The Designer Diaries – Norman Hartnell: Pt. 6

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the series can be found by clicking on the appropriate links. Make sure you check out all of the links for the photos as well. They’ll lead you to lot of fun things!

One of the main reasons Norman Hartnell became the “go to” designer for three generations of royal ladies (after the Gloucester wedding he also picked up Queen Mary as a client) was no doubt his discretion, his ability to create just the right gowns for the occasion, and his ability to grasp what royal dressing was all about. He understood that royalty should be elegant rather than fashionable; more timeless than trendy. Today we’ll take a look at some of his designs for Elizabeth and Margaret’s formal wear, as well as some of their daywear.

Gowns for Princess/Queen Elizabeth. The one on the left has “reject” in the top left hand corner. I wonder why? It looks good to me!

Gowns for Princess Margaret.

Elizabeth. Dress or suit, hat, gloves, jacket or coat. Very much like what her mother wore during the war years, but designed for a young princess/queen. A working “uniform” that HM, as well as countless other royals, still employs today.

Margaret. Perhaps a bit more “trendy” as she was further down the chain, but still very royal in design and execution.

Lastly, I tried to match an outfit from sketch to final design so we could see how it all worked out in the end. Instead of spending days and days and days combing through a gazillion photos, I decided to feature two from The Queen that were fairly obvious to figure out. First up is a dress that became known as “The Magpie Dress.” This gown was very well received in it’s day, as it “became a best-selling pattern for women who wanted to sew it at home, as well as selling in the thousands in Oxford Street.”

Next up is HM’s green maple leaf gown from the 1957 tour of Canada and the US. Government House commissioned Hartnell to make this gown especially for HM, and make a gown he did. Fashioned out of satin and green velvet maple leaves, it was embellished with tiny flowers and beads. HM wore the gown to the State Banquet at Rideau Hall.

There you have it! Part six in the books. I have enough for two more installments if you are interested. One on miscellaneous royal gowns, and the final will be on Hartnell’s wedding gowns. His over the top style really lent itself to weddings and I have a few gowns that I think you’ll enjoy.

So which of these, if any, are your favorites? Can you figure out which dresses these sketches turned into? Are you interested in the last two parts? Leave your comments and photos below!