16 Fashion Rules the Royal Family Lives By

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images; John Stillwell, WPA Pool/Getty Images; Chris Jackson, Getty Images; JOHN STILLWELL, AFP/Getty Images; Chris Jackson-Pool, Getty Images; ARTHUR EDWARDS, AFP/Getty Images; David Rose, WPA Pool/Getty Images; Gareth Cattermole, Getty Images
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images; John Stillwell, WPA Pool/Getty Images; Chris Jackson, Getty Images; JOHN STILLWELL, AFP/Getty Images; Chris Jackson-Pool, Getty Images; ARTHUR EDWARDS, AFP/Getty Images; David Rose, WPA Pool/Getty Images; Gareth Cattermole, Getty Images

The British royal family abides by a very specific—and strict—style guide. And though it must be tough to appear prim and proper all the time, the queen's handful of sartorial rules have kept the family looking posh and avoiding potentially embarrassing faux pas for 60-plus years. When should one wear their military garb? What else might clutches be good for, beyond carrying breath mints and lipstick? It's all in the (figurative) handbook! Below are 16 royal fashion do's and definite don'ts.

1. BRIGHT COLORS ARE A NECESSITY FOR THE QUEEN.

Queen Elizabeth II in a variety of colorful coats and hats.
Dan Kitwood, WPA Pool/Getty Images; DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images; John Stillwell, WPA Pool/Getty Images; Chris Jackson, Getty Images; JOHN STILLWELL, AFP/Getty Images; Chris Jackson-Pool, Getty Images; ARTHUR EDWARDS, AFP/Getty Images; David Rose, WPA Pool/Getty Images; Gareth Cattermole, Getty Images

After all, she wants to be noticed. Throughout her 66-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has sported monochromatic fuchsia, lime green, and canary yellow outfits from her wardrobe, which boasts every (yes, every!) color of the rainbow. The uniform is quite sensible, though: She wants to guarantee the public can see her through the crowd.

"She needs to stand out for people to be able to say, 'I saw the Queen,'" her daughter-in-law, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, explained in the 2016 documentary The Queen at 90. "Don't forget that when she turns up somewhere, crowds are two-, three-, four-, 10-, 15-deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the queen's hat as she went past."

2. HATS FOR WOMEN ARE A MUST.

Portrait of then-Princess Elizabeth holding her daughter, Princess Anne, with the grandmothers Queen Mary (left) and Queen Elizabeth, following the christening in October 1950.
Portrait of then-Princess Elizabeth holding her daughter, Princess Anne, with the grandmothers Queen Mary (left) and Queen Elizabeth, following the christening in October 1950.
Central Press, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Royal etiquette requires one be worn by women to all official events. It's a stipulation that dates back to the 1950s, a time when women were starting to ditch their hats when going out in public. Though further modernization has eased up on the rule—Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton's perfect blowout is proof enough—the Queen insists the tradition be kept alive, especially at formal engagements like weddings and christenings. In fact, she rarely forgoes a headpiece, often trading a hat for a crown or headscarf.

The most important rule: Hats are discarded after 6 p.m., when it's time to break out the tiaras!

3. TIARAS ARE LIKE WEDDING RINGS.

Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne, Princess Diana, and Duchess Catherine all wearing tiaras at various events.
Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne, Princess Diana, and Duchess Catherine all wearing tiaras at various events.
Queen Elizabeth: Chris Jackson, WPA Pool/Getty Images. Princess Anne: Jeff Spicer, Getty Images. Princess Diana: Lionel Cherruault Royal Picture Library, Alamy Stock Photo. Duchess Catherine: Paul Hackett, WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Yes, only married women of the family get to don the jewels. That's because tiaras signify relationship status—and let curious bachelors know if a woman is off limits.

"It signals the crowning of love and the loss of innocence to marriage," Geoffrey Munn, the author of Tiaras: A History of Splendour, explained to Forbes. "The family tiara was worn by the bride and from that moment onwards it was the groom's jewelry she was expected to wear. It was a subliminal message that she had moved from her own family to another."

