Palaces & BuildingsThe Queen

Palaces to host largest-ever exhibition of Queen’s wardrobe

The Queen’s official residences are to host the largest-ever exhibition of The Queen’s wardrobe starting on 21 April, Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.

Beginning at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Queen’s official Scottish residence, the exhibition will show a selection of Her Majesty’s dresses and accessories from significant occasions throughout her reign. Entitled Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe, each residence will be displaying a different selection of outfits, chosen carefully to match with the location.

The Holyroodhouse exhibition will include outfits from British couturiers Sir Norman Hartnell, Ian Thomas and Stewart Parvin, both of whom trained at Edinburgh College of Art. On display for the very first time, they will include a magnificent Hartnell evening gown of pale-blue silk faille that The Queen wore for a gala performance of Rob Roy at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum, during the Norwegian King Orlav’s State Visit to Scotland in 1962.

Various hats by the milliner Philip Somerville will also take centre-stage, including one as part of an ensemble work by Her Majesty during a 2009 garden party at Holyroodhouse. The piece will complete the rest of the outfit, by Stewart Parvin, consisting of a pink silk dress and white jacquard coat.

Every year, The Queen and Prince Philip spend a week in the Scottish residence. Dubbed, ‘Holyrood Week’, Her Majesty undertakes a series of engagements to celebrate Scottish culture, history and achievement, including a garden party at the Palace for around 8,000 guests.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Her Majesty's official Scottish residence, will begin the exhibitions on The Queen's 90th birthday

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Her Majesty’s official Scottish residence, will begin the exhibitions on The Queen’s 90th birthday

The exhibition, which will remain in Scotland until the 16 October, will also see some of The Queen’s finest evening dresses on display. Designed by Normal Hartnell, one of the monarch’s favourite couturiers, the collection will feature a pale-green gown of silk chiffon and lace embroidered with sequins, pearls, beads and diamante. The gown was designed specifically for a dinner at the British Embassy on The Queen’s visit to the United States in 1957, as a guest of then-President Eisenhower.

A number of other outfits will form a spectacular centrepiece of the exhibition, including some that Her Majesty wore to visit various Popes throughout her reign. Having made five visits to the Vatican, her first in 1951, The Queen has seen seven Pontiffs take the helm of the Catholic Church. During a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1980, The Queen wore a black silk-velvet and taffeta dress, coupled with the traditional black silk-tulle veil. Designed by Ian Thomas, the ensemble paid tribute to the tradition of wearing black when in audience with the Pope at the Vatican.

Some of The Queen's most magnificent dresses and evening wear will be on display, including a Hartnell gown from Her Majesty's visit to the USA in 1957

Some of The Queen’s most magnificent dresses and evening wear will be on display, including a Hartnell gown from Her Majesty’s visit to the USA in 1957

The outfit, which will be shown, is an example of the careful planning that goes into the preparation of Her Majesty’s wardrobe, with her dressers all too aware of the diplomatic etiquette that must be obeyed.

Alongside Holyroodhouse, The Queen’s London residence, Buckingham Palace, will play host to another incredible collection of clothing. Outfits worn by The Queen over ten decades, from the 1920s to the 2010s, will be at the forefront.

Some of Her Majesty’s most memorable occasions including her early childhood, wedding, the Coronation, and numerous royal tours and State Visits will all be represented. There will be a specific emphasis on the unique requirements of royal couture, looking at how everything from ceremonial and military attire to ensembles worn at family celebrations, such as weddings and christenings, is designed and made.

Windsor Castle will also play host to a number of items from the regal wardrobe, from some of the magnificent evening gowns and elegant day wear worn at the Castle’s receptions and dinners, to fancy-dress costumes worn by the young Princess Elizabeth during wartime family pantomimes.

The Royal Collection, which maintains and organises all of the exhibitions at The Queen’s official residences, will be offering a special ticket that allows entry to all three exhibitions. “The Queen’s Palaces” ticket is available to purchase until October 2016 and is £48.00.

Alternatively, each exhibition is part of a normal visit to each residence and included in the general admission ticket. Tickets and visitor information can be found on the Royal Collection website or by phone, +44 (0)303 123 7300.

Each of the exhibitions runs for the following dates:

  • Palace of Holyroodhouse, 21 April?–?16 October 2016
  • The Summer Opening of the State Rooms, Buckingham Palace, 23 July?–?2 October 2016
  • Windsor Castle, 17 September 2016?–?January 2017

About author

James is Royal Central's Director of Broadcasting and Communications. He's a recognised royal commentator and correspondent and has experience with numerous TV and radio networks including the BBC, ITV, Sky, CNN and MSNBC among others.