Careful diplomacy and planning goes into the preparation of the wardrobe for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which encompasses many aspects of design.
During a State Visit to Scotland of King Olav of Norway in 1962, Her Majesty The Queen wore a magnificent evening gown of pale-blue silk faille for a gala performance of Rob Roy at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh.
The bodice and full skirt were richly embroidered with beads, sequins, crystals and diamante in a feather design by leading British designer Norman Hartnell (1901-1979), whose garments she started wearing during the 1940’s.
This frock will be only one of the many splendid garments displayed in three separate exhibitions entitled Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe held at Her Majesty’s official residences during 2016, enabling as many people in, or visiting the United Kingdom as possible, access.
Each exhibition will feature over 150 outfits worn by The Queen, tailored to suit its location.
Starting 21st April, 2016 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse where Her Majesty will be staying for her birthday and during ‘Holyrood Week’, an unprecedented collection of her clothing charts her journey in design and style from childhood to the present day.
It will also showcase The Queen’s engagements that celebrate Scottish culture, history and achievements.
The Palace is a splendid setting for state ceremonies and official entertaining. The Queen’s mother and father, George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited often.
Holyroodhouse’s origins lie in the foundation of an Augustinian abbey in 1128, and its long, colourful and chequered history led to it becoming the official residence for the monarchy in Scotland in 1922.
The Queen Mother had a distinct fondness for Scotland, having grown up at one of its most beautiful residences, Glamis Castle in the north east of the highlands.
It has many myths and legends woven into the fabric of its walls and there is sure to be tartan at this first venue. The earliest form of tartan dress was a belted plaid, two yards in width and four or six yards in length.
Exclusively male attire at first, a leather belt, large brooch and a pin assisted the wearer to fold and swathe it about his person. At night it could become a warm blanket by if a clansman on the run was forced to lie down and rest in the heather.
The Queen’s biographer Robert Hardman has noted that over the decades the Queen has become known for wearing colour.
She is reported as saying “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am”.
The Queen has worn some 25,000 costumes to royal engagements during her lifetime, although this is only an estimate, some of the occasions involved her wearing the outfit for a second time.
Queen Elizabeth II has long supported the talents of British fashion designers and at Buckingham Palace in the summer at London the show will feature the lovely silk evening dress Her Majesty wore in 1997.
Designed by John Anderson for the Commonwealth Heads of Government reception, it is covered with white, pink, gold and cream beads and sequins, embroidered on to the surface of the garment with gold thread.
The exhibition in London will examine ten decades of style, garments reflecting the unique requirements of royal couture, from ceremonial and military attire to ensembles worn at family celebrations, such as weddings and christenings.
Sir Norman Hartnell, knighted for his years of service, held the Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II after 1957, the year The Queen visited the United States of America as a guest of President Eisenhower.
For a dinner at the British Embassy during the visit, The Queen wore an elegant pale-green Hartnell gown of silk chiffon and lace embroidered with sequins, pearls, beads and diamante.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s wedding, the Queen’s Coronation, and the wardrobes created for Royal Tours and State Visits will be represented.
When meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1980 Ian Thomas had designed a black silk-velvet and taffeta dress.
The Queen wore this outfit with the traditional black silk-tulle veil or mantilla, complying with the tradition of royalty wearing black when in an audience with the Pope.
The first of five visits made to the Vatican for The Queen began as Princess Elizabeth in 1951.
The most recent was in 2014, when she met His Holiness Pope Francis, wearing for the first time, coloured costume.
Garments from Her Majesty’s childhood include fancy dress costumes that she and her sister Princess Margaret wore for pantomimes and plays, will be on show at Windsor Castle.
They are all about fun, while by way of contrast her outfits worn during wartime will reflect the frugality of those times.
This will be an interesting costume show, there’s not too many around showcasing one woman and her life and none with so many garments to choose from.
Many splendid garments will be displayed in Edinburgh, London and at Windsor.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016