23 January 2015

Royal Closet Raid of the Day: January 23

As promised, one last thing before we stop celebrating the Countess of Wessex's 50th birthday: her closet raid! This is our time-honored tradition (eh, well, it's been around for a few months) of taking a look through a royal wardrobe and seeing which pieces we like so much we wish we had them for our very own. Praise with a dash of selfishness thrown in, just the way I like it.

When it comes to the Countess, I knew precisely the outfit I was after:
Emilia Wickstead is a favorite of Sophie's, and with good reason. This dress, debuted at the Luxembourg royal wedding in 2012, is a good example of Sophie's style on the whole: basically classic, but with a bit of quirky fun too. It also happens to be my personal favorite, because full skirts, belts, square neckline, three-quarter sleeves, and fun prints that aren't too cartoonish are just a few of my many favorite things.

A few more of my favorite Sophie things, for good measure:
A fun floral dress in a flattering cut, yes please.
Purple Prada coats, YES please.
And cute clutches, ohhhhh yes. Now, your turn:

What do you covet from Sophie's wardrobe?

Photos: Pascal Le Segretain, Max Mumby/Indigo, Ian Blakeman via Getty Images, and Emilia Wickstead

22 January 2015

Tiara Thursday: The Murat Tiara

The Murat Tiara
Built as a showcase for three large pearls, the Murat Tiara is a creation by Joseph Chaumet. It dates from 1920, when it was created as a wedding gift for the marriage of Prince Alexandre Murat (1889-1926) and Yvonne Gillois (1894-1961). The large pearls came from the Murat family. The center pearl, noted as an "exceptional treasure" at the time of the tiara's sale, is a baroque button-shaped natural pearl of over 75 carats (75.84 carats to be exact, or 303.37 grains). Two additional large pearls, also button-shaped and natural, were added to the sides of the design, adding some balance to the large centerpiece. The family also supplied most of the diamonds used for the design of acanthus foliage scrolls that accent the pearls.
The Murat family's title goes back to the reign of Napoleon I, when Joachim Murat (1767-1815) rose up through the military and married Napoleon's sister Caroline Bonaparte. Titles were granted and eventually Joachim was King of Naples and Sicily (though all did not end well for him; he was ultimately executed for treason after the fall of Napoleon). The family maintained a prominent position in French society, and at the time of this tiara's creation, there still would have been plenty of tiara occasions for the new bride to attend.
This is a tiara certainly intended to convey status, thanks to those enormous pearls. The design itself is grand enough to recall the family's roots, with an acanthus motif that would have fit in at Napoleon's court. The tiara originally had a separate bandeau on which it could be worn for additional height and an option to be worn at the forehead, in a style very much of the 1920s but also very much in the style of Empress Joséphine. All of that grandeur paid off when the tiara was auctioned at Sotheby's in 2012. Estimated to bring in up to $2,445,636, the tiara sold for $3,864,318.

What do you say: A successful incorporation of large single gems?

Photos:  Sotheby's, Miguel Medina/AFP

Royal Outfit of the Day: January 22

Well, this is...dour.
The King and Queen of Spain held an annual reception for foreign ambassadors yesterday.
Given the dress code - this is another court dress occasion, with morning dress for men - a choice like this places them straight off the set of Downton Abbey. Mrs. Hughes goes to Spain!
Okay, well the top is sparkly. Mrs. Hughes goes to a disco in Spain, then.

Photos: Carlos Alvarez via Getty Images

21 January 2015

Royal Outfit of the Day: January 21

Somebody got their hair done for their birthday...
The Countess of Wessex was out and about, looking fab, on her 50th birthday yesterday. There was cake! I'd show up for any royal engagement if dessert was a guarantee. And she sported a hairdo which was simple from the front and anything but from the back:
That's a lotta stuff going on there. But I'm all in favor of daytime updos any which way, you know me. The 'do crowned an outfit of simple pieces that came together pretty harmoniously: a Prada coat, a pink Gucci dress underneath, a burgundy Sophie Habsburg Design clutch, and black L.K. Bennett boots (per the Countess of Wessex Blog).
Sophie's obviously been making great strides in her style in the past few years, and this is the kind of simple but chic outfit that comes from having a wardrobe filled with higher quality individual pieces. As I tweeted the other day, the Wessex family's chef has apparently been appointed Sophie's new personal dresser - an unusual move, but if he keeps her moving on this path, more power to him.

