by Victoria Hinshaw

Originally posted on February 12, 2011, ahead of the other wedding of the decade, that of William and Katherine.

As I write this, there is no word on the designer Kate Middleton has chosen to create her wedding gown, though I have heard many breathless accounts of who is and who is not in the running.  So let’s indulge our royal wedding mania by looking at some of the gowns worn in the past.

Above is the dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales at her May 2, 1816, wedding to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, as exhibited in the Museum of London here.

The Lady’s Magazine of May, 1816, described the gown: White silk net embroidered in silver strip with a spotted ground and borders. The wedding dress, composed of a most magnificent silver lama on net, over a rich silver tissue slip, with a superb border of silver lama embroidery at the bottom, forming shells and bouquets above the border; a most elegant fullness tastefully designed, in festoons of rich silver lama, and finished with a very brilliant rollio of lama; the body and sleeves to correspond, trimmed with a most beautiful point Brussels lace, in a peculiar elegant style.
The manteau of rich silver tissue lined with white satin, trimmed round with a most superb silver lama border, in shells to correspond with the dress, and fastened in front with a most brilliant and costly ornament of diamonds. The whole dress surpassed all conception in the brilliancy and richness of its effects. Head dress, a wreath of rose buds and leaves, composed of the most superb brilliants.”  At right, an engraving of Charlotte and Leopold at their wedding in Carlton House. 

The portrait of Queen Victoria, at left, is by Winterhalter. It shows a rather wistful young bride at the time of her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg (nephew of the above-mentioned Leopold) on February 10, 1840 in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace.
It was this gown and veil that supposedly has inspired generations of brides ever since to wear white for their ceremonies, though many brides had previously dressed in fashionable white as well as in a variety of other hues.

At right, an image of Queen Victoria’s dress on a mannequin in the collection of Kensington Palace. 

Left, the wedding gown of Alexandra of Denmark, who married Victoria’s son, eventually King Edward VII, on March 10, 1863 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. She was Princess of Wales for almost forty years before becoming Queen in 1901. After her husband’s death in 1910, she was known as the Queen Mother until she died in 1925.

Like Charlotte’s mother, Caroline, Princess of Wales, and like the first wife of the present Prince of Wales, Diana (see below), Alexandra had to endure the infidelity of her husband.  But unlike the other two, she stuck with him to the end. We’ve all heard the possibly-apocryphal story about how Alexandra invited one of his mistresses, Alice Keppel, to comfort Edward VII on his deathbed.


Princess Mary of Teck wed Prince George, Duke of York on 6 July, 1893 in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace. She had been engaged to Prince Albert Victor, eldest son of the Prince of Wales in 1891, but Albert Victor died in the great influenza epidemic of 1891-92.  Mary and George fell in love and were married with the approval of Queen Victoria as well as Edward and Alexandra, Prince and Princess of Wales.  George succeeded his father as George V in 1910.  Queen Mary, who was a godchild of Queen Victoria, had five sons and one daughter.
Her eldest son, known to all as David, was more than a disappointment. After inheriting the throne as Eward VIII in 1936, he abdicated less than a year later to marry Wallis Simpson.

After her husband’s death, Queen Mary chose to be addressed as Her Majesty, Queen Mary, rather than as Queen Mother.  She was very supportive of her second son, who became King George VI after his brother’s departure from the throne. According to several sources, she was the first dowager queen of Great Britain to ever attended the coronation ceremony of her husband’s successor.


As Duke of York, the second son of George V and Mary grew up in the  shadow of his dashing older brother.  He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon  on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey. At the time of the wedding, it was not expected that “Bertie” would take the throne. Lady Elizabeth’s gown, perhaps for that reason, was not as elaborate as some of her predecessors. It was certainly in the style of the day, a rather loose gown,  slightly less than floor length.  Below is the dress on a mannequin in a Kensington Palace exhibition of several years ago, along with a detail of the veil and bodice.

On 20 November, 1947,  Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) married Prince Philip of Greece (later Duke of Edinburgh) in Westminster Abbey. The designer was Norman Hartnell and the fabric is silk spun at Lullingstone Castle in Kent. She wore a diamond and pearl tiara and a filmy veil. The long train was decorated with traditional symbols, such as Tudor roses and wheat.  All the details of the royal romance, the wedding, the gown and the ceremony were eagerly read around the world. It is said the happy event was like a tonic to the war-weary Britons still enduring shortages of goods and rationing.


The Gown on a mannequin


Princess Margaret, second daughter of King George VI, married Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon) on  May 6, 1960, at Westminster Abbey. Television cameras covered the event and the broadcast was seen worldwide. Like her sister, Margaret chose Norman Hartnell to design her bridal gown.The couple had two children: David, Viscount Linley in 1961 and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones in 1964. The Snowdons were divorced in 1978 and Princess Margaret died in 2002.

14 November 1973  – Anne, Princess Royal, married Captain Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey. Born in 1950, she is Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter.  Anne and Phillips have two children, Peter Phillips born in 1977 and Zara Phillips born in 1981. After divorcing Phillips in 1992, Anne married Timothy Laurence, in Scotland on December 12, 1992.


On 29 July 1981, Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, Prince of Wales, were married in St Paul’s Cathedral. Her dress was controversial — and still is. The designers, David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, immediately shot to the top echelon of British fashion. Like many of Diana’s fashions, the gown (or a replica) travels around the world for popular exhibition.

