24 December 2013

Programming Note: Holiday Hiatus!

Happy holidays, my dears! The blog is on hiatus until the new year.

23 December 2013

Year in Review: 2013's Honorable Mentions (...and Some Worsts)

We tackled the bests from the roster of royal women usually featured here, but they weren't the only ones accomplishing feats of sartorial splendor in 2013. Today's honorable mentions are for the stand outs among the rest of the royal crew! Excellent looks, plain and simple, left to right:
  • Princess Charlene is trying, bless her heart, and she seems to know that purple and jewels are the quickest way to my heart. She simply killed it with this appearance.
  • Speaking of killing it, the Countess of Wessex had an amazing year. Take your pick - this red number was just one of several bests.
  • Princess Marie's sleek take on a Little Red Dress also needs to join my best list.
  • I can't always pinpoint what I love about an appearance, and Princess Caroline's simple black dress is one such situation. Maybe it's the slightly longer necklace? Whatever it is, I thought she looked absolutely tremendous here.
  • It wouldn't be a favorites list for me if it didn't include some Elie Saab, so Princess Madeleine's pre-wedding sparkles will cover me quite nicely there.
  • Likewise, I require a dose of the couture mastery of Sheikha Mozah, so we'll go with this Valentino in the Netherlands.
  • Plus, the Duchess of Cornwall got to make her big foreign royal event debut. I really enjoyed seeing her out and about this year, more and more regal and ready to step up when the time comes.
And just a few sentimental favorites, because it isn't all about the fashion...even here.
  • Queen-to-Princess Beatrix was full of win this year, particularly the strong front she formed with Princess Mabel as they said goodbye to Prince Friso. On a more superficial note, the fact that she added an extra row of pearls to her big pearl tiara for the first time in a long time on her final night as queen wins all the things.
  • The return of Crown Princess Masako to the international royal stage was completely lovely, and I hope we'll see more of her to come.
  • WEE ESTELLE is my spirit animal. That is all.

And...The Worsts
Wouldn't be a proper year end wrap up without one last glimpse back at what made us cringe this year, would it? And then we never have to think about them again. Until one of these women decides to haunt us with a reappearance, that is.
  • Princess Märtha Louise set the standard for the worst list early in the year in this number.
  • Queen Máxima did a particularly bad thing with an ill-fitting dress and some black stockings recently, but for me, this Valentino (which she is the third royal to wear) is the year's true crime. It's the one time a tiara actually made things worse.
  • Crown Princess Mary also wore the H&M mullet dress sported by Crown Princess Mette-Marit, but the addition of heavy black tights, SHOOTIES, and a jacket is such a peculiar look. She's managed to be both blergh and baffling, all at once.
  • Princess Charlene at Princess Madeleine's wedding looks less a mess than the rest of those in this row, that is true - but. But. This one makes me sad. It's not just that she didn't wear a tiara to a tiara event, it's that this dress really could have used a tiara. Something, anything, to liven up this drab color which felt like a thud on the red carpet of a summer royal wedding.
Who makes your list of honorable mentions and worsts this year?

Photos: Getty Images/PA/Scanpix/Kungahuset/ANP

19 December 2013

Year in Review: 2013's Bests From Our Regulars

We have a handful of leading ladies around here that we follow regularly, and now it's time to reminisce about the best they looked this whole year - one of my favorite things to do. So! Much! Pretty!

I always enjoy going back through the year as a refresher, but in truth, I'm looking for the outfits that made such an impression they require absolutely no refresher. We're talking about the best of the whole year, after all. And you guessed it, those often come from those extra special events. These are my personal favorites, one for each lady...

Queen Máxima
Look at that, I'm sneaking two in right away: I think the glory that was Queen Máxima on inauguration day deserves a second best, which is excellent because I've recently decided that I am just as enchanted by the lace gown she wore during the evening celebrations as I was by the caped wonder she sported for the inauguration ceremony. (Both by Jan Taminiau, of course.) We know now that she has dipped back to her old ways in the months since, but never mind. We'll always have April 30th.

Queen Mathilde
Mathilde took a much lower key approach to her outfit the day her husband became king, but the official portrait they released included all the regal fierceness you could want: a simple Natan gown done in a strong color which played beautifully off of the purple of her Order of Leopold, a mega diamond brooch, and a new-to-her tiara development in the form of the bandeau from the Nine Provinces Tiara. A queen indeed!

