In the Diamond Jubilee year, Britain has set out to celebrate their monarch in as many ways as possible. The Fashion and Textile Museum has decided to celebrate both the Queen’s fashion sense and British couture in one sitting.
Kate Middleton, with her patronage of British designers is following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth, who in her youth was instrumental in advancing the fortunes of up and coming British couturiers.
Normal Hartnell with his designs for Vogue UK 1953
British couture is actually at the basis of the world of couture we have come to worship nowadays. The great ateliers of Paris grew following the lead of the great House of Worth. Charles Frederick Worth opened his couture house in 1858, but previously worked at Greglion which supplied the trousseau for the newly married Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. The House of Worth became the go to atelier for the nobility of Europe thus further establishing Paris as the home of couture.
Hardy Amies with his designs for Vogue UK 1953
Now back to twentieth century British Isles. Traditionally, the British are renowned for men’s tailoring, yet the womenswear really started to take off after World War II. In the exhibition called Hartnell to Amies: Couture by Royal Appointment at the Fashion and Textile museum, in London, designers of the likes of Normal Hartnell, maker of the Queen’s wedding dress in 1947 and coronation dress in 1953, Hardy Amies and Frederick Fox, millinery extraordinaire help trace the fortunes of British couture in the twentieth century.
Normal Hartnell in studio with his designs for Vogue UK 1953
The exhibition concludes with a discussion of the design house in the current fashion industry and the resurgence of British heritage brands, traditional tailoring and dressmaking.
Michael Pick, Guest Curator of ‘Hartnell to Amies’ says:
‘The consummate skills of Hartnell, Amies and Fox in dressmaking, tailoring and millinery – seen worldwide through the patronage of the Royal Family – helped to re-assert Britain’s reputation as an international centre for fashion after the Second World War.’
Hartnell to Amies: Couture By Royal Appointment
16 November 2012 – 23 February 2013
Fashion and Textile Museum
83 Bermondsey Street
London, SE1 3XF
Wriiten by: Valentina Zannoni
Credits: Norman Parkinson Limited/Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive