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The Queen Elizabeth wardrobe unveiled at HM 90th birthday

By Chris Colemont

Through three separate but closely linked exhibitions, “Fashioning a Reign” charted significant events in ten decades of The Queen’s life and the nation’s history.

Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II is well known for a particular style distinguished with block-colour dressing, using bright and usually bold colours. Throughout her reign HM The Queen has exclusively patronised British designers, including the great couturier Sir Norman Hartnell, who was responsible for many of the outfits worn by Her Majesty.

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The Queen’s mantle of the Order of the British Empire, made by Ede and Ravenscroft and designed by Marion Foale,1952.
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A display of dresses on show at Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace, including Her Majesty’s wedding dress by Sir Norman Hartnell, 1947 (far left)
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Queen Elizabeth II standing in the White Drawing Room, Buckingham Palace. Official portrait by Cecil Beaton, 1968.
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A display of evening wear from Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe on show at Buckingham Palace.

In celebration of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, “Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe”, explored from 23 July to 2 October 2016, ten decades of Her Majesty’s fashion life. It was staged in three different exhibitions across the Queen’s official residences in 2016; Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Windsor Castle, displayed around 150 outfits worn by Her Majesty at State events, on official tours and at family occasions.

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A display of The Queen’s hats from Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe at Buckingham Palace.
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A display of dresses from Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe on display at Buckingham.

What an extraordinary, splendid experience! 90 years of the Queen’s personal wardrobe, from her christening gown to the bright green outfit of her 90th birthday, dresses and outfits, day time, evening wear, gowns for royal weddings, diplomatic missions and state visits… including The Queen’s wedding and Coronation dresses displayed together for the first time ever… and an impressive series of hats in all colours, fashion and styles… there is nothing like it in the world!

A Sketch of the Coronation dress, 1953, Norman Hartnell
A Sketch of the Coronation dress, 1953, Norman Hartnell

Besides her ongoing support of British design, The queen’s dresses and gowns witness of the art and craftmanship to make the fabrics, delicate silk, lace and embroidery or enhancement with pearls and stones, design, making, fashion… Superlatives are hardly good enough to describe this “private collection”! www.royalcollection.org.uk

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