its core tenets.

One only needs to search for "Queen rewearing outfits" to find a plethora of articles devoted to the occasions when Her Majesty gave her outfits a second or third life. But never more; royal protocol prohibits the monarch from wearing an outfit more than a few times before it is "retired" from public view, according to author Elizabeth Holmes, who wrote the 2020 book HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style.

One lesser-known fact about the Queen's wardrobe is that after a garment is no longer needed, the monarch's dressers had first dibs on it. Then, it was up to them whether to keep it for themselves or sell it, on the condition all identifying labels were first removed, according to Brian Hoey, author of the 2011 book Not in Front of the Corgis.

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This act alone would qualify the Queen as a champion of sustainable fashion but, as author Lucianne Tonti says, her contribution was multifaceted.

"Loving our clothes and wearing them more is at the heart of sustainable dressing because we have to reduce our consumption to curb fashion's enormous carbon footprint," says the author of Sundressed: Natural fibres and the future of fashion. "The queen often repeated outfits, including custom-made gowns and is rumoured to have had her signature handbag repaired repeatedly to extend its life. Perhaps she is the original sustainable fashion influencer."

The Queen's dresser of 20 years, Angela Kelly, revealed in her own book, The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And The Wardrobe, that sometimes, outfits that have "become familiar to the media" would be freshened up through alterations, or moved to Elizabeth's private wardrobe at one of the royal residences.

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"Her Majesty is always thrifty and likes her clothes to be adapted and recycled as much as possible," Kelly wrote.

More recently, the Queen was involved in a rather public display of sustainable fashion: the re-fashioning of her wedding dress for her granddaughter Princess Beatrice's own nuptials. Tonti says everyone can take a leaf from the Queen's book in this regard. "Taking care of beautiful things and passing them onto family and friends is also a wonderful way to engage in fashion consciously," she says.

One thing is for certain: King Charles has inherited his mother's passion for sustainable fashion. In a 2020 interview with British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, the now-King extolled his passion for "buy once, buy well". "I'm one of those people who hates throwing anything away, or wasting it ... I'd rather have them repaired, even patched if necessary."

Charles has been a vocal advocate of circular economies, so it remains to be seen whether he and Camilla Queen Consort look at modernising some of the more archaic royal fashion rules that aren't at the cutting edge of sustainability. When we start seeing Camilla wearing outfits four, five or six times, carefully spaced out of course, we will know the transformation is well underway.

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