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Royal Designer Norman Hartnell Part Three: The Coronation Gown

We are looking forward to seeing the royal barge travel down the Thames on June 2nd, so what better time to reminisce about the exquisite coronation gown that she wore 60 years ago? Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on June 2,1953 was naturally an enormous occasion and seeing as Norman Hartnell was the go-to designer for the Royal ladies, he was deeply involved and designed several gowns that were worn that day.

Of course, the Queen’s coronation gown was the most important of the day, but Hartnell also designed the dresses of Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Kent, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother.

A lot of thought went into the new Queen’s coronation gown to make it a truly symbolic and landmark gown. Norman Hartnell submitted several designs, and the then Princess Elizabeth was deeply involved in the design process. At the Queen’s suggestion, the gown was ornately embroidered with the emblems of the Commonwealth countries. We thought that the Queen’s wedding dress had a lot of embroidery, but this one really takes the cake! As you can see in the picture below, the Irish shamrock, Scottish thistle, British Rose, New Zealand silver fern, Australian wattle, and Canadian maple leaf were all included, among others.

All of this beading made for a very heavy dress, and while it was being sewn together, Hartnell and his seamstresses could see that the weight was causing the skirt to hang in what he described as a “limp and disappointing nuance” according to the book Bedazzled! Norman Hartnell and Sixty Years of Fashion. How eloquent. This was fixed and “glorified into regal fullness by mounting it on an underskirt of ivory taffeta laced with bands of horsehair and further strengthened with countless strands of whalebone.”

Thank goodness it worked!

Here is the new Queen with Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother. This formal portrait was taken at Buckingham Palace after the ceremony:

.And we do love any and all royal balcony appearances:

Notably, the Queen didn’t just put the gown into storage, but has worn it several times since the Coronation which I think is pretty fantastic. This photograph was taken during a State Visit to Canada in 1957. The Queen wore the dress while reading the Speech from the Throne during the Opening of Parliament on October 14:

The Jubilee celebrations are well underway in London, and Harrods has gotten into the fun of things with some pretty spectacular window displays. One window is showing an exact replica of the Queen’s coronation dress. One Royal Poster took this photo of it over the weekend. It really gives a good sense of the amount of embroidery and beading involved:

So what do you think?? Next up, we’re chatting about Princess Margaret and her Norman Hartnell designed wedding dress. See you then!

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Categories: British Royal Family, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

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