Camilla Parker-Bowles has often been portrayed as always second best to Princess Diana in the public eye. But in reality, the story is quite different. The now-Duchess of Cornwall met and captured Prince Charles’s heart years before Diana, but their relationship was thwarted by intense family politics. And while Diana dressed for the cameras, embracing her role in the spotlight, Camilla dressed for herself, not the royal family. “She’s the only person who didn’t want it and wasn’t impressed by it,” Emerald Fennell, the actress who portrays Parker-Bowles on The Crown, told T&C. The show not only offers a more nuanced perspective into the infamous Camilla, but also highlights the ways in which her life was supremely unfair as well. “Even if people behave badly,” Fennell told T&C, “you understand why they have.”
That is why when you take a closer look, Camilla emerges not as the ugly evil temptress, but perhaps as the romantic underdog and definitely as a style icon in her own right. Her signature looks revolve around Chanel pumps, custom-suits, bold prints, loads of pearls—and don’t forget those hats, bespoke and perfectly coordinated to her outfits (Eugenie and Beatrice, eat your hearts out). It’s the good, classic stuff with brilliant accessories that we all covet.
Her simple ensembles from the 1970s and 80s still hold up, whether it is a crisp dress and trench or a houndstooth cape (the pudding-bowl haircut, we admit, does not age so well). Her timeless style makes sense when you consider that Camilla worked at the decorating firm Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler in Mayfair and loves to paint and garden: she has a natural eye for color and composition. Even in her 70s, her style reigns—yes, pun intended—in 2018, she topped Tatler’s best dressed list in particular for “giving millinery a good name.”
Particularly when 2020 has us living in leggings, the fact that the Duchess prefers a walkable slingback to a stiletto heel or dons a waxed jacket and muck boots while out on a stroll just seems like good sense. And that is the magic we now appreciate about Camilla, sartorially or otherwise: she lives and dresses for the real world like the rest of us. The royal fantasy bit? She might enjoy that too…but never without a wink and a really great hat.
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