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Monday, May 30, 2016

Fashioning A Reign ~ 90 Years of Style From the Queen’s Wardrobe

It has been ages since I’ve written a Royal themed post. Several of you have inquired if I was still going to write them.

I did cover the Queen’s 9oth birthday on both Instagram and Facebook. But I will try to be better about posts here. The Royal themed posts always require a great deal of historical research. Such research requires an investment of time that I don’t seem to have as I enter into my last year in college.

But this topic was SO good ~ The Queen AND fashion!

Fashioning A Reign ~ 90 Years of Style from the Queen’s Wardrobe.

The first display will focus on significant events in the Queen's life, her support of British craft and design and tartan in royal dress

On the occasion of the Queen’s 90th birthday, April 21, 2016, a three part exhibit opened at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. It will run through October 16, 2016.

The second exhibit will occur with the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace on July 23 and will run through October 2, 2016.

The third exhibit will open at Windsor Castle on September 17 and will run through January 8, 2017.

A Mantle, Hat and Insignia of the Order of the Thistle as worn by Her Majesty, The Queen.
Designs for Scotland:

The collection showcases some of traditional robes worn by the Queen at the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle. This ceremony honors the men and women who have held public office or who have significantly contributed to national life. It is second only in precedence to the Order of the Garter and is the highest honor one can be bestowed in Scotland.

The Queen in her robes at the ceremony in 2003

I am absolutely beside myself that I cannot view this amazing collection in person. It is the first time in history that both the Queen’s wedding gown and her coronation gown will be shown together.

Let us begin with the Queen’s wedding gown.

The Queens Wedding and Coronation dresses:

The Queen married Prince Philip on November 20, 1947.  Although World War II had ended in 1945 the country was in the process of recovering from the effects of the war. The use of rationing coupons was still in affect and there was no exception for Princess Elizabeth. She had to collect coupons to purchase the fabric and materials needed for her gown. The country responded with thousands of loyal citizens sending in their coupons to assist her.

The Queens Wedding and Coronation dresses:

The  result was a gown made of ivory silk that was decorated with sparkling crystals and 10,000 seed pearls, The dress was designed by Royal family favorite Sir Norman Hartnell.

Hartnell secretly added an extra four-leaf shamrock on the left side of the skirt for good luck, so that Her Majesty’s hand could rest upon it during the ceremony.

The Queens Wedding and Coronation dresses:

The gown incorporated  a 15 foot (4.6m) train that featured a star-pattern.

It was woven in Braintree in Essex and was inspired by the famous Renaissance painting of “Primavera” also known as the “Allegory of Spring” by Botticelli, circa 1482, which symbolized rebirth and growth after the war.

The second most recognizable gown is the Queen’s coronation gown.

The Queens Wedding and Coronation dresses:

The gown was ordered in October of 1952 for the Queen’s coronation on June 2, 1953. It was also designed by Sir Norman Hartnell. It was made of white satin made from fibers from the silk farm at Lullingstone Castle. It featured short sleeves, a heart-shaped neckline and tapering waistline. The full skirt extended in a slight train at the back.

It is easy to see why the dress took eight months to create due to the intricate research required as well as the elaborate design and workmanship of the dress.

The Queens Wedding and Coronation dresses:

The dress featured floral emblems of the United Kingdom as well as the other Commonwealth of Nations. This included the English Tudor Rose, the Scottish thistle, Welsh leek, Irish shamrock, Canadian maple leaf, Australian wattle, New Zealand silver fern among many others.

The dress required the efforts of at least three dressmakers, six embroiderers, as well as the Royal School of Needlework to create the gown and it’s embroidery some of which was worked in gold bullion thread and was accented with seed pearls and crystals.

Royal Wedding Dresses - Fashion Police Files:

The Queen so loved the gown that she wore it to six more events. I can’t blame her.

Her official coronation portrait was taken by esteemed photographer Sir Cecil Beaton.

In 1960 when the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, married Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon, the Queen wore a turquoise-blue dress made of silk taffeta, guipure lace and silk tulle. It had a matching bolero jacket. All were created by Sir Norman Hartnell.

With such a tiny waist it is hard to believe that her third child, Prince Andrew, had been born earlier that year.

The Queen always pays close attention to her accessories as well. The hat she wore to the wedding was topped by roses as a nod to Princess Margaret Rose.

Along with the two strands of pearls the Queen wore a diamond brooch she had inherited in 1953 from Queen Mary.

