Queen Wanted Pockets on Her Dresses But the Royals Sewed Them Up

Despite being head of state in 15 countries and the most senior female world leader on the planet, even Queen Elizabeth II has at times been constrained by the whims of fashion and family, according to a new biography.

Andrew Morton, best known for his 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story, has recounted in his new book detailing the life of Elizabeth Windsor, how even she is plagued by the fashion issue that concerns most women in the modern age—pockets!

In an extract from The Queen published by the Daily Mail, Morton recounts that the queen's "secret wish" for pockets stems not from a functional need but is more related to a sense of freedom which was opposed by her mother and grandmother during her childhood.

According to the monarch's dresser and most trusted aide Angela Kelly, the author reported, the queen wished to be photographed with her hands in her pockets following strict instructions from her mother and advisors growing up not to do it.

"The queen confided in her dresser Angela Kelly in 2012 that she had long harbored a secret wish," he wrote. "When she was a child, her elders — especially Queen Mary — had insisted she always kept her hands out of her pockets. And, just to make sure, all the pockets in all her clothes had been sewn up.

"Even after she grew up, the Queen Mother as well as the Queen's own advisers had insisted that being seen with her hands in her pockets was not a good look. Yet for years Elizabeth had longed to make a childhood dream come true: to be photographed doing just that."

Queen Mother Queen Elizabeth Hands Pockets
According to a new book, Queen Elizabeth II's family had the pockets in her clothes sewn up so she would not be photographed with her hands in them, something which the book said the queen wanted to do. The queen was known to be close to her mother (L) who was one of the people responsible for sewing up the pockets. And (R) the queen photographed standing with her hands in her pockets, May 11, 2017. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Kelly on hearing this concocted a plan to have the queen pose for a series of photographs taken privately for a book project she was working on celebrating the Diamond Jubilee.

In her 2019 book The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen the Dresser and the Wardrobe, Kelly wrote of the pocket portraits:

"Her Majesty wanted to be photographed more informally and have the freedom, for example, to pose with her hands in her pockets. The Queen Mother and her advisors had always advised against this, suggesting it would not be appropriate."

Kelly then convinced the monarch that she should do the shoot to which she agreed and chose a white day dress. "Although a crucial element was missing: it had no pockets!" the dresser wrote.

After some quick thinking, Kelly made two pockets from offcuts of the original dress material and the photo sitting went perfectly with the queen posing like a 1960s professional model in a series of frames.

It would appear though that the Queen Mother, who died ten years before the shoot took place, was not alone in her dislike of the image of a monarch with her hands in her pockets.

When Kelly sent the photographs to the Royal Collection—the organization that manages the queen's decorative, fine art and photographic collections—to be implemented in her book, she found that they too found the idea distasteful.

"To my utter amazement and disappointment," the dresser wrote, "I was told by the Royal Collection that only two photographs would be allowed to be used for the book. Once the full shoot had been shared more widely, their opinion was that these more candid photographs would bring the monarchy down."

Angela Kelly Queen Elizabeth II Pockets
Angela Kelly is the queen's dresser and a trusted aide in charge of her wardrobe and jewelry. Kelly (L) photographed at Buckingham Palace, November 16, 2012. And the queen (R) photographed May 8, 2019. John Stillwell/WPA Pool /Getty Images/Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Morton writes: "For several years, the pictures remained private... However, in 2019, the entire set was released — and the sky did not fall in."

The queen was known to be devoted to her mother but when the Queen Mother died in 2002, a new era for the monarchy began as Elizabeth felt able to make decisions without worrying about how her sole surviving parent would react.

The belief that standing with your hands in your pockets is rude has been passed down through centuries, but despite no formal grounding is still considered to be true. The professional social network Linkedin states that to do so "invariably sends the wrong message" and can look "too casual," "cocky" or "disrespectful."

Over the past two decades, the queen's style has moved in line with fashion to become what is now an instantly recognizable "rainbow wardrobe" of block-colored coats (with pockets!) and printed dresses.

Though she may not need pockets for holding her phone, handkerchief or keys as most people do—with anything needed safely deposited in her iconic Launer London handbags—the queen has secured herself the freedom to be photographed as she pleases with her hands in her pockets, and with the added benefit of not bringing down the monarchy in the process.

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