Clad in a crisp powder blue suit, Queen Elizabeth arrived at the Richard Quinn show in London to present an award to the emerging designer. The moment she entered the room, she received a round of rapturous applause and took her seat in the front row on a blue velvet cushion. Next to her was Anna Wintour, and to Wintour’s left, a polished woman in a navy blue dress. That woman, Angela Kelly, has been the Queen’s right-hand woman and, some say, her “gatekeeper,” for over a decade.

Her official title is a grandiose one: personal assistant, adviser, and curator to Her Majesty the Queen (jewelry, insignias, and wardrobe). Informally, she’s known as the Queen’s dressmaker (although the Queen has many people working on her clothing), or just the Queen’s assistant, orchestrating the Queen’s day-to-day life as well as her outfits. Although she is a royal employee, many tabloids have reported that their working relationship has blossomed into a close friendship—the Daily Mail, for example, says that the Queen frequently pops over to Kelly’s home (a “grace and favor” house, given to her by the monarch) when in Windsor. Other outlets claim that, when the two are alone, staff can hear them laughing from down the hallway.

Some royal watchers also say that, after the death of her mother and sister, the Queen was looking for people to fill the void. Kelly, perhaps, was one of those people, although she herself downplays that connection.

“We are two typical women. We discuss clothes, makeup, jewelry. We say, ‘Would this piece of jewelry look nice with that outfit?’ and things like that,” Kelly told The Telegraph in 2007. “It’s just a working relationship—but a close one.”

The fact that the Queen and her dresser are close does indeed make sense. After all, dressing someone, let alone one of the most famous people in the world, is an intimate experience. There’s the physical aspect, which involves a lot of pinning and fitting, but also a mental one: It requires trust that this person understands your taste, and the demands of each situation, almost better than you do.

For the Queen, the last part is paramount. Unlike fashion-forward royals like Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, trends have no place in her wardrobe—she needs to be consistent and proper, yet approachable and not stuffy, and most of all, not out of touch. It’s a delicate balance, and one that’s not easily achieved.

Then there’s the issue of color. The Queen allegedly dresses in bright hues so she can be seen in a crowd. However, while fuchsia may make sense when she’s reviewing the Horse Guards, it doesn’t work for the somber Remembrance Sunday. Although the monarch is said to have a strong sartorial vision and appreciation of fabric, it’s Kelly’s job to advise and execute it all, making sure the Queen never puts a wrong foot forward (shoe-wise, anyway).

Oftentimes, Kelly helps design the Queen’s outfits. She created the canary yellow outfit the Queen wore to Middleton and Prince William’s wedding, as well as the tailored look she donned for the Quinn show. Her designs and advice extend to the family: After Queen Victoria’s christening dress, worn by the royal family for more than a century, became too delicate to use, she made a replica. When Middleton suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction due to the wind in Canada, it was allegedly Kelly who suggested she put weights in the hem of her dresses (the Queen, it’s said, does this as well).

At the Quinn show, British Fashion Council’s Caroline Rush said to the Queen: “Your Majesty, I know you do not wish to be known as a fashion icon, but from all of us in this room, we have the utmost respect for you and also for your hard work and diligence.” There’s no doubt that Kelly has played an integral part in making the Queen the “fashion icon” Rush so describes.

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