Why Princess Anne’s our most on trend royal

The Princess Royal’s retro looks couldn’t be hotter right now. Have designers been raiding her photo album for inspiration? Laura Craik investigates.

Princess Anne isn’t the first royal who springs to mind when you think of ‘effortless cool’. In fact, today the Queen’s daughter is almost deliberately unfashionable, wearing her tried-and-tested outfits for years on end, and sticking to the same decades-old hairstyle.

Yet it was not always so. A glance back at her old ensembles reveals a young woman who not only enjoyed clothes; she shows an eerie prescience that seems to forecast today’s most persuasive catwalk trends.

Who would have thought that the Princess Royal, 68, swung through the 1960s and 70s with big hair, great flares and a can-do attitude to trends that puts most royals to shame. Whether it was a jaunty scarf, a cleverly positioned brooch or a killer earring, boy, did Anne know how to accessorise.

And what Anne wore then, designers can’t get enough of now, with labels from Gucci to Saint Laurent showcasing pieces that could have been plucked from her vintage wardrobe.

Here we pay tribute to Britain’s most surprising style icon and take a closer look at some of her finest fashion moments.

Her canary co-ord

Jeremy Fletcher/Getty Images

Some might say it’s too matchy-matchy. We disagree. Posing at an equestrian event in 1968, she’s a princess in the ultimate princess coat, doing ‘through colour’ (wearing two items of the same hue) long before it strolled down the catwalk at Rochas. See how she handles that handbag. And that peek of psychedelic print. Poised, polished – and a little bit Prada.

ROCHAS. Image: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Her perfect pea coat

Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis​ via Getty Images

Here she is in Sandringham in 1969, nailing that elusive Perfect Weekend Look. Where did you get that pea coat, Anne, and can we borrow it for our next minibreak? Also: obsessed with the tusk dangling from a leather string tied nonchalantly through the buttonhole. A keepsake? A trinket from a former lover? I think we must be told.

ALEXANDER McQUEEN. Image: Catwalking.com

Her to-die-for denim skirt

Image: David Levenson/Getty Images

Casting aside the matter of what, exactly, our Princess is thinking (possibly ‘could I look any more fabulous?’) at the first Gatcombe Park Horse Trials in 1983, let’s focus on her dark-denim skirt, as fine an example of utility chic as ever graced the catwalk at Tom Ford. Also: those shoes. So very Gucci Marmont, 33 years before the cult loafers were invented.

TOM FORD. Image: Randy Brooke/Getty Images

Her showstopping maxi coat

Keystone Pictures USA / Alamy Stock Photo

The megacoat is big news – à la Christian Dior, left – and they don’t come more amped up than this 1971 head-turner, worn for the Pageant of Persepolis in Iran. Its proportions are spot-on for autumn and I can see Rihanna in this. And Kim Kardashian. Balenciaga included a series of similarly supersized coats in its autumn/winter show.

CHRISTIAN DIOR. Image: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Her must-have hat

Ray Bellisario/Popperfoto/Ge​tty Images

No royal can smize (that’s smiling with your eyes) quite like Anne. Is that why she picked this hat, to frame her enigmatic gaze? She donned this for a military parade in 1971, but it could have strolled off the Saint Laurent catwalk. It’s chic enough for a royal engagement but hints at Anne’s outdoorsy lifestyle, and hours spent in the saddle.

SAINT LAURENT

Her on-trend trousers

Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix

What’s that? You want tips on how to wear this season’s trouser suit, as espoused by Giorgio Armani and Roksanda, but Alexa Chung just isn’t cutting it? Then check out Princess Anne at Heathrow Airport in 1973, waiting with Prince Charles for a flight to Balmoral. Even her casual cross-legged, hands-in-pockets stance complements the look: more Robert Redford than royal, but we love.

ROKSANDA. Image: Catwalking.com

Her proto-Gucci belt

Tim Graham/Getty Images

Et tu, Alessandro Michele? It looks like the creative director of Gucci has found a retro royal muse. OK, so her buckle doesn’t feature a double G, but it sure looks like a precursor for that belt – you know, the one everyone has? And they’re all wearing it exactly like Anne on a trip to Kiev in 1973, as the focal point of their outfit. Also: that neckerchief. Swoon.

GUCCI. Image: Catwalking.com

Her monochrome coat

Keystone Pictures USA / Alamy Stock Photo

Givenchy is one of Meghan’s favourite labels – its artistic director Clare Waight Keller designed her wedding dress – so how pleasing to find that the label’s current collection features a coat not dissimilar to this black and white one worn by Anne to a Noël Coward lecture in 1969. We’ve even spied Kate Moss in a similar style by Fendi.

GIVENCHY. Image: Catwalking.com