Empress Masako of Japan's Best Looks of All Time

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Empress Masako of Japan's Best LooksKIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH - Getty Images

Empress Masako, born as the commoner Masako Owada, is a Japanese diplomat who married Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993, becoming Crown Princess and then Empress in May 2019.

Masako's life story is fascinating, and unusual for an Empress of Japan. She was born in Tokyo, moved to Moscow, then finished the her last years of high school in Massachusetts at the Belmont High School. She then earned a bachelor of arts degree, graduating magna cum laude at Harvard University before studying law at Oxford University. Although she didn't finish her thesis for unknown reasons, she still continued on to work for Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a diplomat, where she met the then Crown Prince Naruhito at a diplomatic event in 1986. He proposed to her three times before she finally accepted, and the couple married in 1993.

Naruhito and Masako have one child, Aiko, Princess Toshi (more commonly known as Princess Aiko), who was born in 2001. However, under Japanese Imperial law, only a son can succeed the throne, causing great stress when the couple failed to produce a male heir. In 2004, Masako was diagnosed with "adjustment disorder," a psychological condition caused by environmental and situational stress. In a statement on her 55th birthday, Masako explained the root cause of her disorder to the public, saying that "I sometimes feel insecure about the extent to which I will be able to be of service to people." She largely withdrew from the public between 2004 and 2014, but since, she has resumed her political duties and diplomatic work.

When she became Empress in 2019, Masako was given the imperial personal emblem of the Japanese Ramanas rose—a delicate flower which blooms in colors like mauve, lilac, red, and white, and has a cultivar—a selectively-bred flower strain—that blooms in yellow. The characters of the name 'Masako' itself mean 'truth or elegance,' and her fashion styles definitely reflect both her floral emblem's colors and the nature of her name.

In the few pictures that the Japanese royal family shares with the public, Masako wears mostly monochromatic sets (in the colors of her flower) with midi skirts and matching blouses, jackets, and hats. As she grows older, she has also been seen wearing white gloves to the Imperial Palace's balcony in Tokyo, where she resides. In chronological order, take a look at Empress Masako's best fashion moments:

June 9, 1993

On her wedding day, Masako wore Western-style gown—an exquisite, soft A-line dress that ends in a petal-like collar and harbors a soft floral pattern. She paired the dress with elbow-high white gloves, a white bag with cream accents, and a dazzling tiara and matching necklace. The tiara, worn formerly first by her mother-in-law, Michiko, is encrusted with diamonds in swirling patterns that end in circles resembling chrysanthemums, the floral symbol of the imperial family.

the newly wed crown prince naruhito l and his wi
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA - Getty Images

June 26, 1993

In a baby pink A-line dress, Masako passes before shinto priests upon leaving the historic Ise Grand Shrine in 1993. The adorable dress is tied back with a bow, and she wears an elegant hat with lace details.

the newly wed crown princess masako passes before
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December 9, 1993

The Princess looks happy in side-swept hair, smiling in a pleated red suit on her birthday in 1993. The crimson autumn leaves of the tree behind the couple her red outfit.

30th princess masako's birthday in tokyo, japan on december 09, 1993
Kurita KAKU - Getty Images

February 8, 1995

Upon meeting the late Princess Diana in 1995, the then-Crown Princess Masako wore an electric blue suit with black velvet accents and black pumps. An elaborate silver brooch holds her jacket closed, and the slightest hint of the white undershirt ties the look harmoniously. Masako even color coordinated with Princess Diana, who wore similarly wore a blue skirt suit with black accents.

diana and crown prince and princess of japan
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March 1, 1996

Continuing the monochromatic looks, Masako wears a magenta-red suit in 1996, complete with double-stacked pearl necklaces.

masako owada, 1996
Naoto HOSAKA - Getty Images

July 20, 1996

Masako wears a smart peackock green suit with black accents and a gold brooch. This time, her gloves are not white but green. She is visiting an exhibition in 1996, and her set makes her stand out in the sea of dark suits.

princess masako visiting an exhibition
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May 10, 1997

This silk, lattice-patterned baby pink suit looks youthful yet professional, and the tiny bag adds only adds to the playful atmosphere. The heels, black with gold accents, match the bag. Here, Masako and Naruhito are seen walking into their hotel in Fukuoka.

files this file photo dated 10 may 199
KAZUHIRO NOGI - Getty Images

November 25, 1998

Upon welcoming the Chinese president Jiang Zemin to Japan in 1998, Masako wears a powerful green velour suit and sophisticated breton hat. Her double-breasted jacket and matching green clutch complete the layers of green.

china's president in japan
noboru hashimoto - Getty Images

June 2, 1999

When welcoming Austrian President Klestil to Tokyo in 1999, Masako wore a beautiful, all white set, sporting a small vintage hat, lace undershirt, sturdy jacket, and classic pumps. Evidently, she is holding her white leather gloves.

