Camilla never had much interest in formal clothes, preferringjeans or old-fashioned country attire. She never showed the slightest sign of following fashion trends.
So the Queen has come a long way in a short space of time as her formal appearances now make clear, most notably in her carefully chosen wardrobe for the recent State Visit to France where, perhaps for the first time, she was acknowledged as looking the part.
Whether it was the Barbie pink outfit for her arrival or the deep blue Dior dress with gown and sapphires – Queen Elizabeth’s – that she wore to the state banquet, Camilla dressed with the right (and very careful) touch of drama that her new role demands. She looked regal.
Queen Camilla arrived in Paris in pink, a colour she hasn’t worn too much but she pulled it off beautifully with a Philip Treacy beret style hat
Camilla looking immaculate in her riding gear and taking a break whilst riding with the Beautfort Hunt in 1996
Camilla in jeans is a rare sight but she was suitably dressed for a pheasant shooting party at Sandringham House in November 2006
How did this come about? Camillas attitude towards clothes first changed as the 21st century began. She andPrince Charles steadily became accepted as a couple and Camilla knew she would be scrutinised.
‘She stepped up to the mark wonderfully,’ her younger sister Annabel said at the time.
But she did so cautiously – understandably so.
Like any girl from her rather well-heeled background, Camilla had always known how to dress up, of course, particularly when she’s been invited to grand social events.
But that is not the same thing as managing a vast and expensive wardrobe for public and ceremonial effect.
if she started not quite from zero, she had been no more than trundling in the fashion department – at a mere 10mph perhaps.
Many women would have leapt at the chance of overhauling their wardrobe, especially if there is no limit to the cost.
But Camilla took a whole year to work out her own image, consider the various demands that would be made on her and then dress to match.
Seemingly happier to make an impression with headgear, Camilla has chosen enormous hats with feathers or fascinators o to make sure she is seen.
Perhaps an easier choice for her than clothes.
Bruce Oldfield who became one of her favourite couture designers was particularly helpful, but he gave me an example of her great caution.
For years Camilla turned down anything pink, he explained, partly because she believed that Charles would dislike it, and stuck instead to creams, soft blues and greens.
Oldfield kept trying to persuade her and eventually she gave in – whereupon it turned out that Charles loved the colour and thought she looked great.
Hence the confidence for the Barbie-like pink outfit for her visit to France. It could have been a risky fashionable choice but she looked terrific.
There was another change in her approach when she became queen, just over one year ago.
Before, Camilla had rarely taken chances, particularly if she was accompanying her husband or was a patron of the group she was visiting.
To be on the safe side she usually chose dark blue dresses that look a bit teacher like but are easy to move about in.
Now she knows that she will be seen – and, indeed, must be seen to fulfil her role as consort to the monarch. And that in turn means embracing a touch of regal theatricality.
On a scorching hot Ascot day, Camilla was a dream in cream and the matching cream feathered hat resulted in a perfect outfit that looked both beautiful and practical with the heat
The Queen’s mint coloured featheared hat on day three of Ascot was a stunning sight and she teamed it beautifully with a matching dress and a pearl necklace
Camilla came into a little difficulty when alighting the aircraft in Paris, due to strong winds, but she just about managed to hold on to her hat and keep her Fiona Clare skirt from flying up
But none of this can be comfortable for a woman who, even on formal occasions, prefers to walk around in comfy ‘bunion busting’ court shoes.
It certainly can’t be easy to step down from an aircraft while holding on to a hat plus bag in a stiff breeze in high heels,.
The point is that she’s had to learn, and I’m confident it’s not been easy.More proof, perhaps, of how far she is prepared to go to keep her husband happy
- Camilla by Angela Levin is published by Simon and Schuster