In our last post on Norman Hartnell, we reviewed the major impact that Queen Elizabeth’s ‘white wardrobe’ had during her 1938 State Visit to France.
During the war years, Norman made very few original pieces due to restrictions, but he did help to update existing pieces owned by the Royal family. A major commission came in 1947, when he was asked to design the wedding dress for Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Philip of Greece.
Despite the numerous gowns he had created for society brides, the dress he came up with for the Princess was completely original and different from what he had designed before. It didn’t quite make our Top Ten Favourite Royal Wedding Dresses, but it is beautiful in it’s own way and for its time. Princess Elizabeth’s gown was was made of ivory duchess satin and had enhanced shoulders, long sleeves, a full skirt, and an elaborate 15-foot train.
The satin for the train came from Lullington Castle and the satin for the dress came from the Scottish firm Winterhur, which created quite a stir. According to the book Bedazzled! Norman Hartnell, Sixty Years of Glamour and Fashion, Hartnell explained, “I was told in confidence that certain circles were trying to stop the use of the Scottish satin on the grounds of Patriotism. The silk worms, they said, were Italian, and possibly even Japanese! Was I so guilty of treason that I would deliberately use enemy silkworms?” In the end, it was determined that the silk worms came from China so all was well. What a to do.
The dress was ornately embroidered with “garlands of star shaped lily heads and white York roses with orange blossoms and ears of corns.” Thousands of seed pearls and crystals were used. The pearls were brought in from the United States:
Here is a good look at the bodice:
In a write-up of the wedding, the New York Times reported that, “Her long embroidered train seemed at first to float behind her, but in walked two tiny creatures in Royal Stuart tartan kilts, Prince Michael of Kent on the left and Prince William of Gloucester on the right.”
There they are:
Love this formal portrait
Norman also created all of the attendant’s gowns. Here is Princess Margaret looking lovely in her bridesmaids dress:
The wedding dress and attendant’s outfits have been put on display in recent years. These photographs reveal some of the details that aren’t so evident in the pictures from the actual wedding day: