This summer the Queen’s wedding dress and coronation dress will be displayed together at Buckingham Palace.
The exhibit, titled “Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe,” opens in the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace on 23 July, and explores the Queen’s 90 years and the history of the nation via what she wore on state occasions, international tours and during family events.
Both of these iconic dresses were designed by Sir Norman Hartnell, a favourite designer among the women in the Royal Family.
The Queen was married on 20 November 1947 in Westminster Abbey, in a gorgeous ivory silk dress. The dress was decorated with crystals and 10,000 seed pearls, and featured a 15 foot train, woven in Essex, with a star-pattern on it.
Because there was still rationing in 1947, the future-Queen collected rations to pay for the dress.
Hartnell described working on the dress, stating that he enjoyed, “working with soft, floating fabrics, particularly tulle and chiffon, and with plain, lustrous silks.”
The Queen’s coronation dress, worn 2 June 1953 again at Westminster Abbey, took eight months of research, design, and production before it was ready. It was made from silk, per the Queen’s wishes – and the same material as her wedding dress. It featured the floral emblems of the United Kingdom and the countries of the Commonwealth: Tudor roses (England), thistles (Scotland), leek (Wales), shamrocks (Ireland), maple leaf (Canada), wattle (Australia), silver fern (New Zealand), protea (South Africa), lotus flowers (India and Ceylon), and wheat, cotton and jute (Pakistan).
After the coronation, the Queen wore the dress several other times while opening the parliaments of New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Ceylon.
In addition to these two dresses, Hartnell also designed Princess Margaret’s wedding dress; Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester’s wedding dress; and the White Wardrobe of the Queen Mother, wore exclusively white clothing on a visit to Paris in 1938.
He came to prominence within the Royal Family after pleasing its members with his designs for the dresses in the Duchess of Gloucester’s wedding party. The Queen Mother gave him a royal warrant for dressmaking in 1940, and Queen Elizabeth II followed suit in 1957.
Other designers featured in the exhibit are Sir Edwin Hardy Amies and Ian Thomas. The exhibit runs until 2 October.