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The Queen's wedding and Coronation dresses to be displayed together for the first time to mark Her Majesty's 90th birthday

Release date: Friday, 27 May 2016

The Queen's Coronation dress

The Queen's Coronation dress ©

Dresses worn by The Queen for two of the most significant occasions in Her Majesty's life will be seen together for the first time ever at the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace (23 July to 2 October 2016).

The wedding dress worn by Princess Elizabeth for her marriage to The Duke of Edinburgh on 20 November 1947, and The Queen's Coronation dress, both designed by the great British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell (1901–1979), will be part of the special exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen's Wardrobe.

Constituting the largest display of The Queen's dress ever mounted, Fashioning a Reign charts important events in The Queen's life and the nation's history through Her Majesty's wardrobe, encompassing themes such as State occasions, international tours and family celebrations.  The Queen's support of British couture and millinery will be highlighted through outfits created for a world stage by renowned designers, including Hartnell, Hardy Amies and Ian Thomas.

When commissioned to design Princes Elizabeth's wedding dress, Sir Norman Hartnell set out to produce ‘the most beautiful dress I had so far made’.  His magnificent creation is in ivory silk and decorated with crystals and 10,000 seed pearls. The gown incorporates a 15 foot (4.6m) star-patterned train, woven in Braintree in Essex, inspired by the famous Renaissance painting of Primavera by Botticelli, symbolising rebirth and growth after the war.  In 1947 Britain was still subject to rationing, so Princess Elizabeth collected clothing coupons to pay for the dress.

Hartnell, who had worked for the Royal Family since 1938, was subsequently commissioned to design the dress worn by The Queen for her Coronation at Westminster Abbey on
2 June 1953.  He created a gown in the finest white duchesse satin, richly embroidered in a lattice-work effect with an iconographic scheme of national and Commonwealth floral emblems in gold and silver thread and pastel-coloured silks, encrusted with seed pearls, sequins and crystals.  Unknown to The Queen, Hartnell added an extra four-leaf shamrock on the left side of the skirt for good luck, so that Her Majesty's hand could rest upon it during the ceremony. 

The exhibition at Buckingham Palace is one of three separate special displays taking place in celebration of The Queen's 90th birthday across each of Her Majesty's official residences during 2016.  A total of around 150 outfits will be shown, and the content of each exhibition has been selected to have particular association with the location.  At the Palace of Holyroodhouse the use of tartan in royal dress is explored, while at Windsor Castle magnificent evening gowns worn on official occasions will be contrasted with Princess Elizabeth's fancy-dress costumes from wartime family pantomimes at the Castle.