Charles and Diana had two sons, Prince William, born in 1982, and Prince Harry, born in 1984, before separating
 in the late 1980s, the Prince living in Highgrove and the Princess at Kensington Palace.  Formal separation came in 1992 and the marriage of Charles and Diana ended in divorce on 28 August 1996. On 31 August 1997, a year after the Prince and Princess divorced, Diana died in a car crash in Paris.

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, married at Westminster Abbey on 23 July 1986. The Duke and Duchess of York had two children during their marriage: Princess Beatrice of York (born 1988) and Princess Eugenie of York (born 1990). They separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996, though they are often together for vacations and family events. 

Of all the gowns shown above, I think I like Sarah’s best, as designed by Lindka Cierach.  It is beautiful, flattering to her and has no gimmicks.  Princess Elizabeth’s was lovely too, but I like Sarah’s veil better.  All in all this one is the winner in the gown category, if perhaps not in the list of “most suitable royal brides.”

If like us, you can’t get enough of this wedding stuff, here is a wonderful exhibition from the Royal Collection you will enjoy. 

Fashion Museums in Britain

Red Silk Robe a l’Anglaise, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1760’s

Victoria here, taking some time off of Pinterest for a change…and ruminating on the wonderful fashion museums which have so carefully preserved the clothing and accessories of bygone eras.  The U.K. is replete with wonderful museums, almost all of which have some fashions, in even the smallest of local collections. The grandaddy of them all is, of course, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which modestly calls itself, The world’s greatest museum of art and design.” The website is here.

I suppose no one who has visited the sprawling site on Cromwell Road would quarrel with the designation, for it is truly superhuman to cover its many displays even in multiple visits.I can hardly drag myself out of the fantastic gift shop when I get there!

Would you be disappointed if I did not include a link to that wonderful shop?  Be forewarned — they are excellent at shipping.  Click here — if you dare.

The Costume Collection has been recently redone and has re-opened with an exhibition of ball gowns from the 1950s to the present. It will be on display through January 2013, along with selections from the permanent collection of historic fashions.

I love the Georgian, Regency and Victorian gowns usually on view.  Due to their fragility, the items are frequently rotated from storage to display and back.

V and A: White Dress with scalloped hem, ca. 1830
British, cotton muslin with wool embroidery, silk, satin and wadded rouleaux

V and A: Evening Dress, 1807-11  British,
machine made silk net, embroidered with chenille thread, with silk ribbon, hand sewn; over red petticoat

Among the V and A’s fashion exhibits

Also in London, Kensington Palace stores, conserves and exhibits Historic Royal Fashions.  Recently, the collection of Royal Wedding Gowns was restored. Beginning this fall, some of the storage areas, formerly Princess Margaret’s Apartment 1A, will be renovated for Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and his Duchess, the former Catherine Middleton.

Parts of Kensington Palace formerly housed Diana, Princess of Wales, and is the home in which Prince William grew up.  Other members of the extended royal family also have quarters there.

Here is an article that tells more about the Palace, the renovations and the Royals.  For more details, click here.

Parts of Kensington Palace include the State Rooms of William and Mary, the childhood rooms of Queen Victoria, and the Royal Fashions.   I have not seen an announcement of the final plans for the fashions, but one assumes that  Historic Royal Palaces, which administers Kensington Palace a well as other former Royal residences in the London area (e.g. Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace) will take advantage of sharing the complex with the popular young Royals to attract visitors to their displays.

Queen Victoria’s Wedding Gown, Kensington Palace
The Assembly Rooms, Ba

In Bath, The Fashion Museum is located in the Assembly Rooms, which are administered by the National Trust.  The Fashion Museum has more than 30,000 items from1600 to the present. The website is here.

a view of storage at the Fashion Museum
display at the Fashion Museum
Gown of plain-weave white cotton, ca. 1813, with striped wool shawl
 Bath Fashion Museum
Lilac cotton sateen corset lined with cream cotton
1880-85, Bath Fashion Museum
Shoes of many eras carefully preserved, Bath Fashion Museum
Another excellent Fashion Museum shows many items owned and preserved the the National Trust at Killerton House, a Regency-era country villa in Devon. The website is here.
Killerton, NT
Croquet Dress, 1863-65, silk taffeta with glass buttons
Killerton House Fashion Collection
Man’s Waistcoat, 1750, silk, satin, metal
Killerton House Fashion Collection

Also at Killerton are many attractive rooms and an extensive garden to explore.  As always, NT has a selection of tasty delights at the tea-room not to mention the temptations of the NT gift shop.

Manchester City Galleries

I have never visited Manchester (something I need to remedy), but the Manchester City Galleries website (here) has an extensive on-line fashion collection.  Here are a couple of examples of their holdings.

Man’s Court Suit, 1775-85
Tennis Dress, 1880’s

Bodice, 1650-1660, Dorset, UK

For a list of museums with fashion and costume collections, click here.  And if you are a resident of the US, there are many outstanding fashion collections here too.  Do you have any recommendations for good fashion collections on either side of the pond?

The Kyoto Fashion Institute seems to be an amazing place, or at least its website and publications are excellent.  They organize many exhibitions, some of which are shown in venues outside Japan.    Click here.

All The Queen's Hats

In the past  months, we have been watching Queen Elizabeth II at many events — the wedding of her grandson, the Diamond Jubilee, and many annual ceremonial events.  We are constantly fascinated by her lovely hats. 