Stay tuned, we may just have another Sophie fashion feature before we're done marking her big birthday.

Photos: Tristan Fewings and Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

20 January 2015

Royal Outfits of the Day: January 20

Yesterday was a red day, today is a blue day. I love it when royals accidentally color coordinate with each other. Yes, I'm very easily amused.
For more pictures, click here or here.
Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, and Princess Estelle started their visit to the Bay Area. Estelle wasn't expected to be a big part of the visit, but she did participate in the casual first part, including a visit to the Church of Sweden San Francisco. They presented a united family front in a series of blues, from Victoria's bright dress to Daniel's light tie and Estelle's printed dress and cardigan. Coordinated, but stopping just short of overdoing it, I think.

And in a land far, far away, someone else unknowingly played along with the Swedish matching game:
Duchess of Cambridge had an event in Kensington yesterday.
I'm in favor of all Estelle-approved color schemes, and she's smartly left the hair bows to the professionals, by which I mean toddlers.
Kate's take includes maternity pieces from Seraphine, a light blue cashmere blend coat (with more Pocket Flaps to Nowhere, though these make a little more sense at the seam and in the same color and fabric) and a printed crêpe de chine dress underneath.
Classics, very flattering, and I wouldn't mind a non-maternity version of that coat for myself. Or just the maternity version, and I'll call it my Thanksgiving coat. I could make it work.

Photos: @bjornly, WPA Pool via Getty Images, Seraphine

19 January 2015

Royal Outfits of the Day: January 19

A red suit showdown!
King Philippe and Queen Mathilde attended another New Year's reception last week
Mathilde's entry is a repeat from the couple's introductory visit to Germany last year, a red suit with pleated details by Pierre Gauthier.
The original appearance, in Germany
Better without the hat? I think so. The suit's plenty of pleating all by itself.

And over in Spain, on the same day, an entry from Letizia:
King Felipe and Queen Letizia gave out the National Research Awards last week
I've always liked this Felipe Varela suit, with its delicate scalloped detailing, and red is definitely Letizia's color. Both she and Felipe were wearing bracelets from ARHOE, an organization that promotes more rational working hours and a better balance between work and life in Spain. The group was included in one of the couple's recent palace audiences, and they've apparently won some royal support. A yellow bracelet with a red suit is certainly an effective way to draw attention.
So, who comes out on top in this style duel? Red suits in general, probably. More of that all around would be fine by me.

18 January 2015

Sunday Tidbits for January 18: Birthday Portraits Galore and More

It's double the birthday girls and a potential for a dash of royalty in an area near you (uh, if you live in very specific areas) in this week's batch of tidbits. Read on:

--A new portrait was released to celebrate Princess Michael of Kent's 70th birthday last week, featuring her cuddling her cat while sporting one of her tiaras (the Kent Festoon Tiara, which was worn to Queen Elizabeth II's coronation). We've reached peak Princess Michael, with just one image. [Hello US]

--And two new shots of the Countess of Wessex have also been released, in advance of her 50th birthday. Alas, they feature neither tiaras nor cats. [Countess of Wessex Blog]

--Are you anywhere near Sydney, Australia? You can see the Australian Wattle Brooch in person, lucky you. It's on loan to the Powerhouse Museum as part of a jewelry exhibit through April. [Powerhouse Museum, with thanks to commenter Kathy]

--Heads up, northern California: Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel are visiting you. They've already arrived, with Princess Estelle, but the visit officially runs Monday through Wednesday. They'll be in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. [Svenskdam]

--The International Circus Festival in Monaco is Princess Stephanie's big event each year, and it's been in full swing this week. Prince Albert gives it an awkward thumbs up. [Paris Match]

