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39 photos that show how Queen Elizabeth's style has evolved over the years

Tech Insider logo Tech Insider 21/04/2017 Caroline Praderio

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Queen Elizabeth II turns 91 years old on Friday, April 21. During her 65-year reign, the monarch has outlasted 14 British prime minsters, 13 US presidents — and decades of wild fashion trends. 

But the queen has never been one to leap from one clothing fad to the next. Instead, she floats above the ever-shifting world of fashion, adopting only the trends that suit her timeless, practical style. She's not a great wardrobe experimenter — but she's still a sartorial icon.

"The queen transcends fashion," Caroline de Guitaut, who's curated exhibitions of the queen's clothing, once told Vogue. "But her clothes continue to reflect it."

Here's a look at how her style has changed over the years. 

Princess Elizabeth was born in 1926. It seems her love for hats started at a very young age.

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Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret wore matching outfits in many of their childhood photos.

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The young princesses kept on coordinating as they grew up.

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In 1944, Princess Elizabeth turned 18, and posed for this portrait with her parents.

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By 1947, she was looking more grown up — and there were big changes in store for her personal life.

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That was the year she got engaged to Philip Mountbatten, of the Greek and Danish royal families.

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The pair were married in November. Elizabeth wore a dress made by famous British designer Norman Hartnell. It was embroidered with pearls, silver thread, and crystals.

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Elizabeth famously used ration coupons to pay for the dress materials, since the country was still struggling in the financial aftermath of World War II.

Elizabeth and Philip have now been married for 69 years. Fun fact: They are also distantly related.

Hartnell also dressed Elizabeth for her coronation in June 1953.

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"The queen and queen mother do not want to be fashion setters," Hartnell once said, according to the New York Times. "That's left to other people with less important work to do."

But the original photos simply don't do this dress justice. Here it is on display at Buckingham Palace in 2013.

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It's hard to see from a distance, but the dress featured symbolic embroidery: roses for England, thistles for Scotland, leeks for Wales, and shamrocks for Ireland. 

By the 1950s, trends in women's fashion favored more feminine dresses, with long, full skirts and cinched waists.

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The young queen embraced this look throughout her world travels and royal engagements in that decade.

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She made a rare appearance in sunglasses while watching her husband play cricket in 1958.

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You've probably never seen the queen in a sleeveless dress, but she wore them quite a few times for formal events in the 1960s.

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Here's another sleeveless look from 1967.

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In the 1970s, the queen stepped out in some attention-grabbing hats.

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The queen's hats aren't just for fun.

"The queen has always been aware that she needs to stand out from the crowd, and it is for this reason that millinery has always played an important role in her wardrobe,” royal curator Caroline de Guitaut told the the New York Times. "[They] e nable people who want to catch a glimpse of her to spot her immediately."

She sparkled when she met Barbara Streisand in 1975.

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This orange gown, worn for Jimmy Carter's visit to Buckingham Palace, looks a lot like breezy caftans that were trendy in the 70s.

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In 1981, the queen's oldest son, Prince Charles, married Diana Spencer. The mother of the groom wore light blue for the ceremony.

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She channeled old Hollywood glamour when first lady Nancy Reagan threw her a gala in Los Angeles two years later.

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But it seems the queen did test some 80s trends, like padded shoulders and loud prints.

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You certainly wouldn't catch her in puffy sleeves like this today.

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Since the 1990s, the queen has essentially stuck to one simple uniform: A bright, solid-colored skirt suit or long coat paired with a precisely matched hat.

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It's become her signature look.

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But there is photographic evidence that she flaunted some distinctively 1990s floral prints.

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In 2002, the Queen hired Angela Kelly to be her "senior dresser." Kelly still holds the position today.

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Kelly designs many of the queen's outfits herself and also introduces new designers to the royal family, according to the Daily Mail. 

"The Queen loves clothes and is a real expert on fabrics," Kelly said in a 2007 interview. "It's not been a question of me teaching the Queen — it's been the other way round."

In 2003, the public got a rare glimpse of the monarch in pants. (She had recently undergone knee surgery.)

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There are only a few other times when she's been photographed wearing trousers. 

But knee troubles never stopped her from looking fabulous.

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Every year at the annual Windsor Horse show, the queen shows off her casual side. 2004 was no exception.

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On the day she turned 80, the queen completed her traditional walkabout, greeting well-wishers who came out to celebrate her birthday.

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She occasionally wears patterns, but mainly sticks to solid colors.

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There's a reason she steps out in such bright hues: Just like her hats, eye-catching colors help people identify the queen in a crowd.

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The queen once said that if she wore beige, no one would be able to recognize her, according to one of her biographers. 

Her uniform isn't complete without accessories, like her simple Launer handbags and umbrellas that match every outfit.

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She reportedly owns 200 Launer handbags, each of which retails for around $2,000. The umbrellas, on the other hand, are a bit less pricey: The Daily Mail reports that they cost about $20 each.

And on cold days, she swaps her typical pumps or loafers for leather boots. She broke them out for church on Christmas Day 2009.

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Rayne, the company that made the Queen’s shoes for years, went out of business in 2003. But the queen tracked down a former employee, who continues to make shoes for her. Talk about royal perks.

Another favorite accessory? Head scarves. She's been wearing them just like this since the 1940s.

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The queen kept her look classic for William and Kate's wedding in 2011. The whole ensemble was designed by royal dresser Angela Kelly.

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It was one of the most expensive royal weddings of all time. 

And she glittered like a diamond while celebrating her Diamond Jubilee (that's 60 years on the throne) in 2012.

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It's another look custom-designed for the monarch by Angela Kelly. 

She may be older now, but she still dazzles in crystal-drenched evening gowns.

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Not many people can pull off lime green. The queen did so with ease on the day of her 90th birthday parade in 2016.

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The queen technically has two birthdays: One in April and the one in June, when the country officially celebrates it.

In her most recent public appearance — Easter Sunday 2017 — the queen looked festive in a turquoise coat and floral dress.

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