Crown Princess Victoria
This one is easy. Soooo easy. Victoria's stunning Fadi El Khoury gown at her sister's wedding has certainly earned a spot on my list of all-time royal faves, right up there with Máxima's double best. Plus, everyone knows that WEE ESTELLE and a purse- and pacifier-toting Prince Daniel are the ultimate accessories. We got some jewel news out of it, too: this was a first appearance for Victoria in Lilian's Laurel Wreath Tiara and in the necklace Lilian so loved to wear.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit
Another number from Madeleine's wedding, Mette-Marit and her Emilio Pucci gown paired with her amethyst tiara. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: all this one has to do is bust out a train in pastel and there's a 95% chance I'll be sold.

Crown Princess Mary
Mary's Birgit Hallstein gown for the pre-inauguration dinner in the Netherlands took my breath away when she wore it, and it still does. Just so darn elegant. Add this to the list of all-time faves.

Princess Letizia
I'm surprising myself here, but the heart wants what it wants. This is the lone best of the year that came from a regular event (an audience) and not a big fancy special occasion. And yet there's something about her Felipe Varela combo that just sticks - it's classic, but the animal print makes sure it still has that Letizia stamp on it.

The Duchess of Cambridge
As much as I would like to put her second-ever tiara appearance here, we don't know much about what that dress looked like! I'm going with wee George's christening instead, in custom cream Alexander McQueen.

Yes, we will have a look at some bests from other ladies (and also some worsts...), so stay tuned for those. Until then:

Which outfits make your list of personal bests for our leading ladies this year?

Photos: Getty Images/Jan Taminiau/Belgian Monarchy/Fadi El Khoury/Felipe Varela/PA

18 December 2013

Year in Review: 2013's Royal Brides

As we continue to wrap up 2013's sartorial happenings, a look back at the lovely royal (and royal-adjacent, etc.) brides we covered here this year - because a royal wedding gown is always a highlight, no?

You could give me Elie Saab any day of the week and I'd be a happy camper, so obviously Claire comes out ahead for me in the 2013 bridal race. But we had a great variety this year and I'm guessing there's something here for everyone, so tell me:

Which royal wedding ensemble was your favorite this year?

Photos: Petra/Pool/Scanpix/The Ismaili/Palais Princier/Cour grand-ducale/Getty Images

17 December 2013

Year in Review: 2013's Happenings

It's time to start wrapping up the year! (Yes! Already.) Let's begin with a glance back at some of the big royal events of the year. Oh, nostalgia...

Abdications Galore!

Video: Willem-Alexander's inauguration
The Year of the Abdication started with a surprise announcement from the Pope and just kept rolling on: the Dutch, Qatari, and Belgian thrones all changed hands this year. For sheer royal fun, the inauguration of Willem-Alexander has to reign supreme.

Hello, George!

Video: The Cambridges leave the hospital
The birth of Prince George was this year's designated royal event to pull major headlines all around - you couldn't escape it if you tried!


Video: Princess Madeleine marries Christopher O'Neill
We'll have a closer look at the brides of 2013, but a handful of royal weddings drew extra attention, including those of Princess Madeleine, Prince Félix, and Prince Jaime. Special nod to Madeleine and those wonderful Scandinavian royal weddings with all their gorgeous tiaras, of course.


Video: The Queen's coronation anniversary service
Last year was dominated by Jubilee celebrations and this year held a few notable anniversaries too, such as Queen Elizabeth II celebrating the 60th anniversary of her coronation, and King Carl XVI Gustaf celebrating his 40th year on the throne.

All this and so much more, including all the events we get to enjoy annually! Not a bad year, I'd say.

What was your favorite royal event of 2013?

13 December 2013

Wedding Wednesday (on a Friday): December Brides

Let me sneak this in here since we had a Nobel Wednesday - the last in our series of monthly bride reviews! And just a short list to take us out...

December 4, 1999
Our newest king and queen in a year of monarchy switcheroos.

December 6, 2008
These two (she's a niece of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg) welcomed a second son this year.

December 7, 1976
These two might be my favorites from this list, because awwww.

The Princess Royal and Commander Tim Laurence
December 12, 1992
Appropriate for a small second wedding (for her), yes, but also so very Anne - the exact same case, in fact, as her much larger first wedding, as mentioned in last month's overview.

December 15, 1960
If you want a queenly wedding gown, this is it.

December 21, 1959
This one's got the pomp factor too, but not quite the same gravitas as Fabiola's gown, I think.

King Hussein of Jordan and Alia Baha Ad-Din Touqan
December 24, 1972
This was the king's third marriage, and it ended tragically: Alia was killed in a helicopter crash in 1977. Their children include Princess Haya, who we see around here whenever the races are on.

