Sunday, December 16, 2012

History’s Runway: The John Cavanagh Orchid Gown, 1953

John Cavanagh, 1953
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Can you picture the young Queen Elizabeth II wearing this beautiful gown?  Here, we see an evening dress of brocaded silk with a design of semi-naturalistic orchids woven in oyster, pale-pink and green silk punctuated with gold threads. The gown has a heart-shaped, fitted bodice with two shoulder straps, and a semi-full skirt with a small train at the back.

This dessert-like creation is composes of two layers of fine silk which are separate except where they are joined together to form the design. Lines of gold thread peek through at random points allowing the gown to shimmer.

This magnificent evening gown is the work of the John Cavanagh (1914-2003) and was part of his Spring/Summer 1953 “Coronation Collection.” The gown was made for and worn by Lady Cornwallis (nee Esme d’Beaumont, 1901-69) expressly for the coronation celebrations in June.

The intricate fabrics were designed by Oliver Messel (1904-1978), at the time Britain’s foremost designer of costumes and sets for stage and film.

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