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All the Fashion at King Charles III’s Coronation, Explained

From the day-of dress code to British brands hopping on board, BoF breaks down all the sartorial details of the historic day.
Catherine, Princess of Wales and Prince William, Prince of Wales arrive at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.
Catherine, Princess of Wales and Prince William, Prince of Wales arrive at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. (Getty Images)

Key insights

  • The coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla was a scaled-back affair compared to its predecessors, with a less formal dress code.
  • Senior women in the royal family, such as the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh, did not wear tiaras, though historic items like the St. Edwards Crown were still used in the ceremony.
  • British brands also took part in the festivities, releasing limited-edition products and dressing up their storefronts in honour of the occasion.

When King Charles III and Queen Camilla were crowned on Saturday, they participated in a tradition dating back over 1000 years, wearing coronation robes and crown jewels that are nearly as historic.

Much else about the attire at the ceremony felt decidedly modern in comparison.

The first coronation in 70 years saw several shifts from the 1953 ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II, particularly when it comes to the dress code. Then, the members of the aristocracy who attended wore coronation robes and coronets — a small crown. Members of the royal family were decked out in the best bling the royal vault had to offer: weighty diamond necklaces and tiaras, on top of evening gowns and sashes bearing a slew of pins representing the ceremonial orders they had been awarded.

King Charles, however, is determined to be a monarch for the 21st century, and as such, gave the ceremony’s fashion a contemporary facelift. As was predicted, the fashion on Saturday was more like what you’d typically see at a royal wedding than a once-in-several-generations coronation. That’s true for everyone from the 2,000 guests (a major downsizing from Queen Elizabeth’s 8,000) to the senior members of the royal family.


The ceremonial dress code isn’t the only style change that’s happening around this year’s event. The past 70 years have seen an overhaul of the fashion industry, ushering in an age of larger-than-life marketing, product collaborations and speedy manufacturing. With that, more brands — particularly British labels — are capitalising on the coronation with special edition products and marketing stunts. At Sunday’s coronation concert at Windsor Castle — another modern innovation — expect to see British designers on the likes of performers such as Katy Perry and Nicole Scherzinger.

The timing of the coronation in the midst of a cost of living crisis in the UK, is thought to play a role in the scaling back of gilded excess. But it remains to be seen if the more pared-down approach fully satisfied those craving the pomp and ceremony they’ve come to expect from the royal family.

“A massive, expensive, over-the-top showcase of all the jewels would seem really inappropriate and tone deaf, but at t

he same time, without that glitz and the glamour, does the royal family lose something?” said royal fashion expert Christine Ross. “It’s an absolutely impossible situation.”

What Is the Coronation Dress Code?

While most attire has shifted from coronations past, King Charles and Queen Camilla remained decked out in their finest, including ermine-trimmed gold silk robes (though even those are sustainable — they’re recycled from the 1937 coronation of his grandfather, King George VI). Other notable pieces, like St. Edward’s Crown — a 1661 replica of the original made for Edward the Confessor, which was first used at the coronation of the last King Charles — in addition to the orb and sceptre, and a crown first made for Charles’ great-grandmother Queen Mary (which Camilla will be crowned with) will all be used. King Charles wore multi-layered ceremonial robes over a white shirt and black trousers (a break from tradition, which previously dictated silk stockings and breeches), while Bruce Oldfield, Queen Camilla’s favoured designer, made her embellished white coronation day gown.

For the rest of the attendees, it’s a different story. The bulk of guests wore suits and formal daywear, with accessories like fascinators, which have become synonymous with royal occasions. However, in a particularly casual move, hats were not required, said royal correspondent Emily Andrews, meaning the dress code will be less formal than what’s required at royal weddings. The King’s younger son, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, wore a custom morning suit from Dior, the brand confirmed on Instagram.

For senior members of the royal family, the men, like the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh, wore the military uniforms befitting their honorary posts underneath robes for the Order of the Garter. What the women will wear remains more of a mystery.

There was much speculation on the presence of tiaras on the heads of senior royal women. At coronations past, women of a similar rank to figures like the Princess of Wales or Duchess of Edinburgh would wear gowns and tiaras from the family’s extensive collection. But the Sunday prior to the event, Valentine Low, the royal correspondent for The Times of London, published a story stating that the Princess of Wales may forgo a tiara in favour of a flower crown. In a way, his reporting proved accurate: She wore a floral headpiece with beads and sequins made by Alexander McQueen with milliner Jess Collett. Her daughter, Princess Charlotte, wore a smaller, matching headpiece.


Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis with their mother the Princess of Wales
Their Majesties King Charles III And Queen Camilla - Coronation Day Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis with their mother the Princess of Wales (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Getty Images)

We did see other significant pieces of royal jewellery, as is customary at royal occasions. Most noteworthy was Queen Camilla’s “coronation necklace,” which features 25 diamonds including the 22.48 carat Lahore Diamond. It was first made for Queen Victoria in 1858 and has been worn by every queen to their coronation since. The Princess of Wales wore a pair of pearl and diamond earrings that belonged to Princess Diana.

Her white dress, worn under a purple-and-red robe signifying the Royal Victorian Order, was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, who made her wedding dress 12 years ago. The outfit also included nods to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and of course, Wales, with embroidery of roses, thistles, daffodils and shamrocks, each country’s national flower. Princess Charlotte also wore a white Alexander McQueen dress with a cape.

Even ahead of the coronation itself, rumours of the changes spurred a bit of a backlash online, with some arguing that the casual clothes aren’t befitting of the significant and rare occasion.

“There’s a bit of a disconnect. You’re going to be seeing Camilla and Charles and probably some of the most formal attire they will ever wear, with robes and crowns, and you’re going to see your royal women in an outfit that they might go to church in,” Andrews said.

As for the idea of a floral headpiece, she said: “This is a coronation. It is not Glastonbury.”

However, there’s was a last-minute change that helped up the fancy factor: while it had been reported earlier that hereditary peers and members of the House of Lords will not be wearing coronation robes, as is tradition, The Telegraph ran a story earlier this week claiming there has been a change, and they now would be permitted to do so. They were small in number during the ceremony, however.

The shifts all come in an attempt to make the event feel more like it’s designed for the British people and less out-of-touch than in the past. For example, for the first time, there will be a “homage of the people,” in which Britons will be invited to pledge their allegiance to the monarch, something normally reserved for peers alone. Though Andrews made the point that with the coronation festivities themselves an estimated £100 million ($125.9 million), changing the dress code will only do so much.

How Are British Fashion Brands Participating?

Outside of Westminster Abbey, British brands are celebrating the occasion too. The streets and shops of London are decked out with coronation-themed decorations, catering to the swell of tourists and locals who will be in London for the celebrations.


“The atmosphere is electric and very joyous,” said Paul Gauger, executive vice president for the Americas, Australia and New Zealand at Visit Britain. “It’s a moment in history and people just want to be there and take that in.”

Some brands are rolling out new products for the event. Burberry released a silk scarf in partnership with Highgrove, King Charles’ private countryside home, that depicts an image of the property’s gardens. Brands like LK Bennett and Kiki McDonough, both of which have been go-tos for the Princess of Wales, are selling jewellery pieces in honour of the coronation, while Asprey is selling a commemorative jewellery box in royal purple.

Major London shopping artery Regent Street is decked out in Union Jacks ahead of the Coronation on May 6.
Major London shopping artery Regent Street is decked out in Union Jacks ahead of the Coronation on May 6. (In Pictures via Getty Images/In Pictures via Getty Images)

London-based jewellery brand Annoushka, another favourite of the Princess of Wales, debuted a coronation-themed charm, a miniature version of the St. Edwards Crown, featuring rubies, sapphires and emeralds. It’s previously made charms for other royal events, like last year’s Platinum Jubilee. Only 100 charms were made, and each is stamped with the coronation hallmark. The brand’s founder Annoushka Ducas said that she’s seen interest in the product not just in the UK, but in the US and Asia, particularly Hong Kong.

“Jewellery is here forever, think about the crown jewels, which have been around for centuries,” she said. “It felt absolutely natural to do a charm to commemorate the coronation and celebrate something which is truly British.”

Along with the charm, the brand published a coronation-themed “newspaper” called the Annoushka Gazette, which features excerpts from Ducas’ podcast interview with Lady Anne Glenconner, a lady-in-waiting to the late Princess Margaret, plus images of members of the royal family wearing their products. It’ll be placed in hotels around the UK as well as VIP shopping suites in department stores around the coronation.

British brands are also likely to make an appearance at Sunday’s coronation concert at Windsor Castle, where performers like Lionel Richie and Katy Perry are set to take the stage.

“Higher end brands are jumping in on this celebration just as much as lower-scale brands; every shop has a coronation edit and the windows are conveniently dressed up red, white and blue,” said Ross. “There’s a real sense of nationalism and a cultural celebration of what it means to be British.”

Further Reading

Queen Elizabeth II’s Style Legacy

Britain’s longest reigning monarch has died. Her influence extended to the realm of fashion, where she invented the concept of “sartorial diplomacy.”

Have We Reached Peak Royalty?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey may have changed the way many perceive the royal family. But it likely won’t stop people from shopping like them.

Coronation Attire

About the author
Diana Pearl
Diana Pearl

Diana Pearl is News and Features Editor at The Business of Fashion. She is based in New York and drives BoF’s marketing and media coverage.

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