 Because so many of you always want to know about the jewels, let’s talk about the broach. The “ True Lovers Knot” is the largest of the bow brooches worn by the Queen. The diamond brooch was originally acquired by Queen Mary from Garrard in 1932.

Given it’s large size the Queen generally wears this brooch to evening events, important occasions, and to hold poppies on Remembrance Day.

The Queen, a romantic at heart, selected this brooch to also wear to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton to celebrate their “true love”.

Her Majesty, The Queen is of course rarely seen in public without a hat. The exhibit features quite a few examples of millinery she has worn over the years.

Left -Philip Somerville, Straw, silk. Worn for a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, Cyprus, 1993, center - Philip Somerville, Straw, grosgrain ribbon, c.1970, right Philip Somerville, Straw, silk. Worn for a visit to Singapore, 1989


My favorites are of course the evening gowns she wore for state occasions. This gown was worn during the State Visit of King Olav of Norway to Scotland in  October 1962.

State Occasions:

The magnificent evening gown, once again a Hartnel creation, is made of pale blue silk faille. It has short sleeves and a scooped neckline. It features a border of white silk faille richly embroidered with white bugle beads, flower-shaped beads, sequins, circular beads, crystals and diamante in a design of feathers.

State Occasions:

The Queen wore the dress to a gala performance of “Rob Roy” at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh during the State Visit of King Olav of Norway to Scotland in  October 1962.

Each collection will feature gowns and clothing that directly correlate to where the exhibit is held. For example dresses and clothing which feature tartan accents will be showcased at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A Hartnell jacket with a kilt in Balmoral tartan, both from the 1940s. 

The tradition of wearing tartan in Scotland goes back to around 1538 and originated in the Highlands. At one time tartan was banned but later championed by Queen Victoria.

Her husband, Prince Albert, designed the famous Balmoral tartan in the 1850’s. To this day the Balmoral tartan can only be worn with the Queen's permission.

Pure perfection for Tartan Tuesday!

For this reason the exhibition will also feature a woven silk-velvet tartan dress worn by Queen Victoria in 1835.

Sir Norman Hartnell  created this evening dress of embroidered duchesse satin worn by the Queen at the Ghillies Ball at Balmoral Castle in 1971. It featured a sash of Royal Stewart tartan.

The Ghillies Ball was first introduced by Queen Victoria in 1852. The ball is given for neighbors, estate and castle staff while Her Majesty is in residence. Traditionally the gentlemen of the Royal Family wear Highland dress, to include kilts, while royal ladies wear long evening dresses with Royal Stewart tartan sashes.

The Queen wore this gown with a sash of Royal Stewart tartan for the Gillies Ball at Balmoral Castle in 1971

The name of the ball, ghillie, is the word for a type of shoe. The shoe laces along the instep and has no tongue. It is used especially for Scottish country dancing. They are worn by both men and women.

On July 1, 1999, for the official opening of the Scottish Parliament, Her Majesty wore a purple coat made of a silk-wool blend with a green silk-crepe and lace dress made by Sandra Murray. It was accessorized with a purple and green Isle of Skye tartan woven on the Island of Lewis.

For the walk about the Queen held the shawl in place with a broach, and let it cascade over her left shoulder.

The matching hat, by milliner Philip Somerville, was trimmed with a bow and dark green feathers. 

This is just one of the many outfits that the public will be able to get close to in celebration of the Queen's 90th

Most charming of all will probably be the items worn by Her Majesty when she was young.
A few of the fancy dress costumes that were worn by the young Princess Elizabeth will be on display at Windsor Castle.

She and Princess Margaret would put on family pantomimes during their childhood. They were often joined by their Girl Guide (Girl Scouts) comrades who took on accompanying roles.

As children Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, wore everyday clothing typical of the era. For official engagements in which they would accompany their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, they would often wear coordinating dresses, coat and hats.

Straw bonnet made by Smith & Co of Sloane Street London in 1934.


Elizabeth wore the coat on the left for an official visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in 1937.


The Queen Mother, Elizabeth, is on the left and King George is on the far right.

For those lucky enough to be in the United Kingdom while the three exhibits are running you can find out additional details and book tickets HERE.




GSGreatEscaper said...

Oh how I wish I could see these! Wasn't she beautiful? What a great figure she had for so many years - in 1970 (the Ghillies ball dress) she'd have been 44. And it was the silouhette of the times, too.

Bonnie said...

