Queen Elizabeth and Millinery Modifications

Royal Hats Blog Back in August, I answered a reader question about Queen Elizabeth modifying her hats. It appears that the Queen does modify her hats more than I initially thought and some of you eagle eyed readers found an example of this last week! The aubergine velvet wool Homburg hat the Queen wore to Southwark Cathedral on November 21(and to church back in February, as shown here in the photo below on the right)  has a noticeably smaller brim from the hat that debuted on November 11, 2009. The black velvet oak leaf trim on the side of the hat has also been rearranged.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Designer: Rachel Trevor Morgan
Previously Worn: May 13, 2013Feb. 3, 2013Nov. 26, 2012; Oct. 25, 2012Nov. 11, 2009 

Reader Baxter noticed several more examples of these millinery modifications. This blush pink wool hat initially featured a large upturned brim (below left in April 2007). Since 20011, the brim has been quite small and rather flat (below right in September 2013 at the Braemar Games).

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Designer: Rachel Trevor Morgan
Previously Worn: Sept. 7, 2013; Oct. 15, 2011 Mar. 10, 2008; Jan. 24, 2008Oct. 25, 2007;  April 5, 2007;  Feb. 2, 2007;  Oct. 18, 2006

The beautiful textured white hat worn to celebrate the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s diamond wedding in November 2007 (below left) had some significantly reduced feather trim when the Queen repeated it again in 2010 (shown below right in November 2011).

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Designer: Rachel Trevor Morgan: 
Previously Worn: May 2, 2013; April 25, 2012; Nov. 22, 2011; May 12, 2010June 27, 2009Nov. 19, 2007

Some hat changes are very subtle and rather perplexing. If you look closely, in between the time Queen Elizabeth wore it the to Commonwealth Day Observance Service in March 2009 (below left) and a visit to Brasenose College in December that year (below right), the buttons embellishing the hat had been rearranged (and the pleated blue collar on her coat was removed). Curiously, the Queen has worn this hat just once since then, making me wonder why the changes were even made.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Designer: Rachel Trevor Morgan
Previously Worn: April 26, 2012; Dec. 2, 2009; April 12, 2009March 9, 2009April 12, 2008

Rachel Trevor Morgan is not the only royal millinery designer making modifications to hats. When the Queen first wore this pale blue straw Philip Somerville design, the brim featured a distinctive wave shape (below left at Ascot in 2003). When Queen Elizabeth repeated this hat in June 2005 for Trooping the Colour the brim was replaced with one that was straighter and slightly upturned in the front.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Designer: Philip Somerville
Previously Worn: June 17, 2012; June 8, 2007; June 11, 2005; July 7, 2003June 20, 2003

Queen Elizabeth wore this grey wool hat designed by Philip Somerville while on a tour of Canada in October 2002 (below left). This hat was unchanged when she wore it again in March 2003 at the Romford Market.  By the time it was worn in November 2003 to the unveiling of Australian War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner (right), the felt brim had been replaced by a translucent straw brim, the lilac silk band around the crown had been rearranged and the grey quills had been removed.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Designer: Philip Somervile
Previously Worn: June 30, 2008; Feb 4, 2007; March 16, 2004; Nov. 11, 2003; March 6, 2003Oct. 12, 2002

And finally, Queen Elizabeth wore a black velvet toque designed by Philip Somerville on New Year’s Eve 1999 ( below left).  When she repeated the hat in October 2003 during a visit to The Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire (below right), the stripped quills along the front had been removed and a spray of feathers added to the side.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Designer: Philip Somerville
Previously Worn: October 30, 2003; December 31, 1999

I’m curious about your thoughts on these hat changes- did they improve these hats? My sincere thanks to Baxter for pointing out all of these fascinating millinery modifications.

Photos from Getty as indicated

26 thoughts on “Queen Elizabeth and Millinery Modifications

  1. Looking carefully at the button rearrange… if you notice the fabric is the same texture and print, but one is cream based (with blue color) and the other is blue based. As their were matching buttons on the hat, it appears that the re-arrange was when they pattern buttons were swapped.

  2. I love this blog! I would agree that the modified millinery is better in all cases except for the grey/lilac hat with replaced brim. I think the Queen knows what suits her; she may have reviewed photos from events and placed a high value on her visibility to all. The most frequent alteration is a reduction of brim size, so it seems that she wants people to be able to see her. The smaller brims look better on her, but I would like to think she does this for her subjects. Thanks for creating such a fascinating blog which I will definitely be following from now on.