December 29, 1983
Another tragic end here, I'm afraid: Stefano was killed in a speed boat crash in 1990. Their daughter Charlotte should be having a baby of her own soon.

Who's your favorite December bride? 

Photos: Rex/Getty Images/TimeLife/Royal Household/Palais Princier

12 December 2013

Tiara Thursday: The Japanese Crown Princess Scroll Tiara

The Japanese Crown Princess Scroll Tiara
The Japanese tiara best known today as the diadem worn by Masako Owada during the events surrounding her wedding to Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993 played a previous role in another important imperial wedding: the 1959 marriage of Michiko Shōda to Crown Prince Akihito, today the Emperor and Empress, and Naruhito’s parents. The Japanese court isn’t exactly forthcoming about many tiara histories, but we can trace this tiara back at least that far.
Michiko (3, left) and Masako (2, right)
The tiaras worn by the Japanese imperial ladies are always made of white stones, mostly diamonds with some pearls, and this all diamond number is no exception. It’s a large diadem in an exaggerated scroll design, and – again like most other tiaras from this family – it is part of a parure, including a perfectly matched necklace.

Video: Masako with Naruhito, during the tiara-wearing portion of her wedding day. Click here for another look, also including video of Michiko wearing the tiara.
Empress Michiko wore it on her wedding day (the celebrations include traditional Japanese dress but also include parts in Western dress) and continued to wear it for events in the years following. When her eldest son married, she turned the set over to the new Crown Princess, so at least for now we have a bit of a Crown Princess tradition going. Masako began wearing it for her wedding celebrations and then continued to wear it at other tiara occasions, such as the annual New Year’s event and state banquets.

Video: Masako can be seen wearing the tiara at around 0:30 in this series of clips
Unfortunately, it’s been a number of years since we have seen the Crown Princess Scroll Tiara. We rarely see Masako in a tiara since she withdrew from much of her public life after she began suffering from what has been termed an “adjustment disorder,” popularly speculated to have been caused by the strict life of the Japanese imperial court and the intense pressure to produce a much-needed heir. (The couple welcomed a daughter, Aiko, eight years after their marriage, but only males are eligible to inherit the throne. Discussion of changing the policy halted when Naruhito’s brother, Prince Akishino, and his wife had a son.) We do occasionally see her arriving for the New Year’s event in the car, but for the past few years she has chosen her second tiara – a pearl-tipped fringe that was also worn by Michiko – for that job. Masako, who celebrated her 50th birthday this week, has been showing signs of improvement, notably traveling to the inauguration in the Netherlands earlier this year. So perhaps there is hope that we might see a full return of Masako, and this tiara, at some point in the future.

How do you rate this scroll tiara?

Photos: Imperial Household Agency/Corbis

11 December 2013

Tiara Watch: The Nobel Prizes, 2013

The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is one of the most glittering occasions of the year - usually. This year was a bit sparse, though, because two of the royal ladies had to miss the event: Princess Madeleine declined due to her advanced pregnancy, and Crown Princess Victoria instead flew to South Africa to attend the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. (Don't you just hate when people remind you that there are things more important than sparkle and frill?!) The King, Queen, Prince Daniel, and Prince Carl Philip made up a small group on the stage.

We did still get our required tiara alert, though. Actually, make that a Party Antler Alert.
Queen Silvia opted for a Nobel favorite, the Nine Prong Tiara (this was predictable, since she gave us the sapphires last year). Ye Olde Pronger may not be my favorite, but even I have to admit it brings the sparkle - as does Silvia's dress, a repeat from Princess Madeleine's pre-wedding dinner. It still has a bit of the figure skater feel to it thanks to that top, but I like to imagine she was just trying to give us as much flash as she could since she was carrying things without her daughters.

Video: The entrance to the banquet, and some sparkle in action. The award ceremony in full can be viewed by clicking here.
Well, she wasn't entirely alone, of course: Princess Christina was there! (The King's sister is a regular attendee, along with her husband, but they sit in the audience and not on the stage for the ceremony.) She wore the Six Button Tiara - again, not one of my favorites, but also again, completely predictable. She seems to stick to either the Cut Steel Tiara or the larger button thing. And she happens to be one that can make the buttons look okay, so that works out.

And though they don't have any tiaras associated with their part of the Nobel Prizes, we'll add here the Norwegian contribution. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in Oslo, and again a reduced royal group was on hand. We would usually see the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, but Mette-Marit is still in recovery and Haakon was also in South Africa for the Mandela memorial, so the King and Queen went solo.
Click here to view the entire ceremony.
Sonja did hold down the fort in her smart red and black, though. Basic, but you'll note she threw in some hat sparkle, just for us (let's pretend).