--This story about the Duchess of Cornwall sending a bouquet to a longtime royal watcher who missed Christmas at Sandringham is so sweet. [EDP24]

--The Japanese imperial family really loves their court dress this time of the year. They were back at it with the New Year's poetry reading this week. I'm so happy that Princess Kako was allowed something beyond the deeply unflattering hat that she got last time, I'll overlook the spread of glorified headband hats. [Imperial Family of Japan Blog, ANN News video]

--And finally, over at the Jewel Vault, I broke down the jewelry additions from the royal gift lists for 2014.

16 January 2015

Royal Outfit of the Day: January 16

I thought this was quite cute:
The Duchess of Cambridge visited Barlby Primary School yesterday. 
Granted, I liked it more at first glance when I thought it was a coat (it's a dress) with pockets (they're just flaps) in black (it's navy) (navy with black accessories, to be exact). I'm forever getting tiny first glances of things via social media and then finding out they're something completely different later on, usually to my disappointment. I suppose I could quit looking (ha) or quit judging (HA), but instead I think I'll plead ignorance and pretend everything's just the way I wanted it to be in my head.
The shift dress is from Madderson London, a new brand for Kate.
 For more, click here or here for galleries.
And in my head, I thought this was quite cute.

Photos:  Chris Jackson via Getty Images, Madderson London

15 January 2015

Tiara Thursday: Alexandra Feodorovna's Emerald Bow Tiara

Alexandra Feodorovna's Emerald Bow Tiara
As we’ve discussed before, if you’re searching for stones of exceptional quality and color, you need look no further than the collection that belonged to the Romanovs at the height of their splendor. The green stones featured in today’s tiara are one example, Colombian emeralds with what was said to have been a brilliant color. The center emerald is a sugarloaf cabochon, an unfaceted cut rising to a high point in the center, weighing in at around 23 carats. The emeralds were combined with South African diamonds in a design of upright loops alternating with bows in this tiara made to the order of Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), wife of Tsar Nicholas II. It was crafted in gold and silver with removable elements in 1900 by imperial court jeweler Bolin.
Alexandra Feodorovna
The tiara was part of a matching set of jewels. Also made by Bolin for Alexandra at that time was a matching necklace and she was painted in 1907 by N.K. Bodarevsky (above) wearing what appears to be a matching brooch. A devant de corsage (dress ornament) of emeralds and diamonds with was made by another jeweler to the imperial family, Fabergé. The corsage was ordered by Alexandra Feodorovna’s sister, Elizabeth (1964-1918), who was married to Nicholas II’s uncle. The matching stones and bow design suggests that it was intended to be part of the same parure.
A detail of the center element in the tiara (left), the devant de corsage (center top), the tiara displayed with other jewels to be sold (center bottom), and the necklace (right)
Unfortunately, like so many other Romanov jewels, this parure has disappeared. It was sold by the Soviet government in the 1920s, after the overthrow of the monarchy. It’s hard to imagine it being successfully worn today, though; the tiara is actually a circlet, a complete circle, probably best worn with the elaborate hairstyles of the time, and a piece like the devant de corsage would scarcely be used with today’s fashions. The devant de corsage, however, is the one piece that has a version in existence today: a replica was made in 1985 for the Diamond Fund, the Russian state’s jewel collection.

Who do you think could pull this set off, if it was around today?