  3. This is fascinating, and thanks to everyone for all the examples. I wouldn’t have thought it would be practicable to change hats so readily (it must be easier than getting new ones judging by the fact that it has clearly been done many times!) I wonder with the blue straw whether the wavy and the upturned versions could be the same brim, but re-steamed and re-shaped? All the others are clearly physically different, but the two versions of this one seem to have the same type of binding, and to be the same width, so it would be interesting to know if reshaping is possible.

    • I agree. This is really interesting. I’m wondering if you can ask one of the designers if it’s really hard to redo a brim like this. I’m interested on what a designer would say about this!

  4. Thank you HatQueen and eagle eyed readers for this fascinating post and all the detective work. Some of the hats do fare better after the remodels, but given the work required to make the changes, it hardly seems worth it, especially when so many of the hats get so few outings. The buttons hat is perhaps the most puzzling….the only explanation is that the hat fairies snuck in late at night and rearranged them — just to be a bit mischievous! The mind does boggle at the number of instances where these remodels actually occur. All the comments have been wonderful!

    • David A- another two great examples that I missed. Thanks so much for pointing them out! It seems we have a pattern here of the Queen shaving down her brims to a certain size. I’m going to venture a guess that she knows what works best for her and requests just that. So fascinating!

    • Sharp eyes! Thank you.
      Advice for all of us: in the future, when we see a repeat hat, instead to thinking, “Oh, that old thing again,” we should ask, “Now what’s different from its last wearing?” I suspect that there are a lot more modifications out there than we’ve yet discovered! Shrunken brims are not to notice; it’s often the angle of the photograph that makes the hat appear different.
      Incidentally, for the deep rose hat with the pink coat, even the hat in your original example was replacement hat. For years that coat and matching dress were one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorites. Here’s the original hat:

  5. I agree that these hat improvements are all for the good except for the grey and lilac hat.

    Did anyone else notice that the Queen is wearing the same pearl and diamond earrings and triple strand pearl necklace in all of these photos? Talk about a daytime jewellery “uniform”!!!!

  6. The changes make me wonder. Do they do a review of the outfit afterwards and decide if the look works or not? If so then who? Does the queen request the change? The designer? Her dresser? Anyway, more often than not the changes are an improvement, except the grey one. Most of the changes are reducing the scale or simplifying then design, interesting. I guess if you are such a good hat buying customer the designers are willing to tweak things,

  7. Thank you (and Baxter) for putting this together. I agree that all hats were improved with the possible exception of the gray-purple.
    Although the Queen has had several (apparently new) replacement hats, some of which actually may include parts of the original in there somewhere, I believe that the following is an example of another modified hat (and coat).
    Original version in LIthuania: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/queen-elizabeth-ii-the-duke-of-edinburgh-visit-the-baltic-news-photo/158145332
    Revised version with Pope Benedict XVI in Scotland: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/britains-queen-elizabeth-ii-and-pope-benedict-xvi-leave-news-photo/104137822
    To my knowledge, neither version was worn at any other event. Guess someone decided the modifications didn’t help.

  8. I’m quite surprised with the blush pink one modification, i had even thought that she had another alternative made to go with the hat. It is very interesting to see the changes made and like Maryanne said, i do think it’s a great task and effort for making the changes without impacting on the rest of the hats.

    By the way Rebecca, the blue one worn to the 2009 Commonwealth Observance, I believe the Queen did wear it on the second day of her Jubilee Tour to Wales in April last year. I can not remember the exact date but I remember she wore the silver white Diamond Wedding outfit & hat on the first day then the blue one on the second.

    • Thanks Lex- you’re absolutely right. I have included this ‘wearing’ in the list of previous wearings of this hat. I so do appreciate your eagle eyes when it comes to the Queen’s hats.

  9. A lot of these changes are so small you wonder ‘why bother?’. I guess some of the feathery bits may have got a bit bashed about… I wish she wouldn’t shrink her brims though – I rather like her in a more dramatic brim; and I still think you can see her face!

  10. I like the modified versions better on all of the hats! My favorite was the pale blue straw worn in June 2005 for Trooping the Colour. My least favorite was the previous version of the SAME hat worn at Ascot in 2003! It is hard to believe that changing the brim would make so much difference in my opinion of the hat. With the button hat the changes were small, but I think I prefer the second because I like the coat better without the pleated collar.

  11. Looking at that first hat, the large brim in such a strong color overwhelms Queen Elizabeth and is not as flattering as a small brim. Thanks for showing the hats side by side because the differences really are amazine.

  12. This is so interesting. I think all of the changes made the hats look better except for the gray one. I liked that one better before. The blue hat that had the wavy brim before looks so different! I wonder if it is hard to change a brim without damaging the rest of the hat?

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