Update: Victoria returned in time for the second tiara event of the Swedish Nobels, and she brought a surprise:
She's wearing bits of the Cameo parure for the first time since her wedding! It makes a surprisingly good pairing with the Cut Steel Tiara, though it makes me long for the Cameo Tiara to be worn again. (And for the record, I like the idea of that dress, which is a repeat...I just think it's unfortunate that it's also a dress that speculation lovers adore as well. A reminder: our comment policy around here requests that you avoid the pregnancy speculation.) Silvia wore the Connaught Tiara, and Christina wore the Six Button Tiara for the second night in a row.

Photos: SVT/Getty Images/Nobel Prize/Scanpix/Tt

10 December 2013

Weekly Royal Fashion Awards: December 4-9

The Duchess of Cambridge
Video: William and Kate attend the London premiere of "Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom"
Look, I find this outfit rather baffling, but the whole thing takes on an extra unimportant tone considering the death of the great Nelson Mandela was announced while they were at this premiere. William's short statement when they left is included in the video above. (Kate also paid a visit to a children's hospice, smartly wearing trousers to avoid any precarious situations when crouching to kid level. Click here for some video cuteness.)

Queen Máxima
Attending a concert given in Princess Beatrix's honor
Well, the outfit above is nothing compared to the level of bafflement this brings. From the unflattering bands to the messy skirt to the overly dark stockings - I just can't.

Best of the Rest
Crown Princess Mette-Marit
Mathilde visits Hong Kong (this was my favorite from the trip - click here for a nice video featuring more), Haakon and Mette-Marit at a meeting, Victoria pays a visit to discuss bioenergy, Mary hosts a holiday reception for her foundation
Some lovely business happening here, but the winner has to be Mette-Marit - she's alive! (She's been out of commission for weeks due to a neck problem that required surgery, if you haven't been following your Norwegian royal news.)

Who was your best dressed last week?

Photos: Raad van State/RTL/Kronprinsparet Fond/Lehtikuva/Maryfonden

06 December 2013

Readers' Ultimate Tiara Collection: The End

It's been a yearlong tiara voting extravaganza, and now it's time to bring it to a close.

Inspired by multiple reader requests for features on groups and types of tiaras, you have voted in different categories throughout the year to assemble something of an "ultimate tiara collection" of your own, consisting of 20 tiaras. The categories were pulled from those reader requests, plus impressions based on famous large tiara collections and general tiara variety.

Here is your collection in full:
Diamond Fringe: Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik Tiara
Big Gun: The Braganza Tiara
Aquamarine: The Hesse Aquamarine Tiara
Ruby: The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara
Emerald: The Duchess of Angoulême's Emerald Tiara
Pearl Drop and Pearl: The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara, The Ancona Tiara
Sapphire: The Dutch Sapphire Tiara
Amethyst and Turquoise: Queen Mary's Amethyst Tiara, The Persian Turquoise Tiara
Diamond Floral (Nature) Motif: The Floral Aigrette Tiara
Convertible: The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara
 Small: The Dutch Diamond Bandeau
Diamond Other Motif and Diamond Wildcard: The Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara, The Fife Tiara
Other Material: The Cameo Tiara
Modern: The Midnight Tiara
Wildcards: The Poltimore Tiara, Queen Victoria's Emerald and Diamond Tiara, Queen Victoria's Sapphire Coronet
The category names above are links to each winner announcement, each post containing links to the winning tiara(s), runners up, and to the voting post for that category.

And that's it! My thanks to those that have played along in the spirit in which this was intended: for a simple bit of fun, where who wins and who doesn't isn't really the point. Now, if you've been playing along, allow me to ask:

What's in your personal ultimate collection?