Photos: Fersman, Wikimedia Commons, USGS

Royal Style Twins of the Day: January 15

Queen Letizia made an appearance at the Telefónica Ability Awards this week in a classic black and white ensemble, including a high-waisted full black skirt, a white Hugo Boss top, black heels, and her de Grisogono black diamond earrings. (The earrings are an older pair that have made a recent reappearance, no doubt part of her quest to stake out her position as the Earring Queen.)
I don't know about you, but it always takes me a moment to recognize Letizia in a full skirt - a sheath dress, sure, you'd know that was Letizia from a mile away, but this kind of skirt makes me do a double take. Especially in an outfit like this, which looks a whole lot like one we've already seen elsewhere:
These two ladies have quite a bit of wardrobe cross over, actually, since they're both big fans of Hugo Boss. Crown Princess Mary wore her version of this basic combination during her visit to Canada in 2014, and her skirt (made of a more textured fabric than Letizia's) is from Danish designer Signe Bøgelund-Jensen. No matter who wears it, this is a plain enough combination, and you need something to add some interest. Letizia went for a red lip and those earrings, while Mary opted for snakeskin Louboutins and a thin belt to accent the skirt's thick waistband. Still, I'm not sure either version is particularly memorable. Et toi?

14 January 2015

Royal Outfit of the Day: January 14

You think she heard your cries for some color yesterday?
Maybe that wave was just for you. A bright red Queen Máxima kicked off the year at the annual New Year's reception with Princess Beatrix (in her patterned best), Princess Margriet (in a particularly rich-looking jacket), plus the King and Pieter van Vollenhoven (in...wait for it...suits).
The Natan dress is a repeat, of course, worn this time with more refined shoes and a bigger statement earring. She's swapped rubies and diamonds for a gift from Dutch jeweler LOTT. gioielli, and while I always miss rubies and diamonds when they're gone, it's nice to see her lend her support to brands close to home.
Previous outing of the dress
Good then, good now. Welcome back, Máx.

Photos: @koninklijkhuis / RVD, photo: Jeroen van de Meyde / Michel Porro via Getty Images

13 January 2015

Royal Outfits of the Day: January 13

Let's catch up with Queen Mathilde, shall we? She and King Philippe have had a couple engagements in the new year so far. There was this, a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk, to start:
Natan, obviously (both of today's outfits are). I long for a richer color and fabric, but the soft colors do suit her. Classic Mathilde. Mmhmm.

And then we left the realm of the Mmhmm and headed straight for the Hmm..
This was a New Year's reception for the Diplomatic Corps, which might have been a court dress occasion in certain other countries (Britain and the Netherlands even have gala receptions for diplomats, at other times of the year). Not in Belgium though, they don't play that game.
But this whole voluminous, uh, situation makes me wish they did. Court dress or gala, either way. Because this looks like Mathilde started growing out what would have been a cape or train capable of such epic proportion it could even teach Máxima a thing or two...and instead just gave up half way and called it good.

Photos: Laurie Dieffembacq/AFP via Getty Images, @MonarchieBe, @RTLPlaceRoyale

12 January 2015

Sunday Tidbits for January 12: The Monday Edition

A day late and a dollar short, as they say, but here we are with your weekly tidbits/your weekly open thread:

--King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan were among the world leaders joining the Paris unity rally this weekend following the tragic attacks at Charlie Hebdo last week. Many other sovereigns sent condolences to the French president; Grand Duchess Maria Teresa joined Luxembourg's anti-terror rally. [CNN, Luxarazzi]

--Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit are back in action, with events including their annual Day of the Wise Men conference for young leaders at their home this week. [Kongehuset Facebook]

--Go behind the scenes with the annual documentary Året med kungafamiljen (The Year with the Royal Family) (the Swedish royal family, specifically). [SVT]

--Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine of Denmark turned four this week, and new photographs were released to mark the occasion. The pictures were taken during the family's visit to Greenland last year, as was their Christmas card photo. [Kongehuset.dk, Twitter]

--PBS aired ITV's The Queen's Garden, a documentary about (you'll never guess) the Buckingham Palace gardens, last night. The episode is streaming on the PBS website if you missed it. You can also still stream it on ITV's player. (Links may not be viewable everywhere.) [PBS, ITV]

--The Japanese imperial family got all done up court dress-style to listen to the New Year's lectures, an annual event which leaves me in awe of the family's ability to stay awake and focused at all times. [Imperial Family of Japan Blog]

--And finally, Zara Phillips has been in Australia, wearing a boatload of jewelry and a hat like a carnival game come to life, just aim your bean bag through the top and you could win 50 points and a pink stuffed panda bear. I think headgear that encourages people to toss things at you should probably be discouraged, right? [Hello]

Photos: Thierry Chesnot via Getty Images, SVT video, @HelloCanada, FNNNewsCH video, Matt Roberts via Getty Images

09 January 2015

Royal Outfits of the Day: January 9

Programming note: Our next weekly Tidbits post will be up on Monday instead of Sunday.

