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Anne at 70: the Princess Royal’s style

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She’s known for her practical, down to earth approach in all walks of life and fashion is no different for the Princess Royal. In an age when royal fashion is a major focus, the princess prefers to make her wardrobe work for her, rewearing old favourites and taking one suit to multiple engagements in a day. However, it wasn’t always that way. For a while, Princess Anne was the royal fashion icon that everyone watched. As she celebrates her 70th birthday, Royal Central looks at the style of the Princess Royal.

Sixties Style

The Sixties was the decade that Princess Anne began her royal career. She turned 18 in 1968 and with her A-Levels under her belt, she headed off on a lifetime of royal duties. At that point, she was the princess whose style everyone wanted to see.

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Anne took part in her first State Visit when she was just eighteen, accompanying her parents to Austria. She made her State Banquet debut in a white dress with plenty of Sixties crochet detail at the top. It’s also a tiara moment as the princess debuted in a diadem, choosing an all diamond creation with a key, or meander, design which had belonged to her paternal grandmother, Princess Alice.

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One of her most famous outfits from the decade was worn in July 1969 when she joined the Royal Family at Caernarvon Castle for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales. Anne was in blue with a rather modest version of a mini skirted coat and a hat that was almost as big as the one worn by her granny, the Queen Mother.

Seventies Chic

Princess Anne was arguably the royal fashion style icon of the Seventies, making several appearances on the front cover of Vogue while she was about it.

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While we’re used to seeing Anne with that famous updo, which she does herself and which stays in place no matter what, she was more likely to let her hairdown in the Seventies which is perhaps what adds to the rockstar vibe of this outfit. White trouser suit, luminous wing collar and a chain make this a 70s style to remember.

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Unsurprisingly, considering her reputation for no nonsense, Anne wasn’t one to shy away from the psychedelic prints that came to define the whole decade. This pattern, quite possibly visible from space, was chosen for a village fete in the middle of the decade and the princess liked it so much she even added an extra touch to her hat.

Let’s Do the Eighties

By the start of the 1980s, Anne had already shown her dedication to royal duty far outweighed her interest in clothes. Her royal wardrobe became more low key and attracted less interest as Diana, Princess of Wales and later Sarah, Duchess of York became the focus of fashion followers.

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Perhaps Anne’s most famous 80s outfit was the vibrant print dress she chose for the marriage of Charles and Diana in July 1981. It was one of the stand out looks from the guests that day, made even more memorable by the fabulous, floral fascinator style hat she paired it with.

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The Princess Royal might not have been the ultimate style setter in the 80s but she still embraced some of the biggest trends of the decade. Here’s she seen at a garden party in a two piece suite featuring puff sleeves, padded shoulders, a peplum and that favourite 80s style statement, monochrome.

Now it’s the Nineties

The last decade of the 20th century saw Anne’s ever more packed diary propel her to the top of the hardest working royals list. The 1990s also marked her departure into a working wardrobe that became timeless rather than on trend.

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The princess was just as likely to be seen in casual country clothes as in a new suit or dress. This combination, complete with that House of Windsor staple, the headscarf, was as much Anne in the 90s as any other look. Princess Practical was well and truly established.

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That’s not to say that Anne couldn’t have some fashion fun when she chose to. As her baby brother, Prince Edward, got married to Sophie Rhys-Jones in June 1999, the princess chose a striking mint green two piece with full length skirt that is elegant in the extreme. Note the pearl button that matches her choker and the almost flirty feather fascinator.

Change of Century

A new century brought a new focus on Anne and a new push to put the focus on royal work rather than fashion.

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Anne’s main style statements tended to come at major racing events, like Cheltenham where she could add a hat to her striking outfits. In 2009, she attended Royal Ascot in orange.

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The Princess Royal saw her only son marry in 2008 and for the marriage of Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly, Anne chose brown. Her mother of the groom outfit featured a dress with long pleated skirt and a rather stylish jacket in palest caramel.

The Ultimate Royal Recycler

As she approached her 70th birthday, Anne was better known for rewearing past creations than debuting new looks. Her hardworking attitude to royal life has won her legions of fans in the 2010s who all get to enjoy the ultimate royal style recycler.

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This white coat with navy detailing is a real favourite with Anne who’s been wearing it for at least three decades now. It’s a particular favourite for garden parties, such as this celebration for the Not Forgotten Association, of which she is patron, in 2015.

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At one of her last public engagements before lockdown in 2020, the Princess Royal rewore a green dress and jacket combination that has been a staple in her wardrobe for years as she presented the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design at London Fashion Week to Rosh Mahtani. Wearing what makes you feel good and staying true to your own sense of chic is what real style is all about. Over the past half a century, the Princess Royal has proved that she has it in abundance.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton, a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. June has been a reporter, producer and editor, picking up several awards over the years. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.