The Queen Mother's Clothes
Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was born in London, UK in 1900 and died in
2002 as Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
This picture was taken when she was a young child.
She married the Duke of York on January 13 1923. On marriage she became
the Duchess of York and fulfilled her first marital duty by bearing him two
girls in the early years. When her husband was crowned George VI in 1937 after
the abdication of Edward VIII she became his crowned Queen Consort. Her first daughter Elizabeth became
Queen of Great Britain and the Commonwealth in 1952 and was crowned in
This is the wedding photograph of the Duke
and Duchess of York on their wedding day. The dress was designed by
Madame Handley Seymour a former London court dressmaker to the dowager Queen
Mary. The dress followed the essential fashions of the day, but has
never been considered memorable for its beauty.
In 1923 the fashions of the day
were not only straight and fairly shapeless, but had also cast aside the
frills, fabrics and bows of a lost era. The classic simplicity of the much
copied designs by Chanel did not suit the rounded curvy figure of the duchess.
She looked far better in softer more feminine clothes than the boyish fashions
of the day.
Motherhood rounded out her figure even more and
although she was charming, pretty, captivating and the right material
for a wife of the grandest sort, she was not a naturally glamorous
chic woman compared with picture perfect contemporaries of the era.
The continental Princess Marina the Duchess of Kent
exuded a classy style that was hard to beat. Likewise comparisons were made
between the then Duchess of York and Wallis Simpson, the amour of the Prince
of Wales. The latter woman made the famous
remark "you can never be too rich or too thin", which is one the
Duchess of York would certainly have felt directed at her.
In an effort to
establish a distinctive fashion style the new King and Queen soon
summoned Norman Hartnell into royal service.
Norman Hartnell had a dressmaking business operating
from four small rooms in Bruton Street in London. On his first visit to
Buckingham Palace in January 1937 the new King showed him several
Victorian Winterhalter paintings leaving Hartnell with a strong an
impression that they should be the source of inspiration for designing
the new Queen's evening gowns.
The Queen's new crinoline
style evening gowns were first seen in public in November 1937 and
they flattered her enormously, bringing an elongation to a body not as
model like in real life as sketches by Hartnell suggested.
In the summer of 1938 Queen Elizabeth's
mother, Lady Strathmore died. A state visit to Paris was already planned
and after a brief delay it went ahead a few weeks later. In that time Hartnell
and his team worked around the clock to to reproduce a new wardrobe
based on more than 30 designs already prepared in a range of colours.
The new order was now made up totally in white, an alternative royal
The Queen Elizabeth charmed the
Parisians with her fresh perfect complexion and the layered white floaty
dresses in styles that suited her and made her look a picture of assured
confidence in the French sun. The theatrical sentimental styles suited
her well and she never abandoned them once their success was well
Parisian approval and a realization that the calculated
sentimental look had worked, was more than enough for any Queen. She
understood public relations and thereafter continued to dress in a style
that suggested wholesomeness, steadfastness, warmth, sweetness and
lovability. She became what she invented, a picture that said goodness
Inevitably photographs of her by Cecil Beaton wearing
the Hartnell creations helped create a more enigmatic vision in the
public's eye. It's alleged that she was not averse to a little
airbrushing to help define her waistline in the cause of good public
Hartnell was less successful in transforming the new
Queen into a daytime mannequin. Her diminutive height, short legs and
less than slender ankles made it hard for him to transform the matronly
appearance into the model look chic of his sketches. She was still
something of a sartorial challenge in everyday clothes. Rescue came in
the form of wartime austerity.
The Queen decided to pare down fussiness
in her clothes and follow government guidelines for dressing down in a
Britain making do with clothing coupons, regulated cloth, seams and
trimmings. She toured bomb damaged sites in coordinating but simple unfussy outfits, usually of dress and matching coat and hat, that any groomed
woman of standing with money might have worn. The clean lines of the
daytime clothes won out where clothes designed for a woman with the
figure of a slender, but untouchable film star had not.
new clothes for day were often in lighter colours and were embellished
in a less ornate way. Click the thumbnail below to see the detail of
drawn thread work on the Khaki coat. It is so subtle, yet so stylish in
a classic way and would not have caused offence to anyone in uniform as conspicuous
wastage or conspicuous consumption.
Right - The Queen Mother when Queen in simple day
Well after the war she followed her instinct and
favoured matching coats and dresses. Almost always they had a V neckline
that elongated her neckline, providing a setting for her famous
jewellery whether pearls or sumptuous parures.
As she aged certain features became usual. For example
soft pleats or gathers from the shoulder that suit a more matronly
silhouette and a body that is essentially being pulled down by gravity.
Sleeves were often three quarter or elbow length and designed to draw
attention to interesting edge finishes and take the eye away from the
figure. Feather hats, swathes of chiffon and beautiful artificial
flowers amid sweeping brims continued to mark her style until her death
at 101 years of age on 30 March 2002.
Left - The Queen Mother in her own style.
Looking for a colouring in picture -
Golden Jubilee Colouring In
Coronation Dress Picture
Apartments, Kensington Palace web site
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