austrian president thomas klestil at welcoming ceremony at akasaka state guesthouse in tokyo, japan on june 02, 1999
Kurita KAKU - Getty Images

December 11, 2002

As the imperial couple walk to their airplane at Haneda Airport in 2002, Masako wears a navy, midi-length coat with sleek black heels. The highlight of this coat are the brown-fur details of the collar and of the sleeves, which give her an air of old Hollywood glamour.

japan's crown prince and princess leave for trip
Junko Kimura - Getty Images

December 15, 2002

In a sweet snap, Masako and Naruhito wave to the camera in their hiking outfits—baggy shades of beige and black. They are on a trip the South Island in New Zealand, 2002, and the view of the mountains is breathtaking. The then-Crown Prince Naruhito seems eager to take pictures with his camera, as does the Princess with her point-and-shoot!

their imperial highnesses crown prince natuhito an
Barry Harcourt - Getty Images

November 15, 2005

In a luxurious velvet set (but this time with a midi-length skirt!) Masako opts for a deep maroon, burgundy red color. Her hair, cropped short in 2005, gives a touch of elegance and edge, which can also be seen with her modern sling-back heels. The dark colors of the outfit highlight her dazzling necklace: a chunky, diamond choker.

japanese crown prince naruhito r and c
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA - Getty Images

March 5, 2006

In this rare, casual look, Masako wears a black and white lozenge-patterned jacket with surprising black leather details on the cuff and collar. Her white turtleneck and black pants balance the outfit superbly as she arrives at the Tokyo Dome stadium to watch a baseball game.

japan royal
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June 8, 2006

Holding a pair of delicate white gloves, Masako and her husband see Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko off as they depart on a voyage in 2006. Masako matches Naruhito's navy and white tie with a similarly white jacket with bold navy accents. Her hat is classic—in a boater shape, the navy ribbon emphasizes her elegance. Pearl earrings match her pearl necklace and pearl ring.

emperor akihito and empress michiko leave for singapore and thailand on an eight day official visit
Junko Kimura - Getty Images

July 24, 2006

Holding Princess Aiko's hand in 2006, Masako wears a long yet fitted black suit with thin white stripes, elongating her figure. Black pants, pumps, and bag give her an air of elegant mystery as the family visits a new train station north of Tokyo.

japan's crown prince naruhito and crown
Shizuo Kambayashi - Getty Images

August 17, 2007

Masako and her daughter, Aiko, wear beautiful shades of baby blue while Naruhito wears light grey, forming a pastel palette that looks splendidly familial. Masako, in a pant suit with white undershirt and heels, looks elegant yet casual.

japanese crown prince naruhito r, prin
TORU YAMAKAKA - Getty Images

May 15, 2007

Masako holds her daughter's hand during a trip to Princess Aiko's kindergarten in 2007. Coordinating with her daughter's navy and pleated-skirt uniform, Masako wears a pleated grey skirt and navy cardigan with a classic white-collared shirt tucked underneath. Instead of wearing sneakers like Aiko, however, Masako wears black pumps.

japan royal
TORU YAMANAKA - Getty Images

October 22, 2019

Masako wears beautiful traditional garb upon becoming Empress in 2019. Dressed in swaths of sunset orange, chrysanthemum-patterned white, and pistachio green, she looks regal. The sleek, ceremonial hairstyle is adorned with gold decorations.

japan royals ceremony emperor
AFP - Getty Images

June 27, 2019

It is no surprise that Masako wears blue to meet "les bleus," a.k.a. the French, upon a visit by France's President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte in 2019. In an embossed, monochromatic silk suit, Empress Masako's outfit matches Emperor Naruhito's tie.

japan france diplomacy
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February 9, 2024

Although Masako is usually seen in Western-style clothing, she occasionally wears the traditional kimono for special events. In this case, the imperial couple were welcoming Kenya's President Ruto at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The kimono, in a pale mint color, is adorned with delicate gold motifs of nature, and is accompanied by a matching, diamond-patterned obi, or belt.

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KAZUHIRO NOGI - Getty Images

June 22, 2024

Arriving for a State Visit to the United Kingdom, Empress Masako descended from the airplane in a lovely cornflower blue outfit with white accents. Her gleaming pearl necklace complemented her large pearl earrings, and the white elements harmonized the ensemble. Best of all? The neat bow on her blazer, which doubled as a button.

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Benjamin Cremel - Getty Images

June 25, 2024

On the first day of their State Visit, Empress Masako and Emperor Naruhito received a ceremonial welcome from the British royal family. Masako wore a lacy white gown and boater hat, matching the pristine white dress of Queen Camilla.

Read more here

the emperor and empress of japan state visit to the united kingdom – day 1
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June 25, 2024

Empress Masako arrived for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in a sparkling white gown, once again matching with Queen Camilla. Most dazzling of all was the Imperial Chrysanthemum Tiara, which she wore for the first time, and a sparkling diamond necklace.

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