Her hats cannot cover up her face, since that is why people come out — to see her!  So that means none of the big brims or fluttery veils that can be so flattering. And since she so often is climbing in and out of limos, they can’t be too big.  Or in danger of blowing off. However, her milliners certainly manage to come up with a wonderful and colorful selection of styles — here are a selection of our favorites.

For the Silver Jubilee in 1977, The Queen’s pink chapeau, decorated with 25 bells for the years in her reign, was designed by milliner Frederick Fox, who made more than 350 hats for Her Majesty.

At the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, 2011

The Queen with the Duchess of Cambridge in Leicester

Boarding the Spirit of Chartwell for the Thames Procession
Both of the Queen’s ensembles were created by her chief dresser-designer, Angela Kelly, who also made the creamy lemon outfit Her Majesty wore to the Royal Wedding.
At the Silver Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, 5 June, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II in Northern Ireland, June 26, 2012, in Wedgwood Blue

Below, the pink number that is Victoria’s all-time favorite, worn at Ascot, 2011.

Another view below:

Trooping the Colour, 2011.

A rainbow of colo(u)r:

The Queen at Epsom Derby, this hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan
A paler blue hat by Philip Somerville, also a long-time milliner to Her Majesty

The Queen rarely wears beige, brown or black, being more visible in her favorite colorful couture, but there are exceptions!

At Remembrance Day, November 13, 2011

Sometimes, while not on official duties, the Queen enjoys a headscarf!
Regalia of the Order of the Garter

The Real Thing in Headware
9 May, 2012 opening Parliament

200 Years Ago: Spring and Summer Fashions

Here are a few fashions from 200 years ago, from Victoria’s print collection.  You might see something similar at Jane Austen Society meetings, Regency Dance groups, or Writer’s conventions, but few us us would probably want to cope with these outfits every day. Or want to change gowns several times a day.
At the end is a greatcoat for a gentleman to wear in the cool weather.
   Thanks to Sue Forgue at the Regency Encyclopedia for some of the descriptions I was missing.
Ladies Monthly Museum, April 1812
The Full Dress (left), for this month, is made of white satin, ornamented round the bottom with a rich Grecian border, over which is worn a tunic of yellow Italian gauze, trimmed with deep white lace, and fastened up the front with cord of blue silk. Head dress à la Diana, ornamented with wreathes of artificial flowers in dead gold, with a crescent in front of the forehead, composed of pearls and sapphire; the necklace and ear rings to correspond; kid gloves and shoes of pale pink.

The Walking Dress (right) is a white Indian robe of Muslin, made high in the neck; with a richly worked collar to turn over that of the pelisse, which is of blue silk, trimmed with white lace; over which is worn a white,or coloured shawl; the bonnet to be of the same materials as the shawl, and is ornamented with a white feather;–laced half boots of regency brown.

Ackermann’s Repository Morning Dress April 1812

A superfine Scotch or French cambric, over a cambric slip, with full long sleeves, and ruff à la Mary Queen of Scots. A neck-chain and sight set in gold; bracelets and necklace of white or red cornelian. A Flora cap, composed of white satin and lace. A capuchin or French cloak of blossom satin or Pomona green, trimmed with thread lace. Slippers of pale pink or green kid; and gloves of tan or Limerick kid.

Ackermann’s Repository, Ball Gown, April, 1812
A round ciracassian robe of pink crape, or gossamer net, over a white satin slip, fringed full at the feet; a peasant’s bodice, of pink satin or velvet, laced in front with silver, and decorated with the same ornament. Spanish slash sleeve, embellished with white crape foldings, and furnished at its terminations with bands of silver. A Spartan or Calypso helmet cap, of pink frosted crape, with silver bandeaus, and embellished with tassels, and rosets to correspond. A rich neck-chain and ear-rings of Oriental gold. Fan of carved ivory. Slippers of pink kid, with correspondent clasps; and gloves of white kid: an occasional square veil of Mechlin lace

Ackermann’s Repository, Morning Dress, May 1812

A French frock of fine plain India muslin, with demi-train, and long full bishop’s sleeves. Waggoners’ cuffs, with gaged front, and shoulders to correspond. Tucker of double-rolled muslin, which also finishes the cuffs round the hands. A Parisian mob cap of fine lace, confined round the head, and terminating on one side with a celestial blue or silver grey ribbon. Sash of the same, tied in small bows and ends in front. Hair in waved curls, divided in the center of the forehead. Spanish slippers of lemon-coloured kid, and gloves of the same material.  The peculiar taste and elegant simplicity of these habiliments are further specimens of the graceful invention of the celebrated Mrs. Gill, of Cork-street, Burlington-gardens, from whom we have obtained them.

Ackermann’s Repository, June 1812

A round robe of jaconot or fine cambric muslin, with long sleeve and high waist, with fan ruff of lace, ornamented up the front with borders of needle-work or lace, and finished at the feet with ball fringe. A Spanish hussar clock of deep amber sarsnet, lined with sea green or white, and trimmed with broad thread lace, put on very full.  Hair disposed in bands and waved curls; a large square veil of white lace, thrown over the head and shading the face. Half-boots amber-coloured kid, and gloves a pale primrose. Small French caps of lace, ornamented with a small cluster of spring flowers, on one side, are often seen in this style of costume, and have an appropriate and pretty effect beneath the long veil.

Ackermann’s Repository, July 1812
An embr
oidered crape round robe, decorated at the feet with a deep Vandyke fringe; short melon sleeve; bosom and back to correspond. White or blossom satin under dress. Hair a dishevelled crop, ornamented with a small cluster of the Chinese rose on each side, and confined with a comb of pearl at the back of the head. Necklace, ear-rings, and bracelets, of pearl and wrought gold. Grecian scarf of lilac silk, with embroidered variegated ends. Slippers of white satin, and gloves of French kid. Fan of imperial crape and ivory, embellished with gold antique devices.
La Belle Assemblee,  Evening Dress, April 1812
An embroidered white crape, or fine India muslin frock, with long sleeves, and trimmed round the bottom with fine lace, set on full, worn over a blush colour satin or sarsnet slip; the frock ornamented down the front of the skirt with beads and lace in the Egyptian style.  Parisian mob, worn unfastened, of puckered pink, and white crape over pink satin. Small pink satin tippet, with full plaiting of lace. Cestus of pale pink, confined by a clasp of pearl. Pink satin slippers, with white rosettes. The jewellery worn with this dress is the shaded cornelian or large pearls.
La Belle Assemblee, Evening Dress, 1812
A robe of Imperial blue sarsnet, shot with white, with a demi train, ornamented with fine French lace down each side the front and round the bottom; the trimming surmounted by a white satin ribband; the robe left open a small space down the front, and fastened with clasps of sapphire and pearl over a white satin slip petticoat: short fancy sleeve to correspond with the ornaments of the robe.  Parisian cap made open, formed of rows of fine lace and strings of pearl, the hair dressed à-la-Henriette of France, appearing between, and much separated on the forehead. Pearl necklace, and hoop earrings of the same. Scarf shawl in twisted drapery of fine white lace. White kid gloves and fan of ivory, ornamented with gold. Slippers the same colour as the robe, with white rosettes. This beautiful dress is the creation of Miss Walters, Wigmore-street, Cavendish-square 
Ladies Monthly Museum, Morning Dress, June 1812  
A white jaconet muslin gown, buttoned down the front with white regency buttons and trimming formed en lozenge; handkerchief, gloves, and sandals of dragon fly green; figurante cap ornamented with a rose in front.

Text from Michelle Anne Young’s Regency Rambles 

La Belle Assemblee,  Riding Outfit,  August,1812

Made of ladies habit cloth or Maria Louisa Blue, trimmed down each side of the front with Spanish buttons, the waist rather long with three small buttons on the hips; a short jacket full behind, the front habit fashion with small buttons up the neck and a row of small buttons on each side of the breast; a lapel thrown back from the shoulders and trimmed with Spanish buttons, has a most elegant effect and gives a graceful finish to the dress. The collar is made about a quarter inch in depth and fashioned negligently at the throat with a large cord and tassel; it opens sufficiently to display the shirt which is of lace in general but this article admits of considerable variations; some of our elegants wear a collar of lace to fall over, others have a shirt edged round the neck with a rich lace frill and not a few, in despite of the heat of the weather, envelope their necks in a large cravat of India muslin. A small woodland hat, whose colour corresponds with the dress with two white ostrich feathers fastened behind and falling carelessly over the left side. A cord and tassel is brought round the hat and fastened near the top of the crown on the right side. Buff gloves and half boots either of buff jean or leather.


                                       Costume Parisienne, 1812:  Five-collared Carriage Coat (Redingote) 

Fashions of 1812

Victoria here, looking through my collection of regency-era fashion plates to see what was worn 200 years ago. I find I have five plates from 1812, two framed on the wall of my office, the others filed away in notebooks.  So here, in case you want to be entirely up to date two centuries ago:

Fashions of 1812

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts    Half Dress, January 1812

A Roman round robe of stone colour or pale olive cloth embroidered in a variegated chenille border; long sleeves finished at the wrist to correspond and lined with pink sarsnet. Pomeranian mantle of silk, the colour of the robe and finished with deep Chinese silk fringe. Cap of black or colored velvet, ornamented with a rich silk tassel, and curled ostrich feathers placed towards the left side. High standing collar of muslin or net, edged with lace or needle work, rising above the robe at the throat. Pink embroidered ridicule. Gloves a pale lemon colour, and half boots of pink kid, trimmed with narrow sable fur.

Ladies Magazine January 1812  London Morning and Evening Dresses


Morning dress. – Pelisse of maroon silk, lined throughout with fur, which when buttoned, forms a sort of lappel: standing collar, to turn over; and very deep cuffs. – A hat of the same silk, trimmed with ribbon and feathers.

Evening dress, of green satin, with epaulettes of lace.– Cap of the same, trimmed with lace and a flower.

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts  Morning Dress, May 1812

A French frock of fine plain India muslin, with demi-train, and long full bishop’s sleeves. Waggoners’ cuffs, with gaged front, and shoulders to correspond. Tucker of double-rolled muslin, which also finishes the cuffs round the hands.

A Parisian mob cap of fine lace, confined round the head, and terminating on one side with a celestial blue or silver grey ribbon. Sash of the same, tied in small bows and ends in front. Hair in waved curls, divided in the center of the forehead. Spanish slippers of lemon-colored kid, and gloves of the same material.

The peculiar taste and elegant simplicity of these habiliments are further specimens of the graceful invention of the celebrated Mrs. Gill, of Cork-streeet, Burlington-gardens, from whom we have obtained them.

