While her stepdaughters-in-law typically receive the bulk of the attention surrounding the royal family’s sartorial choices, Camilla Parker Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, took a big step in her own style evolution this week by attending her first London Fashion Week presentation on Tuesday. She sat front row, naturally.
Camilla was on hand at Bethany Williams’s show in order to present the young designer with the second annual Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. In its inaugural year, the award was conferred on Richard Quinn by the queen herself, after she famously sat next to Anna Wintour in the front row of his February 2018 show. This time around, Camilla stood in for her mother-in-law, and was seated next to Vogue U.K.’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful.
For the occasion, the duchess wore a long-sleeved navy dress by Bruce Oldfield featuring white horizontal stripes along the skirt, and accessorized with a quadruple-strand pearl necklace, classic black pumps, and queen-approved sheer black pantyhose. After the show, and before presenting Williams with the award, Camilla gave a short address about the importance of innovation in fashion.
The Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design honors up-and-coming designers in the U.K. who demonstrate both originality and a dedication to ethical practices, whether by using their work to give back to their community or engaging in sustainable methods. Williams’s Adelaide House collection does both: It was made from recycled denim and newspapers, and was also created in tandem with Liverpool’s Adelaide House, a women’s shelter that helps those experiencing domestic abuse and homelessness.
As the British public has slowly but surely come to accept Parker Bowles as Prince Charles’s second wife, so too has the queen-to-be’s own fashion sense evolved. Her role as the “other woman” in Charles and Diana’s crumbling marriage in the mid-’90s also saw her cast as the frumpy opposite of Diana’s glamorous style star. (It didn’t help that she was nearly 15 years older than Lady Di.) In the years since, however, Camilla has swapped her bulky jackets and matronly plaids for sleek coatdresses and elegant pastels, plus a good statement hat every now and then. Perhaps Camilla’s front-row Fashion Week debut was merely the well-deserved culmination of many years of sartorial effort—and, hopefully, will mark the beginning of a new annual tradition for the still-budding style star.