Great post, Laura. It does take a lot of research and I know your time is limited.
Quite by accident, in 2006, we visited Buckingham Palace not knowing that an exhibit of all the Queen's dresses were on display. It was amazing and I enjoyed it very much. She has had so many beautiful dresses I am sure she can't remember them all.

Curtains in My Tree said...

Oh I would love to see all her gowns and outfits in person. I love old textiles and I know this would be a real treat.

Thanks for showing all these wonderful pictures and descriptions of her events she wore such gorgeous clothing

Lisa said...

Laura this is a fabulous post! It's so fun to see all the gorgeous detailing on each gown,each more stunning than the last. Thanks for sharing this with us and for all the hard work you put into it.;-)

Nancy's Notes said...

What an incredible post. Each photograph is just exquisite! Thank you!!!


Great post and great wardrobe the Queen has. Really amazing cloths, fit for a queen, that she is.
Thanks for sharing.

Sarah said...

Excellent post, Laura. Yes, the research for such a post takes considerable time. You did an incredible job! I wish I could visit to see these exhibits. Thanks for the heads up. Will share with friends who are going to UK this summer.

Pat@Life At Lydias House said...

I always enjoy your royal posts! Thanks for taking time to do all the research and share your findings with us!

Botanic Bleu said...

You did a superb job highlighting some of the more famous and less-well known items in the queen's wardrobe. Excellent research with beautiful photos...


Auntie Em said...

The weight of the wedding and coronation gown on such a small frame must have been daunting for her but she carried them with grace and dignity.
This would be such a beautiful exhibit to see. Thank you for sharing your history research. :)

Angelina PeoniesandOrangeBlossoms said...

I just love the intricate embroidery on her coronation gown. It is literally -fit for a Queen!! I wish I could see this exhibit in person as well... oh well. Thanks for sharing this with all of us and doing all of this research!!

craftyles said...

I'd love to see this exhibit in person, but you have shown us so much. SO interesting. Her wedding dress was magnificent. I also love all the hats. Thanks for researching this and posting great pic's.

Daniela said...

I've always been admiring this queen for her simplicity, her discreet elegance, her kindness of manner...
Actually I'd never seen her wedding gown and her coronation gown in their details, they are absolutely stunning, thank you my wonderful Laura for this so charming post !

Hope you're having a lovely week I'm sending my dearest love to you,
thinking of you with so much sweetness

xox - Dany

Kiki Nakita said...


Thank you for showing us a glimpse into HM Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe. What a beautiful gown she wore for her wedding, and coronation. How thoughtful of those who sent her coupons.

I met her in 1996, something I'll have to write about someday.

Have a blessed week,


Marianne said...

Laura, what a lovely and detailed post. We just returned from 9 days in eastern England and are so nostalgic for it! Our son , who is a naval aviator, is doing a 3 year pilot exchange in the RAF, so we were visiting him. We had so many wonderful adventures while there and fell in love (again) with England. What a thrill for this anglophile that our son is " flying for the Queen".

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

Oh this post was just wonderful ; so much fun! :) The Queen is an amazing woman...given a role to fill and accepting it and fulfilling it to the utmost throughout all of her life. said...

This is just amazing Laura, I always knew she was known for her hats, but had no idea about her wardrobe. I can't imagine living a whole life in the spot light and under such scrutiny. This post belongs in a book, wonderful research and explanations...

Deanna Rabe said...

I'm such a fan of the Queen. Thank you for this post. How I'd love seeing these exhibitions!

Cristina Garay said...

Thanks so much for this post, Laura! Such a wonderful compilation.

Jeanie said...

As you might expect, I love this post almost more than I can say. The gowns are beautiful. I love the rich purples. And the detail in the coronation gown is particularly amazing. I love how the colors are so pale pastel that in a distance shot they almost look white or gray but up close you see the yellow french knots and the lavender of the thistle.

And the youth clothes, too! I've seen so many newsreels and b/w photos of the pink coats -- but who knew they were pink?!

That's the other thing. You see some of the photos and the dresses look lovely but nothing more or less than any other of the kind. But when you see the color and how they pop -- wow!

And finally, I understand the ghillie's concept! Thank you, Laura, for taking my breath away!

Tammy Lagaly said...

I love this post! Thanks so much. I am amazed by how small all of the clothing is..Such detail and beautifully made.

Mary Steinbrink said...

Laura, I've been saving this post until I had time to really enjoy it. It was wonderful. It is so interesting to see all the details that you don't see in press or black and white photos. Thank you so much for writing this post! I will be saving it to enjoy again! Mary