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts November 1812  Evening Dress
A white crape or mull muslin petticoat, worn over white satin, finished round the bottom with a ball fringe of gold; a crimson velvet or satin bodice, formed so as partially to expose the bosom and shoulders. A short bishop’s sleeve, edged with ball fringe, and ornamented with the same round the bosom, and shoulders. A short sash of shaded ribband, to correspond with the colour of the bodice, tied in short bows and ends in front of the figure.
A shepherdess’s hat, composed of crimson velvet and white satin; a curled ostrich feather placed entirely on one side, and waving towards the back of the neck. The hair divided on the forehead, and curled on each side, rather lower than of late. Treble neck-chain, and amulet of wrought gold; short drop ear rings, and bracelets en suite. Crimson velvet or satin slippers trimmed with gold rosettes or fringe. White kid gloves, just avoiding the elbow. Fan of white and silver embossed crape or carved ivory. Occasional scarf of white French silk, with embroidered ends and border.

La Belle Assemblee  February, 1812 –A Wi
nter Walking Dress

A scarlet Merino cloth pelisse, lined with straw coloured sarsnet, trimmed with light coloured spotted fur, and attached with loops of black silk cordon and rich frog tassels; the broad fur in front, forming a tippet, pointed at the back. A narrow fur passes from the top of the sleeve, is brought down the side seams, and relieved by fastenings of black silk cordon; four loops with frogs ornament the shoulders and cuffs; plain standing up collar tied with cordon: a fine cashemire shawl, with brown ground, and richly variegated border, is generally thrown over the dress, in which is united both comfort and elegance. A Swedish hat of the same material as the pelisse, lined with straw colour, and fastened up one side; the crown trimmed with two rows of narrow spotted fur, and one still narrower at the edge of the hat; a bunch of the Christmas holly in front, and two tassels falling from the summit of the crown, of black, to answer the pelisse, with is worn over a white round dress, either of plain or corded cambric. Beaver gloves, and demi-broquins of scarlet Morocco, laced with black, and lined with fur, complete the dress.

Of all the outfits pictured here, I think I’d choose the evening dress with the shepherdess hat!  Just the thing for the next ball I attend.  Though since I am still in Wisconsin, I suppose I’d be wise to choose that fur-trimmed winter walking dress, which looks like it would be comfy on a windy, chilly day.

Style from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II

Victoria here, reporting on a delightful presentation I attended in Naples, FL, at the public library. Presenter Cheryl Lampard, who is a consultant on fashion, make-up and image, spoke on royal style to an eager group of mostly females who peppered her with questions at the end of her talk — mostly about the upcoming royal wedding. What did she think the Queen would wear?  What about the royal limousine, THE dress and so forth.  I can reliably report that here in FL, the audience for the great event will be huge.

Cheryl Lampard’s business is Style Matters International, based in Naples. Click here for her website.

Ms. Lampard’s power point talk began with a discussion of “Dress for Success” Elizabethan style. Ms. Lampard says, “Your image is your brand” and that applies to royalty as well as to the rest of us.  Elizabeth I needed to project an image of power nobles to foreign diplomats to the great mass of her subjects.  The luxury and splendor of her clothing represented the powers and strength of the nation over which she ruled.

Elizabeth I inherited her father’s fine taste and flair for showmanship. The first Elizabethan  Era is celebrated for its achievements, particularly in the arts, e.g. Shakespeare.
At left, Elizabeth I (1533-1603) as a girl, whose future was anything but assured. Nevertheless she outlasted her half-brother, Edward, and her half-sister Mary, to take the throne in 1558 at age 25. She ruled for 44 years, overcoming both internal threats (e.g. Protestants vs. Catholics) and external threats from continental powers.

In the painting, Tudor style prevailed in dress, jewelry, hair and make-up. As Ms. Lampard pointed out, nothing is new when it comes to fashion; we see cycles of clothing and make-up styles throughout history.  A primary example: the wasp waist.  Clothing emphasized the narrowness of the waist in contrast to the wide skirts and sleeves. As time went on, Elizabeth I’s fashions exaggerated the small waist, as well as sumptuousness in fabric and decoration.

To emphasize the narrowness of the wasp waist, women wore a “stomacher,” in the shape of a triangle across the chest and pointing down at the waist.  Often richly decorated, the stomacher was a separate piece of clothing that was tied or otherwise fastened on and used with a variety of gowns.

A set of hoops called a farthingale spread out the skirt and widened the gown from hips to floor. Both the stomacher and farthingale were stiffened with wood, whalebone, ivory or mother-of-pearl.

In order for the skirt to fall in graceful folds, often it was necessary to use a bumroll below the waist.

The effect was obviously to make the waist look small in comparison to the hips, carrying the hourglass figure to extremes.  Full sleeves and wide shoulders add to the illusion.

The Armada Portrait (at Woburn Abbey with other versions and/or copies elsewhere) shows Elizabeth I in a setting rich with important  and impressive symbolism. The gown of expensive satins and silks is crusted with jewels, emphasizing the prosperity and magnificence of the court. Her hand rests on the globe, to portray England’s dominance of the sea, and on either side of her head, two stages of the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada can be seen.

By late in Elizabeth I’s reign,  everything was exaggerated.  The skirts were  amazingly wide and heavy. The sleeves look like her arms would be nearly unmovable. The tall r
uffs would make turning her head uncomfortable.

