With not one but two royal weddings this year, The Fashion Museum Bath’s major forthcoming exhibition entitled ‘Royal Women: Alexandra, Mary, Elizabeth and Margaret – Pubic Life, Personal Style‘ couldn’t be more timely.
Running for fourteen months, and certain to be a huge draw with visitors to the city, it will look at how the position and rank of these royal women influenced their choices of dress and the image they wished to portray to the world. The exhibition will feature exquisite ball gowns, elegant daytime dresses and tailored suits worn at official engagements throughout the decades, along with a selection of royal accessories complementing the fashions.
Highlights include two sumptuous dresses, a tartan silk and a purple silk chiffon once worn by Alexandra, Princess of Wales and donated to the Fashion Museum in the 1960s, besides her 1863 wedding gown on loan from the Royal Collection and Her Majesty The Queen. Displayed chronologically, these Edwardian fashions are followed by the gold lamé dress and cape Queen Mary wore to the wedding of the then-Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten in 1947 and a dove grey silk satin ball gown designed for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1954.
More glamorous dress examples are those of the Queen’s fashionable younger sister Princess Margaret, who was a devotee of designers such as British couturier Norman Hartnell and Christian Dior. The Dior ‘Rose Pompon’ dress which she wore to Royal Ascot in 1952, is one of the stand out pieces of the exhibition, as is the daring strapless black lace evening gown she wore to a performance of Guys and Dolls at the London Coliseum in 1953.
Having attended a fascinating talk on screen legend Vivien Leigh given by Keith Lodwick last year, drawing on the archive of her letters and diaries at the Theatre Museum Collection, I for one can’t wait for the series of insightful Twilight Talks that will accompany this exhibition, dedicated to fashion icon of the Edwardian era Princess Alexandra on 1 February, followed by Queen Mary on 1 March and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 11 October.
Sponsored by Paxton and Whitfield, royal warrant holders of fine cheese with a store on John Street in Bath, they will be offering all Twilight Talk-goers a 10% discount voucher, and have selected three exemplary cheeses by families who have been producing them since these royal women were alive. They will also be running a giveaway.
Finally, it has just been announced that the ensemble worn by HRH The Countess of Wessex to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in April 2011 will also be displayed. Lent and especially selected by HRH The Countess of Wessex for the exhibition, this royal wedding ensemble consists of a 2011 Bruce Oldfield ecru silk jacket and skirt worn with a feather and rose ecru silk hat by Jane Taylor. The Countess will also be lending her Bruce Oldfield matching clutch bag.
Royal Women at The Fashion Museum from 3 February – 28 April 2019, open daily from 10.30-4pm. For more information please visit the website. The series of Twilight Talks take place from 6.15-7.15pm at The Fashion Museum. Tickets are £10 and include a glass of wine or soft drink and can be purchased via Bath Box Office.