The celebrations for HM The Queen's 90th birthday kick off today, with the full pomp and regalia that has accompanied all the landmark events of her extraordinary life.
To mark the monarch's special birthday, Buckingham Palace is playing host this year to a special exhibition dedicated to the stylish outfits she has worn throughout her reign.
The display, along with two complementary exhibitions at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and Windsor Castle, will present some of the special dresses worn on some of the most significant occasions in her 60-year era on the throne.
Two of the most special outfits 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, 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 wardrobe ever mounted, it provides more proof that, as well as everything else, she remains our greatest Queen of Style.
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.
The Queen acceded to the throne, aged 26.
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.
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.
The Queen's outfit for her son's ceremony, this ensemble of pale primrose yellow comprises a silk crepe long-sleeved coat and matching tunic, both appliqued with pearl and bugle bead embroidery. The striking hat of the same pale yellow silk consists of a crown entirely embroidered with pearls and bugle beads. The hat appears to have been inspired by Tudor prototypes.
The blue silk and chiffon dress has long draped sleeves and a flared, panelled skirt, embroidered with sprays of Cherry Blossom, the national flower of Japan.
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 the State Rooms at 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.
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