The make-up, too, was dangerous.  Pale skin was admired, signifying that the person never had to work in the outdoors. In another recurring fashion trend, this white make-up was lead- based well into the 19th century, poisonous to the system and causing pockmarks on the face. Fashion can be foolish indeed.

Ms. Lampard described many more details about Elizabethan fashions, the sleeves, the  ruffs, (tall, starched, and probably scratchy), and the discomfort endured for the sake of image.  She jokingly compared these fashions with today’s exaggerated platform stiletto-heeled shoes. 

Moving to the Victorian period, she discussed the return of the wasp waist, the continued need for the monarch to project an image of stability and power, and the adoption (forever and ever) of Victoria’s white wedding gown as the standard for brides worldwide.  Formerly, she said, silver had been the usual color for royal brides.

Victoria became the mother of nine children, then endured a long period of mourning after her husband’s death. But she knew how to dress for the role of head of the empire.
Even in the 1880’s Victoria kept up appearances. Below, a photograph of Queen Victoria
for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Moving on to today’s era, the second Elizabethan Age, we see again in the young Princess Elizabeth, the recurrence of the wasp waist, for her 1947 wedding gown and a few years later for her coronation in 1953.

Wedding gown, 1947, by Norman Hartnell

Coronation gown, 1953, by Norman Hartnell

Although the current Queen Elizabeth has not been in the forefront of fashion trends, she too has recognized her obligation to represent her nation in a modern way.  For ceremonial events, of course, she is suitably gowned, crowned and bejeweled.  For her day-to-day activities, Ms. Lampard said, she can be particularly admired for her choice of hats.  Designing a hat that is flattering, attractive and capable of having the monarch’s face visible is not an easy job.
Here are a few views of the Queen’s headgear.

Here is a gallery from CBS News of Queen Elizabeth II’s hats.

All in all we had a wonderful time last week covering centuries of royal fashion and chatting about the wedding to come.  Many thanks, Cheryl Lampard of Style Matters International.

Regency Reflections: Fashions of the Era

Fashions for females in the Georgian Era changed dramatically, from wide skirts and narrow waists, high-piled coiffures, and fussy decoration to simple, high waisted gowns — and back again in the space of a few decades. Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), Queen of France, right, might have been the most extreme. She was painted in 1778 by Elisabeth Vigee le Brun (1755-1842) in a huge hooped skirt and hair powdered,  drawn high and topped off with a fountain of feathers.  In an upcoming post, we will look at some of the fashion plates from various lady’s magazines of the Georgian era. In this post, however, we will indulge in the representations of fashion shown in portraits by celebrated artists.

Left is Grace Dalrymple Elliott, subject of Jo Manning’s excellent biography.  My Lady Scandalous: The Amazing Life and Outrageous Times of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Royal Courtesan.  She was painted by Gainsborough in the late 1770’s.   One of the outstanding features of Gainsborough’s portraits is the depiction of the sumptuous silks and satins worn by his subjects. Again, the hair-do is exaggeratedly high and powdered to a pewter shade rather than the white powdering of a few years earlier.  Imagine how many hours had to be spent by these ladies while their minions teased each strand up and over whatever bird-cage-like platform was used.

In the 1780’s and 1790’s, the styles became simpler, perhaps bucolic. Even the French Queen favored a version of the  simple muslin chemise.  The mode, color and fabric were copied by aristocrats on both sides of the Channel.  Hair is more naturally arranged, though still powdered a little, and one could hardly say the hat would be worn by a peasant.  Again, the painter is Vigee le Brun.

The Frankland Sisters by John Hoppner, 1795
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.

Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Oxford, 1797 by John Hoppner
Tate Britain

Gradually the gowns evolved into looser skirts with high waists just below the bosom. The two portraits below by Sir Henry Raeburn(1756-1823) show the exact changes.

Mrs. Eleanor Urquhart, 1795
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Elizabeth Campbell  1812

During the nine years of the Regency, fashions became more elaborate with fancy work and embellishments for the sleeves and around the hems. After about 1800, the hair powder is gone for good and the styles are simpler. By the official end of the regency in 1820, waistlines had begun to sneak back to their natural spot. In the 1820’s, the corseted waist and wide skirts returned, and in the 1830’s, the hair rose again. Below are two portraits by Thomas Sully (1783-1872), born in England but who lived most of his life in the United States.

 Lady with a Harp, Eliza Ridgel
y, 1818,
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Abby Ann King Turner Van Pelt, 1832

Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) painted many portraits throughout the regency and afterwards.  Here are a few of his portraits, showing the change from the late 18th century to several decades into the 19th.

Queen Charlotte, 1789, National Gallery, London

Caroline of Brunswick, Princess of Wales, 1798, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Mrs. Jens Wolff, 1815
Chicago Art Institute

 Julia Hankey, later Lady Bathurst, c. 1825
Dallas Museum of Art

Hair has remained unpowdered throughout the late Georgian period, but by the 1830’s, there were some fantastic top-knot arrangements, as seen below.  Not to mention the fantastic hats that came back into style.

To the left is a portrait of Fanny Kemble (1809-1893) with her aunt Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) painted by Henry Perronet Briggs (1791-1844) in 1831, shortly before Sarah went to her considerable reward.

The  print to the right is Princess Victoria, later Queen, based on an 1833 painting by Sir George Hayter (1792-1871).  Fanny and the princess share a top-knot hair style.

