Friday, June 01, 2012

Norman Hartnell - Ballgowns fit for a Queen

After visiting the Queen Elizabeth II Cecil Beaton exhibition at the VandA a few months back, I came out with a complete ballgown crush and a craving to find out more about Norman Hartnell, the man credited with said crushes underneath each photograph. The British fashion designer dressed the Queen for the two most important occasions in her life - her wedding and the coronation - and yet i didn't really know much about him or his work. Which led me to discover that the couturier created some of the most exquisite, intricately detailed, glamorous dresses i had ever seen. Here are some of my favourites...
Cream silk gown with gold looped heavy embroidery around neckline and over skirt. Worn for a visit to the House of Representatives in Lagos, during the Royal Tour of Nigeria, February 1956.
Pale blue and white faille dress embroidered with white china beads. Worn during the State Visit to Pakistan, February 1961 (below).

Lavish gold and white beadwork encrusts this ivory evening dress worn by Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit to Paris in 1957. The dazzling, jewel-like details of the embroidered design include miniature bees, grasses, wheat and wild flowers. These motifs are worked in relief in faceted glass, gold beads, brilliants and variously shaped pearls, mother-of-pearl and gold petals. It also features an extravagant back bow. The design of this single-occasion gown diplomatically refers to French motifs, including the flowers of France and large gold bees, the emblem of Napoleon. It was intended to both compliment the French nation and draw attention to the Queen.’ - Description from the Victoria and Albert Museum. 
Cream Crinoline Gown with blue embroidery, worn during the Tour of Canada and the United States of America, October 1957.

Lime green gown with crinoline skirt, heavily embroidered with beads and sequins.
and of course, the beautiful wedding dress that he designed for the Queens big day in November 1947. The dress was ivory silk, with a 13 foot train. The crystal and seed pearl roses, wheat sheafs and leaves embellishment took 350 seamstresses seven weeks to complete! The result is spectacular...

...with gorgeous shoes to match by Edward Rayne.

Now, I don't believe that this outfit is by Norman Hartnell, but i had to slip it in because i just love the fact that The Queen is wearing what look to be white, leather, knee high boots! awesome! Very groovy ma'am!
Whilst surfing for the post, I came across two fabulous sites. One was an official Royal website, for an exhibition that i wish i'd have seen back in 2006 called Dress for the Occasion - which pulls together a selection of the Queens gowns and jewellery. Then there is an awesome blog - Madame Guillotine - an art history graduate with a fancy for vintage fashion, who has proved a great source for my Jubilee musings - a very addictive blog!