Photos: Getty Images/Corbis/Sotheby's/Royal Household/Scanpix

05 December 2013

Tiara Thursday: The Duchess of Windsor's Emerald Bead Tiara

I’ve received quite a few questions over time about the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson, 1896-1986) and tiaras. Though we might not immediately associate her with tiaras, she was occasionally spotted with some sort of sparkling headgear, today’s tiara being perhaps the closest she came to the royal tiara realm as we know it.
The tiara she’s wearing here was created for her by Cartier in 1949 and is actually a necklace made to do double duty as a tiara when required. The base is a row of emerald beads which were already in her jewel collection; the top features diamond loops in double rows, the diamonds supplied by Cartier. A basically identical piece had been made for Cartier’s stock in the same year (shown below). She wore her version just a few times in tiara form - the Duchess of Windsor may have been known for her magnificent jewel collection, but tiaras were not a big part of her bedazzled self.
The Cartier stock piece
That impressive collection (which was auctioned after her death to benefit charity, and parts of which continue to come up for sale from time to time – including a current Sotheby’s auction) was comprised of some seriously modern pieces, commissioned by both the Duchess and the Duke from noted jewelers like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. They were a fashionable couple and were concerned with remaining fashionable, so it’s no surprise the Duchess reset her jewels as necessary to stay current. But some have suggested that their modern taste was backed by more than just an aesthetic concern - it was a conscious break from the traditional styles of the royal collection Wallis would never get to wear.
Considering things from that perspective, it’s no wonder tiaras didn’t feature regularly. This necklace/tiara is a nice compromise, I think: interesting and eye-catching in its use of emerald beads, modern and clean in design, but also an unmistakably royal shape when worn as a tiara.

Do you like this little tiara compromise?

Photos: National Portrait Gallery/Cartier Ltd

04 December 2013

Weekly Royal Fashion Awards: November 20-December 3

Most Improved
Queen Máxima
Visiting Colombia and Venezuela; returning home for more engagements including celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (4th, 5th, 6th from left). At far right, her mixed print look on the Spijkers en Spijkers runway.
Some of the things worn during Máx's tour of the Caribbean (her tour, yup - I think she may have brought a date) were a bit dubious - which was why I was happy to see her move on to a couple quick country visits and then home once again. I can't even get mad at her ridiculous, ridiculous sleeve action because I thought her makeup was so on point. Of course, she had to throw us a loop at the end, nabbing a look straight from the runway, unfortunate neck scarf and all.

Best in Fine
These Ladies
Letizia in Valencia and at an awards ceremony; Kate at a gala; Mathilde at a palace event and on an official visit to Luxembourg; Victoria at a seminar; Mary at a school
Well, this is obviously not comprehensive (none of it is, ever), but there was a lot of just fine work going on while I was on hiatus. I mean, fine. Nod. Approve. Forget. I did have a few favorites, including any sort of simple dress (Letizia, Mathilde), and Mary's turn there struck me with a spot of extra elegance. I also can't help but love Grand Duchess Maria Teresa for turning up the volume to welcome the Belgians - the hair! Now that's a thing of beauty. (See a video on the visit here.)

Tiara Watch!
Sweden warmed up for their sparkling Nobel festivities with an official dinner featuring Queen Silvia in the Connaught Tiara and some amethysts (YUM) and Crown Princess Victoria in the Cut Steel Tiara - with that repeated metallic Jenny Packham dress, she must have been one sparkly sight to see.

And that's all that happened in tiara news, I think. Right, guys? (Ha.) Anyway, discussion on the Duchess of Cambridge's front page-making tiara jaunt and which pieces she wore is happening over at the Jewel Vault.

And an Honorable Mention to...
Prince Harry

Video: Harry talks about breaking his toe in advance of his South Pole trek
Last but not least, here's a bearded Harry being cute in Antarctica, because I care.

Who's your best dressed?

Photos: ANP/PPE/Pool/DutchPhotoPress/Getty Images/Spijkers en Spijkers/Casa Real/PA/RTL/IBL/Abaca/Scanpix/Kungahuset

02 December 2013

Readers' Ultimate Tiaras: Your Last Vote Winners!

For the final vote in our little tiara fest, I asked you to pick three tiaras the ultimate collection couldn't live without. The results? Well, some of our permanent bridesmaids finally get to walk down the sparkly aisle:

Poor Polty took two runner up spots in the diamond other and wildcard categories, and the convertible category; the sapphire was a runner up in the small category and the sapphire category; the emerald nearly stole the emerald competition, but couldn't pull it off. But they've come together to make three last British-flavored entries to your ultimate collection.

And your runners up, for a full list of ten:
4. The Chaumet Blue Enamel Kokoshnik, a near miss from the unusual materials category.
5. The Diamond Daisy Tiara, one last chance for a Norwegian entry and a smaller entry.
6. The Cut Steel Tiara, another unusual material near miss.
7. The Leuchtenberg Sapphire Parure Tiara, with a delectable parure to match.
8. Queen Sophie's Diamond Tiara, another big gun runner up.
9. The Baden Fringe Tiara, a spiky fringe to contrast to the tame one already in your collection.
10. The Portland Sapphire Tiara, because blue seems to have been a bit of a theme here.

Stay tuned - on Friday, we will have a proper wrap up of the whole shebang!

Photos: Getty/Collection/Geoffrey Munn/Royal Court of Norway/Polfoto