Below is a feathered hat even Marie Antoinette would have loved. The painting hangs in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Sir George Hayter portrays Countess Vorontsova in 1832.  Another hat the ill-fated queen might have enjoyed wearing is shown in a portrait of Julia, Lady Peel, nee Floyd (1795-1859) by Sir Thomas Lawrence; the real thing can be viewed at New York City’s Frick Collection.

 So the fashion cycle comes full circle in about seventy years from the 1760’s to the 1830’s.

The Long Lost Story of Prinny's Tailor by Guest Blogger Charles Bazalgette

Charles Bazalgette is at present writing the biography of his great-great-great-great-grandfather Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830), who was tailor to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) for 32 years, but who is quite unknown and has never been mentioned in any books. The only reason why he has been able to piece together his life story is because he researched him from the genealogical angle, a task that has so far taken him 15 years. As Charles told us:

This biography, which is planned to be ready to publish next year, had its origins in my genealogical research into the British branch of the Bazalgette family, of whom Louis (who was born in the Cevennes in southern France) was the patriarch. When researching Louis’ life, apart from the usual vital records, I hit the proverbial brick wall. He was an unknown man. He never got his name in the newspapers, apart from the odd modest donation to charity, and was never mentioned in contemporary accounts, diaries etc., of which I ploughed through a great number. He never advertised, probably because the Prince’s orders for clothes took up all of his manufacturing capacity. The fact that over many years I have been able to piece together his life story is due mainly to the ‘snapping up of unconsidered trifles’ and to painstaking detective work, plus those few measures of luck that lead the researcher up the right path, against the run of the play, which usually consists of Dame Fortune blithely pointing him down the garden variety.

The main point is that it’s very clear that Louis was a self-effacing, discreet and even secretive man. So, having become the Prince’s tailor when the latter was as young as eighteen, he was able to visit him to take and deliver orders almost clandestinely, which of course suited both of them very well, and though the quantity of clothes he supplied was colossal, he passed unobserved. His name did appear in the royal accounts as being owed far more than any other creditor, but otherwise, apart from amassing a large fortune, and then lending money to the Prince and his brothers, as well as to other prominent figures such as Richard Sheridan, unless, like me, you had followed him like a bloodhound, you would never have found this out.

So Louis was (until now) the Unknown Tailor, who made most of Prinny’s clothes from 1780 until at least 1795. By this time, the Prince had met the young Beau Brummell, and under his influence was beginning to look to English tailors for his clothes, and to dress in a more sober style. Another important reason why the Prince’s clothes orders to Louis diminished after 1795 was that he owed so much money to Louis, who had, by the good offices of Thomas Coutts, ensured that these loans were all in the form of debenture bonds, which Prinny (or rather Parliament) could not escape paying, that he needed to spread his debts elsewhere. Nevertheless, Louis continued to supply his fanciful uniforms, and livery for his household, until about 1812.

Louis was therefore the right man at the right time, providing an exclusive service of great quality and efficiency and almost imperceptibly making himself a millionaire, in modern terms, as a result. He was then able, in his unnoticed way, to become a propertied gentleman and to enjoy his dotage as Lord of the Manor of Great Bookham.

A few words about the research I did…I did a great deal of reading around the subject and the period, and fruitless searching for mentions of the tailor Prinny used. All accounts mention the later tailors, such as John Weston, Schweitzer & Davidson etc. I started a chronology of known events in the Louis’ life, which looked rather sparse until I discovered that Louis was a customer of Coutt’s Bank in the Strand. If you are researching a potential customer it is always worth checking with their archivist. I was allowed to examine and photograph the original ledgers, and therefore had all of Louis’ bank statements fron 1792 until 1830. This was before digital cameras so each page was on a 5×7 print. As you can imagine, reading the prints with a magnifiying glass and transcribing all of the entries into the chronology took a great deal of time, but it was worth it because I learned a great deal about his activities, and so was able to research the people mentioned.

Although I used to visit archives personally while we lived in England, we moved to western Canada twelve years ago. Fortunately the growth of the internet the digitization of records, and the arrival of online catalogues etc has done nothing to to harm my research at all. Quite the opposite. I had the first draft almost done, when by mere chance I discovered that all Louis’ accounts with the Prince between 1786 and 1795 were quietly rotting away in a box in the National Archives. I had all 300 pages photographed (digitally this time), and am about half-way through transribing these records. They have added immeasurably to the tailoring content of the book, which previously had been sadly lacking before. I’m quite glad to have discovered these records late in the day, when a lot of the more humdrum work has already been done. It’s like the Devonshire cream on the scone! I have had to learn a great deal about 18th century tailoring in a few months, and am still learning, but it has been quite fascinating.

Some excerpts from the book, and other information on 18th century tailoring, can be found on Charles’ blog.

The Costume Parade and Final Panel at the JASNA AGM

Victoria here with a passle of pictures from the Portland OR meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America on Halloween  weekend. Be sure to scroll down to the end to experience the piece de resistance of the final panel.

As befits the elegance of the members, a Bal Masque brought out the finest of our costumes. Below, the best of my shots (which probably isn’t saying much).

On Sunday morning, we reluctantly had to say good-bye, But we first enjoyed a lovely brunch and the final panel, “Dispute Without Mayhem,” which brought us a variety of views on Northanger Abbey.  But all the panelists agreed on one point: it is often under-rated!!  Panelists were Diana Birchall, William Phillips and Joan Ray, all with several (often hilarious) points to make. The moderator was Kimberly Brangwin, who managed to keep the  miscreants in order.

