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Outfits from across ten decades of The Queen's life go on display

Release date: Friday, 22 July 2016

A display of The Queen's dresses, part of the 'Fashioning a Reign' exhibition at Buckingham Palace

A display of The Queen's dresses, part of the 'Fashioning a Reign' exhibition at Buckingham Palace Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2016

From Saturday, 23 July, visitors to this year's Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace will enjoy an unprecedented display of The Queen's dress in the special exhibition Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen's Wardrobe.

Spanning ten decades, from the christening gown worn by the month-old Princess Elizabeth in 1926, to the vivid green ensemble worn by The Queen at this year's Trooping the Colour, the exhibition explores ceremonial and military attire, dress for State occasions and overseas tours, outfits for family celebrations, and Her Majesty's support of British design.

Princess Elizabeth was christened in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace on 29 May 1926, wearing the white lace and silk-satin christening robe commissioned by Queen Victoria for her first child in 1841.  Inspired by Queen Victoria's wedding dress, the robe was worn by over 60 royal babies up until 2004.  Her Majesty then commissioned Angela Kelly to create a replica gown, which was first used in 2008 for the christening of James, Viscount Severn, son of TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex.  

In 1937, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret attended the Coronation of their parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey.  As Princesses of the Realm, they wore matching cream dresses made of lace and silk tulle with gold embellishment, and purple velvet robes, as stipulated by the Earl Marshal.  Their outfits were completed by silver-gilt coronets.

Throughout her reign 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 at State events, on tours and at family occasions.

For State Visits and overseas tours, The Queen's ensembles are carefully designed to ensure they are appropriate for the climate of the country, and, where possible, fabric colours and embroideries are incorporated to pay subtle compliments to the host nation.  For a State Visit to Ethiopia in 1965, Norman Hartnell designed an evening dress in green, one of the country's national colours, which The Queen wore with the Insignia of the Order of Ethiopia.  A mimosa-yellow silk-chiffon dress designed by Ian Thomas for The Queen's 1974 visit to Australia is embellished with sprigs of wattle, Australia's national floral emblem.

The Queen is well known for block-colour dressing, using bright, bold colours to ensure she is easily visible on important occasions.  In 1986, The Queen attended a special 60th-birthday parade on the Mall, when 6,000 children waved bunches of daffodils.  Her Majesty wore a bright yellow tailored coat and dress by Hardy Amies, with a matching beret-style hat by Frederick Fox.

The Channel Tunnel was officially opened by The Queen and President François Mitterrand of France in May 1994.  The vivid pink coat and dress by John Anderson worn by The Queen for the engagement, with a matching pill-box hat by Karl Ludwig van Rehse, is another example of how the choice of colour in Her Majesty's dress ensures that she is easily seen.  

On public display for the first time are outfits worn on two recent and memorable occasions.  In 2012 The Queen played an unexpected role in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, appearing to arrive by helicopter with James Bond.  Two beaded peach cocktail dresses were created by Angela Kelly for the spectacle, one for Her Majesty and the other for the stunt double.  

In June 2016 The Queen attended Trooping the Colour, the official celebration of Her Majesty's 90th birthday.  To inspect soldiers from her personal troops, The Household Division, The Queen wore a vivid green wool-crepe and silk dress and coat by Stewart Parvin and a wool-crepe hat by Rachel Trevor-Morgan.

The exhibition at Buckingham Palace is one of three separate special displays in celebration of The Queen's 90th birthday at each of Her Majesty's official residences during 2016.  A total of around 150 outfits will be shown across the Palaces, 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 held at the Castle.


The three exhibitions Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen's Wardrobe are at the Palace of Holyroodhouse from 21 April to 16 October 2016, the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace from 23 July to 2 October 2016, and at Windsor Castle from 17 September 2016 to 8 January 2017.

Each exhibition is included in the price of a general admission ticket. Tickets and visitor information:, T. +44 (0)303 123 7300.