Queen Letizia of Spain's new favourite style strategy? Raiding her mother-in-law's wardrobe

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Queen Letizia wearing a dress first seen in 1977 - Getty Images
Queen Letizia wearing a dress first seen in 1977 - Getty Images

Mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law relationships can, stereotypically, be fraught enough without adding in the sometimes fractious possibility of sharing clothes. But when your mother-in-law is a royal with a lifetime’s worth of wardrobe treasures and you’re a Queen with a diary packed full of engagements to dress for, the prospect must be all the more appealing.

How I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when Queen Sofia opened the doors of her fashion collection to her son’s wife, Queen Letizia. As Queen of Spain from 1975 to 2014, Sofia dressed for dozens of tours and galas during her husband, King Carlos’, reign, shopping with the biggest designers of the day for her looks.

Now that King Felipe is on the throne, the fashion spotlight has moved to Letizia, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s most stylish royals. But conscious, perhaps, of conversations about sustainability, the Queen is as likely to re-wear an old high street buy as she is to debut a new designer piece, or, increasingly, to delve into Sofia’s archive.

Queen Letizia of Spain wearing a Valentino dress first worn by her mother-in-law in 1977 - Getty Images
Queen Letizia of Spain wearing a Valentino dress first worn by her mother-in-law in 1977 - Getty Images

At an ambassadors’ reception in Madrid yesterday, Letizia wore a grand gown with a delicately embroidered floral bodice and voluminous grass green skirt. It could easily have been a design from the latest couture collection of any big fashion house but was, in fact, first seen on Queen Sofia in 1977.

Then, Sofia wore the Valentino gown during a tour to Germany, styling it with a traditional suite of jewellery, a small clutch bag and a bow belt. Letizia made some modern tweaks to bring the outfit into 2022, adding earrings from affordable Spanish jewellery brand Tous which matched the pink and green colourway of the dress and wearing the belt without the bow.

This is at least the third time that Letizia has delved into her mother-in-law’s wardrobe.

In 2018, she chose Spain’s National Fashion Awards to make a statement about rewearing, bringing back a bright red puff-sleeved dress with pleated skirt which Sofia wore in Denmark in 1980. Again, making the dress right for now was all in the styling. Where it was previously worn with a matching veiled hat and several strings of pearls, Letizia made it look contemporary by accessorising with coordinating stilettos and an oversized envelope bag.

Queen Letizia wears a red dress first seen on her Queen Sofia in 1980 - Getty Images
Queen Letizia wears a red dress first seen on her Queen Sofia in 1980 - Getty Images

Then in September last year, Letizia brought back another of Sofia’s former fashion hits. Greeting Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, Letizia chose a short-sleeved floral blouse and matching floaty midi skirt, which Sofia previously wore in Rome in 1981. With cameras now capturing every engagement from multiple angles, it offered a chance to see the outfit in all its glory after it was previously only captured from the waist up.

COMPOSITE: Royal florals, on Queen Letizia in 2021 and Queen Sofia in 1981 - Getty Images
COMPOSITE: Royal florals, on Queen Letizia in 2021 and Queen Sofia in 1981 - Getty Images

Letizia is not the only royal opting to re-wear family heirlooms. In the UK, Princess Beatrice famously revived one of the Queen’s Norman Hartnell gowns as her wedding dress in 2020 while Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden often brings back outfits from her mother, Queen Silvia’s, archive. And rather than passing on her vintage looks, Princess Anne simply rewears them herself, often reviving items from as far back as the mid-1970s.

Of course, royal wardrobes operate on a level above those of us mere mortals but there is still perhaps, a lesson for everyone here in buying timeless, quality pieces which our future daughters, granddaughters and daughters-in-law might want to wear in their own way 30 or 40 years from now.

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