Last week, in pursuit of a Royal fix and hoping to spy some white cotton gloves, we made the journey to Westminster for a wonderful day out. Having not visited Buckingham Palace since the days of school coaches and packed lunches it was amazing to see the palace in all its splendour and the ‘Fashioning a Reign’ exhibition was truly great.
The exhibition has been opened across 3 official Royal residences and all three exhibitions present a selection of some of the Queen’s most important outfits- many of which have a close relationship with their chosen location. The exhibition at Buckingham Palace spans ten decades of Royal fashion, beginning with the Christening gown worn by Princess Elizabeth in 1926 and going right up to the outfit worn by her Majesty at this year’s Trooping the Colour ceremony.
The Wedding Dress
One of the most impressive items on display at Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s wedding dress, worn on 20 November 1947 when, as Princess Elizabeth, she married Prince Philip of Greece. Whilst I had seen pictures of the dress, nothing compared to seeing it up close and personal. Designed by Norman Hartnell (like a big portion of the clothing there) the dress was made of soft white satin with a high neckline, tailored bodice and a gorgeous long train. The train was said to be inspired by Botticelli’s 1482 painting of Primavera, particularly the embroidery of scattered flowers.
In the immediate aftermath of the war clothing was still rationed and this meant that the Princess had to use ration coupons to acquire the material for the dress. She was actually gifted hundreds of coupons by brides-to-be around England, but was forced to give them back as it was illegal for her to use them (worth a try!) Norman Hartnell is said to have claimed on the completion of the dress that it was, “the most beautiful dress [he] had made so far.” We can see why!
The Coronation Dress
At the young age of 25, on the 2nd of June 1953, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth ll. Such an unforgettable moment, of course, required an unforgettable dress. Once again designed by Norman Hartnell, the dress took 8 months of research. With a mixture of pearls, silk, diamantés, amethysts, crystals and gold, the dress was embroidered with the floral emblems of the countries of the United Kingdom and those of the other states within the Commonwealth of Nations. We can safely say the detail and delicacy of this dress was unrivalled!
Other highlights included the dress Her Majesty wore to fly into the Olympics with the one and only James Bond (remember that?) and the wall of weird and wonderful hats worn to match the array of Royal outfits.
While the dresses worn by Her Majesty at home were indeed beautiful, the dresses she wore abroad on State visits were some of my personal favourites. The attention to detail required in order to incorporate an element of the country she would be visiting was fascinating. The blue and gold dress below was worn on a State visit to the Netherlands and the blue dress to the right, while not on display at Buckingham Palace, was worn during a state visit to Japan in 1975.
Sadly our quest to find our gloves went awry and surprisingly the Queen’s gloves were nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, we’d recommend going to see this exhibition at any of the 3 Royal residences as they all seem to have spectacular outfits on display. Justin Picardie of the Daily Telegraph wrote that, “There is something altogether enchanting about the Queen’s clothes.” After visiting Fashioning a Reign last week we can say that truer words have never been spoken.
Saturday, 23 Jul 2016 – Sunday, 2 Oct 2016
Check out our Pinterest board for more sneak peeks of the Royal outfits…