Wednesday, June 6, 2012

History's Runway: Princess Elizabeth's Wine Crepe Evening Gown, 1936-1939

Evening Gown Design
Norman Hartnell, 1936-39
This gown for then-Princess Elizabeth was later made of wine crepe, peach silk
with an intricate embroidery of glass beads, semi-precious stones and sequins.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Norman Hartnell—perhaps the favorite of the Twentieth Century couturiers to the British royal family—will long be remembered for the glamorous gowns that he created for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), Princess Margaret Rose and Queen Elizabeth II.  From the late 1930s to the 1970s, Hartnell—from his Mayfair Couture House--designed a wide range of clothes that the female members of the Royal Family wore for their official duties as well as in their personal lives.

This drawing, made between 1936 and 1939, shows the design for an elegant wine-colored crepe evening gown and delicate peach jacket which were created for Queen Elizabeth II, while still Princess, as  part of her personal wardrobe, rather than being intended for state occasions. The Queen wore this ensemble for private dinners or for personal evening engagements. In true regal style, the neckline of the dress and the jacket are encrusted with beading, sequins and gemstones—the sort of intricate embroidery that became a Hartnell trademark.  There is a sample of the pink glass beading, sequins and semi-precious stones along with the crepe fabric attached to the sketch.

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