Finally, William favored us with one of his creations saying that his efforts in the poetry field were, at least in this case, limited to doggerel, which is often defined as verse for comic effect.  I think he succeeded admirably.

Doggerel Abbey, by William Phillips

Posthumously published—though the first written.

By this clever spoof, we’re bound to be smitten.

In early 20s, Jane started this journey—

Hell of a tribute to Radcliffe and Burney.

* * *

No heiress, no beauty, no genius, please meet

Catherine Morland, who at first, seems just – sweet!

Her mind might seem blank except for a head full

Of Gothic romance, which verges on dreadful.

As comp’ny to Bath by the Allens she’s sought,

And there in the web of the Thorpes is she caught.

Cath’s brother’s the goal of sly Isabella.

Miss M’s chased by John, a right unctuous fella.

She meets Henry Tilney – falls head over heels.

His father thinks Cathy is money on wheels.

Though unknown to Henry, her fortune’s no size.

Her letch for him simply puts stars in his eyes.

He’s smart and ‘in charge’, and though never grovels,

Shows sensitive side—knows muslin—reads novels.

Sis’ Eleanor—classiest gal in the book

Builds friendship with Cath’rine that really does cook.

Henry’s pizzazz makes John Thorpe just look shabby,

So C. splits and visits Northanger Abbey.

It’s all misadventure – strange chest and locked room.

C. thinks the Gen’ral’s a purveyor of doom!

Thorpe tells the Gen’ral, C’s fortune is lacking,

So in a great snit, he sends Cathy packing.

Henry learns of this, most vexed, does not tarry,

Follows to Wiltshire and asks her to marry.

Cath’rine’s parents say, “Wait! Permission’s a must!”

It looks like their hopes may be dashed in the dust.

Then E. marries Viscount—pleased Gen’ral lets go.

The kids live quite well on the dead mother’s dough.

* * *

The jury’s been mixed—some onions—some roses.

Quite a few critics have turned up their noses.

“Rather confused,” say some lit’rary sages,

But Cath’rine and we—learn lots in these pages!

© 2010 by William Phillips

Copy of William’s doggerel, courtesy of AustenBlog.

William Phillips in his Bal Masque disguise!!

Thus concludes, with a grin, my coverage of the JASNA AGM of 2011 in lovely Portland, OR.  Next year, Fort Worth, Texas.

Sotheby's to Auction the Duchess of Windsor's Jewels – Again

Twenty-three years after the legendary auction of the “Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor” – still the most valuable single-owner jewelry collection ever sold – Sotheby’s will offer 20 pieces for sale in London on Nov. 30, 2010 that include renowned examples formerly owned by the Duchess of Windsor and King Edward VIII. An unidentified owner is selling the items, which were acquired at the Sotheby’s sale in Geneva in April 1987.

Eleven Cartier pieces are included in the new sale. Among these is an onyx-and-diamond bracelet designed, with the Duke’s encouragement, in the form of a panther by Jeanne Toussaint for Cartier in 1952. This is expected to sell for between $1.5 million and 2.3 million pounds, as is a flamingo-shaped brooch by Toussaint that the Duchess bought in 1940.

David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry in Europe and the Middle East, said: “The offering comprises not only incomparable examples of the genius of Cartier in collaboration with the Windsors, but also pieces whose inscriptions tell the story of perhaps the greatest love story of the 20th century, the romance that led Edward VIII to abdicate the throne of Great Britain.” A few of the other pieces offered in the upcoming auction include:

A Cartier heart-shaped emerald, ruby and diamond brooch, with the initials W.E. (Wallis, Edward)  done in emeralds and a pair of X’s in blood red rubies -commissioned in 1957 to mark their 20th wedding anniversary.

A diamond bracelet set with nine jewelled crosses is one of the most famous and personal of all the Duchess’s jewels. On the back of each cross is an inscription commemorating a significant event in the lives of the couple. Most of the crosses date from the 1930s, but two, one set with amethyst and one set with yellow sapphires, commemorate Wallis’s appendectomy and her recovery from it in 1944. The sapphire and diamond cross is inscribed “Our marriage cross Wallis 3.VI.37,” while the aquamarine cross refers to an attempt on the King’s life with the inscription “God save the King for Wallis 16.VII.36.” The sapphire cross was given to Wallis to commemorate Edward’s 41st birthday in 1935. The emerald cross is called the X Ray cross and marks the day that the Duchess had an X-ray taken. The ruby cross commemorates a vacation in Austria in 1935. The platinum cross is inscribed “WE are too” and is dated 25 November 1934, a few days before the marriage of Edward’s favourite brother, George Duke of Kent, to Princess Marina of Greece. The diamond cross, inscribed “The Kings Cross God Bless WE” and dated 1 March 1936, commemorates a time when Wallis was visiting France and when, during her absence, Edward VIII and Mr Simpson discussed the future of the King’s relationship with Wallis while Edward agreed to be faithful to her if her husband agreed to a divorce. The Duchess can be seen wearing this bracelet in the photo at the top of this post.

Also going on sale is a gold cigarette case decorated with a map of Europe showing the routes travelled by Edward and Mrs Simpson in the 1930s; the routes are enamelled and the destinations are marked with diamonds and cabochon gems. The inscription shows that this was a Christmas present from Edward to Wallis in 1935.

You can watch video from the 1987 Sotheby’s auction and access the sale catalogue here.