The Danish royal family held their last two days of New Year's courts earlier this week. Unlike the gala evening from last week, these are held during the day (no tiaras, it's very sad). And also unlike the gala evening, the only royals participating here are the Queen and Prince Consort and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess.
The first day brought another new dress for Mary, quite a treat after a run of repeats and remakes. It's a fairly plain dress, navy with a wide waistband, leaving the metallic embellished neckline to be the star of the show. At first I was a little dubious about that - why fake the look of jewelry with your clothes when you've got the real deal sitting at home, eh? - but then I saw it in action (video link below) and was predictably swayed by the sparkle.

The second day was a return to repeats, but oh, it was one of my favorite court outfits to repeat.
Click here for a video from Billed-Bladet and here for a gallery
All the jumpy claps for the return of this chocolate jacket and baby pink skirt, a perfect blend of colors and textures. This is the kind of over the top princess-ing I prefer on Mary. She first wore it in 2010 and repeated it in 2013, as seen below. This time she's added a belt, which I could take or leave, honestly. It's a gem of an outfit either way.
As for the rest of the family members present, they're all in their respective uniforms, military for the gentlemen and a self-imposed uniform of a blue dress with fur for Queen Margrethe. She's worn the same outfit for both days for several years now. She's the Queen and she'll do as she pleases, thankyouverymuch.

Photos: Billed-Bladet video and as indicated

08 January 2015

Tiara Thursday: Princess Kako's Tiara

It is standard practice in Japan's imperial household to provide each female member a tiara, either when they marry in to the family, or when they come of age at 20. Some of these are passed down, such as the two tiaras worn by Crown Princess Masako, and some are suspected to be reworkings of tiaras worn in the past by family members, but the imperial household remains one of the rare places where the purchase of a totally new parure still happens. The product of just such a commission was revealed at the end of last month.
Princess Kako's Tiara
Princess Kako of Akishino, second daughter of the Prince and Princess Akishino and granddaughter of the Emperor and Empress, turned 20 on December 29, 2014. In June 2013, it was announced that K. Mikimoto & Co. would be making her tiara and its matching set of jewelry after winning a bid between five jewelers for the honor. (The bidding process, as opposed to privately commissioning a selected jeweler, was introduced when creating the jewels for Princess Yōko of Mikasa's coming of age.) Mikimoto, a prestigious Japanese company known especially for their pearls, has a long history as an official jeweler to the imperial family. Their commission was for five pieces to be delivered the following March at a cost of approximately ¥30 million (about $250,000).
Princess Kako in her parure, on her birthday (center and left) and at the New Year's reception (right)
The resulting tiara is a series of linked scroll motifs around diamond clusters. The necklace is a mirror of the tiara's design, as is usually the case with these Japanese parures. Princess Kako also has earrings of round diamonds with a round diamond pendant, a design which is common to many of the family's jewel sets, a brooch, and at least one bracelet (she was wearing something sparkling on both wrists). She first wore the parure for her traditional coming of age visit to the Emperor and Empress, and then again a few days later for the annual New Year's court event.

Video: Kako's first outing of her new tiara
There's no mistaking this as a Japanese tiara, as it shares the all-white color scheme and somewhat generic design basis with many other sparkling headpieces in the family (I find it particularly reminiscent of her mother's tiara), and so it's a bit prone to get lost in the fray when the imperial ladies are all lined up. But on its own, I'm really charmed by this - then again, I am partial to tiaras with diamonds and scrolls - and can't help but wish someone would give me a birthday gift half this nice some day...sigh.

Favorite new tiara, or forgettable on the whole?

Photos: ANNNewsCH video