Posts Tagged ‘Norman Hartnell’


Sketch of Duchess of Sussex wedding dress by Clare Waight Keller. Image by Clare Waight Keller.

We now have seen Meghan Markel’s (Duchess of Sussex) wedding dress and we know who designed it – British designer Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of the French house Givenchy.

I must confess that I did not get up at the crack of dawn to watch it all. Heck, I  like my sleep and I knew I’d catch up in the following days. I watched the BBC coverage of what Ms. Keller had to say about the dress. She went into some detail about the veil and how she suggested including flora and fauna of the Commonwealth. She recounted for the BBC reporter what she had said to the bride: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we took the 53 countries of the Commonwealth and embroidered a flower and some floral and fauna from each one of those and they would go up the aisle, the journey up the aisle with you …”

In wanting to create “a little bit of a wild garden” included in the veil were orchids, forget-me-knots, thistle, and so on.


Queen Elizabeth II Coronation gown. Designed by Norman Hartnell.

Hmm … this was ringing a bell. British designer Norman Hartnell did something similar for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation gown in 1953. I wrote about it for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The coronation gown included hand embroidered flowers of each of the Commonwealth – Tudor Rose, Thistle, Shamrock, etc. –  on the bodice and skirt of the dress. Great minds think alike in Great Britain!

Back to Meghan’s dress. For my two cents, I think it was stunning in its simplicity. I love the unusual boat neck and the 3/4 length sleeves were perfection. It was made from a double silk cady fabric, which is very stable and that allowed for the shape of the dress. My only quibble was the choice of white. Perhaps a little color would not have gone amiss. A pale blue or green for spring. There may be royal rules about such things, I don’t know.

The platinum and diamond tiara (on loan from the Queen) originally belonged to Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother. Keeping it minimal, the bride wore diamond earrings and a bracelet by Cartier. Again, some color here would have been a nice touch – rubies or emeralds. The look needed a pop.

It really was all about the veil and the best perspective on that was from above. It took many skilled workers and many hours to create. I read that each embroiderer stopped to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the white fabric white.

But what an honor to be part of such a significant event.

Congratulations to one and all! Now get some sleep.

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Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Gown June 2, 1953.

All the recent buzz about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee had me wondering – what did the young princess wear to her own coronation on June 2nd, 1953? 

Well, the momentous gown for Queen Elizabeth II was created by British designer Norman Hartnell, who also made the Queen’s (then a princess) wedding gown in 1947. 

For the coronation, Hartnell sketched eight potential gowns before Prince Philip pointed out that his lovely wife was soon to become sovereign to the British Commonwealth and perhaps all her lands should be represented.

The final version was made in white satin and included embroidered emblems:

  • Tudor Rose  – England
  • Thistle –  Scotland  
  • Shamrocks  – Ireland 
  • Maple leaves – Canada
  • Wattle flowers  – Australia
  • Ferns – New Zealand
  • Proteas – South Africa
  • Lotus Flowers –  India
  • Leeks  – Wales
  • Wheat, Cotton and Jute – Pakistan

For luck Hartnell added an extra shamrock underneath the skirt. For proper balance the gown demanded a complicated construction of supporting undergarments, which was created by Hartnell’s expert cutters and fitters. He himself could not sew.

Born in a London suburb in 1901, Hartnell attended Cambridge where he began designing costumes for theater. Later he worked for British fashion houses and in 1923 he opened his own house in Mayfair. Hartnell developed a reputation for originality (not just creating variations on the latest craze in Paris) and attracted the patronage of young society ladies.

His first royal commission came along in 1935 for Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott’s wedding to Prince Harry Duke of Gloucester (son of George V). Hartnell designed the wedding gown and trousseau as well as the dresses for the bridesmaids, which included the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Soon thereafter the royal family became regular clients. Hartnell was made Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.

Additionally from the 1930s to the 1960s Hartnell designed costumes for films. What an interesting chap.

Have I piqued your interest in Mr. Hartnell? There’s a lot more to his story. Check this out: http://www.pointedleafpress.com/be-dazzled

Happy Diamond Jubilee to my British readers (I know I have a few). For my fellow Anglophile readers, this weekend you can partake in the Jubilee festivities over the Internet with BBC Radio 4.


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