The Queen, The Dresser and The American

It is no accident that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth holds such a powerful place in the fashion ethos.

Like many, I’ve always been struck by her singular and flawless style that seems to defy the passing of time. Little did I know that one day I would play a very small part in this amazing story.

Just as The Queen has commanded the world stage with her intelligent, calm and focused energy, her clothes, jewelry and accessories have reflected that strength of persona using color, silhouette and detailing to masterfully burnish an image that is at once inviolable, confident and purposeful.

Throughout the history of her incredible reign, The Queen’s style has been both a mirror of the times and a hedge against the ever-changing world that surrounds her.

Angela Kelly, The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe, book
“The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe,” by Angela Kelly.
CREDIT: Courtesy

Over the last seven years, I’ve had a unique vantage point to witness the thought and care that goes into the monarch’s look. Now, my good friend Angela Kelly, Her Majesty’s Personal Advisor and Curator (The Queen’s Jewellery, Insignias and Wardrobe), Senior Dresser and In-house Designer, has just written a beautiful and loving tribute to her boss, an authorized account of their incredible working relationship.

In The Other Side of the Coin, The Queen, The Dresser and the Wardrobe, Angela takes the reader inside the workrooms of Buckingham Palace to understand the symbolic weight of designing and coordinating HM’s outfits to seamlessly enhance her wide-ranging duties. Along the way, one learns how the traditional royal dress codes have been subtlety updated and burnished to icon status.

The book also reveals, in her own words, how Angela found herself in such a unique job and the evolution of her role as one of The Queen’s most trusted advisors.

In a compelling series of short stories covering key moments over a quarter of a century, Angela details her dramatic journey from humble childhood to Palace newbie to indispensable member of HM’s closest staff. This Cinderella-like story takes on more gravitas with the added knowledge that The Queen herself has authorized the book, a Royal Household first.

Michael Atmore, angela kelly
Angela Kelly and Michael Atmore.
CREDIT: Courtesy

It is a narrative that I know quite well. When I met my husband, Paul Mesher, in 2009, I was ushered into an exclusive world of close friendships he formed while working as The Queen’s Personal Footman. Like The Queen herself, this is a wise and witty group and they have been very kind in accepting “the American.”

In 2012, with The Queen’s blessing, one of those dear friends, Paul Whybrew, The Queen’s Page, organized an elegant staff reunion (past and present) at Windsor Castle to honor Her Majesty’s wildly successful Jubilee year.

I remember every vivid detail of that fall evening as I had left the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in New York City for the quiet magnificence of Windsor Castle. It was the tail end of a triumphant Jubilee year that saw The Queen celebrate her own incredible reign in so many powerful forms, not the least of which was appearing in the opening segment of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It had created quite the buzz!

There was an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment that night as The Queen’s trusted team filled the stunning Waterloo Chamber. Of course, there was a lot of curiosity about “the American” and I was starting to feel the heat — and my jet lag — when my Paul introduced me to Angela. Of course, I knew a bit about her by this point, but this was our first face-to-face and she quickly took this somewhat misplaced interloper under her warm and witty wing. I was immediately dazzled by her “switched on” sense of fun and smart asides.

Sadly, we quickly got lost amid the interesting crowd in St. George’s Hall and the fantastic dinner that followed. By the time the evening ended with The Queen’s Pipers offering a dramatic send off, I had met many of the staff, including my cousin Ken Atmore, who had been looking for “his family” since the party started. It was joyous meeting, as The Queen’s Personal Protection Officer and his American cousin talked about family history and our world of mutual acquaintances, including my husband, Paul.

After the reunion, I stayed in close touch with Angela, and over the course of many visits, our deep friendship was born. I began to fully understand the scope and importance of her role in the household. All the more reason I was extremely flattered and touched when she asked me to lend my industry knowledge to update The Queen’s shoe story.

It was in this capacity that I witnessed first-hand the fascinating, no-nonsense relationship between The Queen and Angela, most notably the determined professionalism on the part of Kelly and the enormous attention to detail on the part of The Queen. One can feel the sense of awe felt by those close to Her Majesty and how seriously they take their jobs. And yet, warmth and humor never get lost in the exacting process.

With great love and respect, Angela’s book reveals how she has honed a new kind of relationship between monarch and dresser, tapping a more modern view of fashion’s power as she cleverly guides her team to gently evolve The Queen’s well-defined style. The result has been wildly successful by any measure, putting Her Majesty on a fashion stratosphere that is hers and hers alone.

The book offers a series of entertaining glimpses of the unique working relationship between the The Queen and her devoted dresser, revealing Angela’s sense of detail, duty and history. She takes the reader on a fascinating ride, as she hopscotches between her experience of acclimating to Palace life to the untold hours spent getting each look just right.

There are also a great many personal tales that reflect Angela’s humble beginnings as well as the backstory of some of the more public moments when The Queen’s fashion choices dominated the headlines.

I was thrilled to join Angela for one of those great moments, when The Queen shocked the jaded fashion industry by appearing on the front row at up-and-coming designer Richard Quinn’s show, which closed London Fashion Week in 2018.

The much talked about appearance was Angela’s brainchild, and The Queen handed out the first Queen Elizabeth award for fashion talent, an honor designed by Miss Kelly. It was an emotional and dramatic full-circle kind of day for me, one that merged the private and public sides of Angela’s tireless work on behalf of the Queen.

In fact, in the wake of the book launch, Angela will return to Buckingham Palace and resume her work. There is no stopping as The Queen moves through an intense fall schedule with a mix of new and cleverly recycled looks.

Amid an increasingly chaotic global stage, Her Majesty’s trademark, indestructible style is more important, more relevant and more celebrated than ever.

In this fascinating book, the world gets to see how my friend Angela is determined to keep it just that way.

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