This year’s exhibition accompanying the summer opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace looks at 90 years of style from the Queen’s wardrobe. I always enjoy these Bloggers’ Breakfast occasions, from seeing who else has been invited (this time, the impressive Suzy Menkes of Vogue), the enthusiasm of the curator, and the welcome voucher for tea/coffee and our choice of cake afterwards.
Princesses’s dresses, robes and coronets for the coronation of King George VI, May 1937
What I found interesting was seeing the garments as a highly professional, and, indeed, essential part of the Queen’s job as monarch. She is representing the country and there is much to be taken into account when styling her wardrobe. This started even when she was a child. One of the first garments on show are the Kate Greenaway-style dresses, purple velvet and white fur-trimmed robes and gold coronets the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret wore to King George’s VI’s coronation in May 1937 when Princess Elizabeth was just eleven and Princess Margaret rising seven. We can see that they are not just little girls, they are princesses.
Military Jacket for Trooping of the Colour, 1952
The Queen is the first female Commander-in-Chief of a staggering number of regiments. The military jacket and beret on display is that of the Grenadier Guards, worn for the Trooping of the Colour since 1952, and it had to be designed from scratch by a military tailor, Bernard Wetherill of Saville Row. The front of the jacket shows that due consideration was given to the fact that she would be riding side saddle. The beret was also specially designed so that the white feathered plume of the Grenadier Guards could be removed (other regiments’ insignia might include a different coloured plume, or none at all).
Evening dress for visit to Canada, 1967
Then there are the evening gowns worn on overseas State Visits and royal tours; each ensemble designed specifically for the occasion. For example, an evening-dress created by Norman Hartnell for the Queen’s visit to Montreal in 1967, is embroidered with maple leaves in an elegant parabola where the cream of the bodice meets the blue of the skirt at the hip-line. The compliment to the host nation will not have gone unnoticed. Furthermore, every garment deliberately showcases British design and couture skills.
Yellow ensemble for visit to Australia, 1970
This light yellow ensemble worn on a visit to Australia in 1970, was also designed by Norman Hartnell, and pays homage to that country’s national colour. I like the simple but stylish way the creamy-yellow braid loops at the waist. This ensemble, in fact, illustrates perfectly what is needed for a royal visit. Almost all the Queen’s garments are in a single colour so that she stands out and can be seen easily and much research goes into each garment’s colour and design. I had no idea, for example, that Australia’s national colour was yellow and green, and it comes from the national flower, the golden wattle, a sort of acacia, which symbolizes unity. The Queen’s hat, by Simone Mirman, shows how her hats allow the public to see the Queen’s face clearly.
Dress worn for the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics by Angela Kelly
I particularly enjoyed seeing the dress worn by the Queen during the now famous opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. This, too, required considerable thought. Its colour had to avoid any competing nations’ national colour so a coral-pink was chosen. Furthermore, an exact copy had to be made to fit the stunt man who would be leaping out of the helicopter dressed as the queen. It can’t have been easy making a dress which Her Majesty could wear at the opening ceremony and which also looked good falling out of the sky. You can see how skilfully Angela Kelly has avoided a possible Marilyn Monroe standing over a ventilator moment!
2006 and 2016 ensembles designed by Angela Kelly
The last two garments in the exhibition are the Queen’s outfits to celebrate her 80th birthday in 2006 on the left, and most recent bright green ensemble worn by the Queen in 2016 to mark her official 90th birthday – both designed by Angela Kelly.
It was time for coffee and cake. I headed for the café on the terrace outside overlooking the palace gardens and chose a latte and a delicious vanilla millefeuilles. I loved the way that the chocolate button on top had a small white crown on it.
Corgis in the Buckingham Palace Shop
Then I walked slowly back towards the Hyde Park exit, calling at the Buckingham Palace Shop on the way. I managed to resist the cuddly corgis but I did buy an excellent Official Guide to Buckingham Palace, beautifully photographed and with just the right amount of information.
It was a most enjoyable morning.
Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe, is on at Buckingham Palace until 2nd October, 2016.
Photos: All photos by Elizabeth Hawksley, except for the 2006 and 2016 ensembles designed by Angela Kelly which is by Sue Hillman
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