According to Munn, Princess Diana was the last royal to strictly adhere to the family jewels portion of the tradition—she came from the aristocracy and wore her family's Spencer tiara at her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles. Kate Middleton donned her first tiara, a Cartier halo piece borrowed from the Queen's collection, on her 2011 wedding day. And though it has yet to be confirmed, it is rumored that Meghan Markle will likely pay tribute to Prince Harry's mother by wearing one of the late Princess Diana's tiaras at her May 19 vows. As an American, odds of Markle having a "family tiara" are pretty low.

4. YOUNG PRINCES NEVER WEAR PANTS.

Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George all wearing proper shorts as children.
Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George all wearing proper shorts as children.
Prince Charles: STF, AFP/Getty Images. Prince William: PA Images, Alamy Stock Photo. Prince George: Richard Pohle, WPA Pool/Getty Images.

There are no dinosaur sweatpants in Prince George's closet. Like his father, Prince William, and his Uncle Harry, the 4-year-old heir—he's third in line to the throne—will only attend public events wearing smart shorts and never pants.

"Trousers are for older boys and men, whereas shorts on young boys is one of those silent markers that we have in England," British etiquette expert William Hanson told Harper's Bazaar. "A pair of trousers on a young boy is considered quite middle class—quite suburban. And no self-respecting aristo or royal would want to be considered suburban."

The tradition actually dates back to the 16th century and the practice of breeching, or when a tot grew out of gowns and moved on to, well, breeches. Adds Hanson, "The usual custom is that a boy graduated to trousers around 8 years old."

5. GLOVES ARE FOR PROTECTION.

Queen Elizabeth II meets trainee firefighters as she tours the new London Fire Brigade Headquarters at Southwark in February 2008.
Queen Elizabeth II meets trainee firefighters as she tours the new London Fire Brigade Headquarters at Southwark in February 2008.
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Sure, they're fashionable. But gloves are also a safety measure favored by the Queen when attending an official engagement that requires her to shake hands with a lot of people. The accessory—which the royal glove maker says are almost always either black or white and made out of cotton and nylon—prevents the spread of germs.

One notable exception to the rule was Princess Diana, who preferred to actually hold the hands of those she met during public visits. She wasn't dubbed the people's princess for nothing!

6. ALWAYS HAVE A BLACK ENSEMBLE ON-HAND.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, leaving their airplane as they return from Kenya following the death of King George VI in February 1952.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, leaving their airplane as they return from Kenya following the death of King George VI in February 1952.
Keystone, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You'll rarely see a royal wearing black, but while traveling outside the country, they are required to pack a full black outfit in case of emergency. This is so that, if a family member dies, they'll arrive back in England dressed appropriately, since they will certainly be photographed when departing the plane.

Queen Elizabeth learned this lesson from experience. In 1952, then just a princess, she and her husband, then the Duke of Edinburgh, were in Kenya when she learned her father had passed. When she arrived back in Britain without appropriate clothing, she was forced to stay on the plane until a black outfit was delivered to her.

Still, outside of mourning, black is considered a major faux pas. You'll only see the hue worn on Remembrance Day, a memorial observed for those who have died in battle.

7. COATS MUST STAY ON.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge keeps her coat on while visiting Waikato Hospice Rainbow Place in Cambridge, New Zealand in 2014.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge keeps her coat on while visiting Waikato Hospice Rainbow Place in Cambridge, New Zealand in 2014.
Peter Drury, Getty Images

Etiquette bars female members of the family from removing their outermost layer in public, viewing it as an "unladylike action." So, unfortunately, if the temperature suddenly spikes, Duchess Kate just has to sweat it out.

8. NAILS ARE TO BE KEPT SUBTLE.

A close-up of Kate Middleton's manicure.
A close-up of Kate Middleton's manicure.
Andrew Chin, Getty Images

Bright colors are saved only for the Queen's wardrobe. The rules state that fingernails must be a practical and natural shade, meaning the royal manicurists favor pale pinks and clear polishes. In fact, since 1989, the Queen has been faithfully using the Essie shade Ballet Slippers.

Kate Middleton, however, has found a loophole: The Duchess dares to wear red on her toes.

9. HANDBAGS AREN'T JUST FOR BELONGINGS.

Queen Elizabeth II holds her black Launer handbag during a reception in 2017.
Queen Elizabeth II holds her black Launer handbag during a reception in 2017.
Hannah McKay, WPA Pool/Getty Images

It's not like she needs house keys! While the Queen is known to pack lipstick and reading glasses in her purse, she also uses her iconic Launer bags to send signals to her staff. For example, when she wants to leave a dinner, she sets the purse on top of the table, letting her aides know to wrap up in five minutes. Or, if she's in the middle of a dull conversation, she'll place her bag on the floor, giving a cue to her lady-in-waiting that she'd like to be rescued.

10. CLUTCHES ARE GOOD IN A BIND.

Princess Diana stepping out of a car.
ERIC FEFERBERG, AFP/Getty Images

To avoid an embarrassing slip up, Princess Diana relied on her custom clutches to shield her chest while stepping out of cars, thus keeping paparazzi from getting their money shot.

"We used to laugh when we designed what she called her 'cleavage bags,'" Anya Hindmarch told The Telegraph of when Diana would buy her clutches. "[They were] little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars."

Duchess Kate uses hers as a safety net. If she does not want to shake hands while on a visit, she will hold her bag in front of her with both hands, appearing too occupied to reach out. (The public is not allowed to touch a royal family member unless they make the first move.)

11. WEDGES ARE LOOKED DOWN ON.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wears wedges while on a tour in Singapore in 2012.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wears wedges while on a tour in Singapore in 2012.
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

At least, in the Queen's mind. They're not completely banned, but one palace insider told Vanity Fair wedged heels are not favored by the Queen and that "it's well known among the women in the family." Kate would often wear her beloved Stuart Weitzmans when her grandmother-in-law wasn't present, but it's been a few years since she's been out in a pair.

12. DON'T FORGET PANTYHOSE.

Sophie Rhys-Jones, Countess of Wessex, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall watch the Order of the Garter procession at Windsor Castle in June 2011.
Sophie Rhys-Jones, Countess of Wessex, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall watch the Order of the Garter procession at Windsor Castle in June 2011.
Paul Edwards, WPA Pool/Getty Images

No bylaw explicitly states pantyhose are a must. But, it's an unspoken rule that the Queen expects—and enforces—female family members and their guests to wear tights to all public outings.

That being said, newcomer and resident rule breaker Meghan Markle skipped nude stockings during her November engagement photo call. She quickly learned her lesson, though. At Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey in March, the Suits actress slipped on a pair.

13. WEIGH DOWN HEMLINES.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks to soldiers as she arrives at Calgary Airport on July 7, 2011 in Calgary, Canada.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, speaks to soldiers in 2011 in Calgary, Canada.
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Otherwise suffer a Marilyn moment. In her custom dresses, the Queen has small, lead curtain weights sewn inside her hemlines. Though they weigh less than an ounce each, they keep her skirts from flying up if there were to be a sudden gust of wind.

As a fan of billowy dresses, Kate Middleton has taken note of this tailored trick after several stiff breezes have threatened to show London (and likely France) a glimpse of her underpants.

14. MILITARY UNIFORMS ARE TO BE WORN AT THE MOST FORMAL EVENTS.

Princess Anne, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Philip all wear their military uniforms during 2015's Trooping the Colour.
Princess Anne, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Philip all wear their military uniforms during 2015's Trooping the Colour.
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Since the 19th century, it has been customary for royals who have served in the armed forces or hold honorary military titles to wear their ceremonial uniforms at special, formal events, such as Remembrance Day, the Trooping the Colour, or any service honoring the British troops. The Queen's daughter, Princess Anne, who has 24 honorary military appointments, has been notable in wearing a military uniform to these formal events. According to Slate, it's thought that she may be the first royal woman to dress in military attire publicly since Elizabeth I in 1588.

At his 2011 vows, Prince William donned his red Colonel, Irish Guards uniform because he had recently been appointed to the position. After the ceremony, however, he changed into a double-breasted tuxedo for the reception.

Will Harry follow suit on his big day? Because he is no longer a serving officer, it's not required for him to wear his uniform. So he can choose between that or the slightly less formal morning dress, much like his father did—Prince Charles wore his naval commander uniform for his 1981 wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral, but chose morning dress for his 2005 civic ceremony with Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall.

15. USE FASHION TO COMPLIMENT HOSTS WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD.

The Duchess of Cambridge wore a maple leaf brooch and her hat featured a maple leaf design while on a trip to Canada in September 2016.
The Duchess of Cambridge wore a maple leaf brooch and her hat featured a maple leaf design while on a trip to Canada in September 2016.
Dominic Lipinski-Pool, Getty Images

While traveling, the family will pay tribute to a country they are visiting by sporting the national color or by incorporating a meaningful emblem into their outfits. For example, the Queen has worn jade green while visiting Ireland, while Kate has worn a maple leaf brooch and hat on trips to Canada. During a trip to India, Kate sported a piece by a local designer, bringing them so much attention their website crashed hours later.

16. DENIM ISN'T FORBIDDEN, BUT IT'S NOT PREFERRED.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend a Wheelchair Tennis match during the Invictus Games 2017 in Toronto, Canada.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend a Wheelchair Tennis match during the Invictus Games 2017 in Toronto, Canada.
Vaughn Ridley, Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

It's certainly not a go-to item in any royal closet. For more casual outings, women in the family tend to favor trousers, cardigans, and blazers, while men take to polo or button-down shirts and khaki pants. But the BBC interviewed an etiquette expert who explained that most of the time jeans are a no-go, "but if the duchess is outside walking the dogs for example, then jeans are fine."

Essentially, it's better to be overdressed than underdressed, so denim tends to be for private life only.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Taco Bell Quarterly, a Taco Bell-Themed Literary Journal, Exists—And You Can Read It Online

What does the Crunchwrap Supreme have to do with queer politics? A lot, actually.
What does the Crunchwrap Supreme have to do with queer politics? A lot, actually.
Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Taco Bell

In August 2019, writer and “Editor Grande Supreme” MM Carrigan launched the first edition of a free online literary journal called the Taco Bell Quarterly. It wasn’t a publicity stunt—in fact, it wasn’t affiliated with the fast food chain at all—but rather a quality collection of Taco Bell-themed literary musings that ran the gamut from satirical to totally serious.

According to Food & Wine, about 1500 people downloaded that first issue, and viewership grew to 40,000 for the second issue, which was released in February 2020. The Quarterly is gearing up to launch Volume 3 in September, and it promises to be the most zeitgeist-y edition yet.

“Volume 3 will be very much informed by the state of the world. The pieces we're gravitating toward are foreboding, existing on the precipice of an alternate history in which we might have prevented the pandemic," Carrigan tells Mental Floss. “People think we're a joke, but this will be the issue that proves we're not. Writers are taking chances in writing in our magazine that I don't think the literary world has seen in a long time. We're writing with radical sincerity.”

Capturing the cultural atmosphere of this year through Taco Bell-related poems, essays, and short stories might seem like a tall order, but the Quarterly is no stranger to tackling tough topics. While some early pieces are silly and upbeat—take Alana Saltz’s poem “Ode to Nacho Fries,” for example—others use Taco Bell as a backdrop for deeper musings about “homelessness, suburban dread, poverty, American identity, and so much more,” as Carrigan told Food & Wine.

Carrigan chose Taco Bell as the journal's unifying thread because, to put it plainly, it was the first idea that popped into her head.

“Brands are a symbiote that live in our brains. We're telling that story,” she says. And, as far as brands go, Taco Bell's offbeat, innovative menu items and neon beverages are more “seductive” and “daring” than McDonald's classic Big Macs and smiling clown mascot. In other words, the subversive fast food chain is the perfect theme for an online journal that aims to subvert people's stereotypical understanding of “The Writing Life,” which Carrigan describes as a “journey of MFA programs, writing retreats, [and] rubbing elbows at conferences.”

As interest in Taco Bell Quarterly grew, Taco Bell itself began to take notice, and Carrigan says the company has sent the team hundreds of dollars' worth of free tacos as an unofficial "thank you" for all the free advertising. She distributes them to writers whose work has been rejected by other literary magazines.

While you wait for Volume 3 to hit the internet this fall, catch up on the first two volumes on the Taco Bell Quarterly website here.

[h/t Food & Wine]