Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on September 21, 2013
The last time I was in England in 2009, I casually picked up a book in the Victoria & Albert Museum giftshop on Queen Elizabeth’s royal tour gowns from the 1950s. Little did I know that it would become one of my favorite books ever. Filled with images of the most elaborate embroidered evening gowns designed by couturiers Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies, this book showcased all the finest fashions which Queen Elizabeth wore during the first decade of her reign. I’ve spent countless hours poring over the pages, and imagining how wonderful these glittering dresses would look in real life.
So you can imagine how excited I was when earlier this summer Kensington Palace announced the opening of their new exhibit, “Fashion Rules; Dresses from the Collections of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales”. Here are a few of my favorite shots that I took at Kensington yesterday, with some thoughts on how they looked in person down at the end of this post.
Unlike all photos above, the dress in this picture was worn by Princess Margaret.
Here is a gorgeous lace dress worn by Princess Margaret in the early 1950s.
Queen Elizabeth adopted softer fabrics for formal fashions towards the mid-1960s.
Pictures really don’t do the gowns justice, as even when you’re standing still, the crystals and jewels on the dresses just sparkle in the light as if they were moving! I was absolutely flabbergasted when I saw the first gown in the exhibit which was a cream silk number encrusted with thousands of dazzling crystals and beads.
The second thing that impressed me was that all these gowns were absolutely tiny!! I knew that Queen Elizabeth was short (5 foot 3 inches), but I had no idea at all that she was as petite in build as she was. Standing in front of the gowns, I couldn’t believe that a woman who had already given birth to two children had managed to squeeze into these diminutive dresses! I asked a member of the Kensington Palace staff what the measurements were, and she said that while it’s not been reported officially, Queen Elizabeth’s dresses fit onto a 20″ waisted mannequin, and Princess Margaret’s onto an 18″ mannequin. Good grief! I know that Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge is famous for keeping up such a trim figure at 5 ft. 10 inches, but considering the fact that Queen Elizabeth was seven whole inches shorter and had already had two babies, I think she is much more of a hero than our modern day Catherine! My guess is that Elizabeth would have worn an American size 2 dress in off-the-rack clothing (or “off-the-peg”, as I’ve heard it said so frequently here in England).
This exhibition is on display for a while longer at Kensington Palace, so if you are anywhere in the vacinity you simply must visit it in person!
At some point soon I will add more pictures of these glorious dresses and their up-close details, but for now I must get some rest to prepare for tomorrow’s adventures. This exhibit greatly inspired me in many ways!
Until next time, happy sewing!
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on September 19, 2013
I’ve been absent from the blog for a few days simply because I’ve been seeing so many new places, but I just had to post some pictures of what I did today! To begin with, our costume study group made the short journey from our hotel to the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is quite possibly one of the grandest places on planet earth. This museum has the most exquisite collection of costumes from various centuries, and I was so thrilled to see the sumptuous evening gowns and afternoon dresses which were on display there! Here are just a few of the finest gowns we saw:
After meandering through this glorious array of day dresses and evening gowns, I headed to The Ritz for afternoon tea, which (when taken at The Ritz), is quite a sumptuous affair! The Ritz is the place to have tea in London, and all the reports I’d heard of its grandeur had not been exaggerated in the slightest. This gorgeous place is filled with marble pillars, crystal chandeliers, and oversized sprays of flowers. I wore a newly-made 1950s dress (one I finished just in time for this trip), along with a lavender lace bolero I sewed for the occasion.
I was so blessed and thankful to be able to go to tea with Jennie Chancey of www.sensibility.com who is a phenomenal pattern designer and is one of my very favorite people. :)
So that was my day today, and now it’s time to get to bed so I have energy for Kensington Palace tomorrow, where we will be studying gowns worn by Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana.
Until next time, happy sewing!
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on September 15, 2013
Hello, One and All!
I can’t wait to let you see what I did just yesterday – I went to the grand Regency ball at the Assembly Rooms in Bath, England! This is the one main event in England that I have been looking forward to the most throughout all of 2013, and which I have sewn towards with the most diligence and anticipation. Moreover, this gown I sewed is entirely stitched by hand and made of 100% silk (excluding the lace overlay), and I sewed each ribbon flower and gathered all the ivory ribbon by hand as well. The bodice is all embroidered with pearls and “smocked” with tiny bubble ruching that took me quite a long time to do.
Once I get back to the U.S. of A I will let you all see how the dress looked from the early stages of construction through to its completion. (Update: the link is now ready here!) But at the moment I want to focus on the day’s monumental events and the most amazing “grand and glorious party”! So without further ado, here are some pictures!
We arrived to the regal Assembly Rooms in a horse drawn carriage…
These magnificent chandeliers were so glorious that they could be quite distracting when you were trying to walk beneath them.
It was so lovely to meet Lyze Lynch in person, as she makes the most magnificent costumes and recently won the “Your Wardrobe Unlock’d” costume competition a couple of years ago. And we were both wearing tiaras! :)
And then the dancing began… I’m very appreciatve to Jennie Chancey from the famous www.sensibility.com for taking some pictures throughout the evening!
The dancing continued for hours and hours, even after dinner and dessert had been served in the formal dining rooms. In the very room where Jane Austen must have danced over 200 years ago, hundreds of ladies and gentleman in full Regency garb danced the night away under the sparkling chandeliers of the ballroom… I cannot possibly imagine a more joyful or uplifiting time! And when at last the clock struck midnight, it was with great reluctance that we all headed out into the chilly night air to return to the twenty first century.
But this most marvelous evening will forever be etched in my memory, and I promise to share more pictures (and possibly even videos) in the near future.