Attention please – there is a new royal fashion queen in town and it’s not who you might expect. Over the years, poll after poll has told us who the most stylish royals are, and one woman keeps floating to the top of them. The Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex or Queen Letizia of Spain may get the most headlines, but Sophie often comes out on top. The hardworking and underrated Countess of Wessex is, of course, the most stylish royal in the world.
That’s not just my opinion though I do think that Sophie looks great. But putting together the polls that have been conducted over the years, hers is the name that keeps appearing in the top spots. And she’s leaving the rest of the royal fashion pack behind.
It’s been a silent surge to the top. As soon as a royal style poll comes out, we all jump on it to see where the familiar fashion favourites fall. There’s a scurry to scan the statistics to see how Kate or Meghan have fared or to compare Letizia, Maxima or Victoria. There are names on the royal chic list that are always returned to but that often means the real regal style influencers are being overlooked. Enter Sophie, stage right, in a hat we all want to wear once we’ve actually focused on her.
But anyone who’s watched the countess in action in the past year or so won’t be at all surprised to see her rise up the ranks. Her wardrobe, filled with designs by names including Alexander McQueen, Emilia Wickstead and Diane von Furstenburg, has won plenty of admiring glances and positive comments. Her elegance often goes under the radar but she regularly pulls great looks out of the bag. But it’s also clear that Sophie isn’t just picking something off the rail because she needs to. All great style relies on a sense of self and an innate identity that the wearer is happy to let everyone else see. Great fashion is about wearing what you want and not what you think others believe you should choose. Sophie does all that. It’s sometimes bemusing to see her passed over as an afterthought and gratifying to see her sense of style recognized at last.
But it’s also great to see a fifty something leading the way because I’ve always thought these polls on style are slightly ageist. Royal women approaching that concoction of confusion that we label middle age find themselves passed over when it comes to style. Once the numbers after your name creep towards 60, you can forget anything other than the word ‘classic’ being applied to anything you wear. It is a ridiculous oversight. There’s little doubt that The Queen is one of the most stylish people in the world. Her clothes tick all the boxes on these surveys – classy, appropriate, well made and with enough new about them to catch the eye – and yet she’s rarely featured. Queen Sonja of Norway is in her eighties but she always looks fabulous with a sense of identity missing in many. The chances of finding her on a best dressed list are close to zero. The whole point of fashion and style is appearance and yet concrete evidence of looking fabulous, placed before the eyes of millions of beholders, is pushed to one side in the endless and ultimately pointless pursuit of youth. The fact that Sophie is winning so many votes just after turning fifty is great.
Let’s face it, a lot of what Sophie does is overlooked. Not that it seems to bother the quiet and clever countess one bit. She is among the busiest members of the House of Windsor, supporting a wide range of organisations and causes close to her heart and well aware that the chance to help is a joy that many would love to have and which privilege has presented to her.
It’s also a reality that we judge royalty on how they look. The interest in regal fashion might ebb and flow but for centuries, how the royals appear has mattered. Fashion and style is an integral part of the formation of a successful royal image and has been used by ruling dynasties since they first got their feet under the throne. So if we are going to judge them on how they look, then we should at the very least open our eyes a bit more. Sophie is a style supremo and that’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. All hail Sophie, the world’s most stylish royal.