The Designer Diaries – Norman Hartnell: Brides Pt.4

Click for parts  1, 2, and 3 of the Brides series. And read those links!

We’ve finally made it to the end! Today we’ll finish looking at gowns from the 50s and 60s. Note: Links to gowns in general from both eras.

First up is a bit of a cheat. Hartnell created the costumes, including a fabulous wedding gown, for the 1949 movie “Maytime in Mayfair” starring Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding. The dress was also featured on the cover of Vogue magazine.

Photo Credit: IMDB
Photo Credit: Alchetron

And here’s a link to the Getty page for the promotional photos from the movie (including one of Hartnell admiring his creation), if you’re interested in seeing more of the gown. Getty won’t let them be embedded on blogs. Boo.

Our first “real person’s” dress was created for the wedding of Miss Hermione Wills and Mr. Merfyn Evans in July of 1951. The bride’s mother was a good friend of Hartnell’s, and he created the gown especially for her daughter. The pearl and silver embroidery bordering the V-neck of the dress is echoed in the embroidery on the skirt, which is lined with buckram and weighted around the hem to help it maintain its shape. Extra support is provided by a stiffened petticoat. Notice the bare patch on the bodice. It was done on purpose so the bride could wear a diamond brooch which pulled the sweeping bands of embroidery “together”, creating an unbroken curve of sparkling ornamentation from neckline to skirt.

Photo Credit: Old Rags

Our next dress was worn by Mrs. Laurel Heath for her marriage to Mr. Gerald Albertini in 1957, and was featured in the V&A’s Wedding Gown exhibit. It’s made from silk satin and heavy cream lace, accented with floral sprays of seed pearls and diamanté. It has a ballerina-length full skirt, long sleeves, and boatneck neckline, mounted over a strapless dark cream satin underdress. Click on this link for an interview with the bride who wore this dress. Her new mother-in-law (who dressed exclusively in Hartnell) commissioned him to make the gown for her as a wedding gift. She talks about what it was like to wear a Hartnell, and there are more close ups of the dress. See if you can spy what I thought was a very sweet touch.

Our next bride is a “legacy” bride. On May 15, 1958, Charles Manners, the 10th Duke of Rutland married Miss Frances Sweeney, the 20-year old daughter of the Duchess of Argyll and her first husband, Charles Sweeney, at Caxton Hall. The tea-length dress was made in blush-pink organza with a graduated hem, and was trimmed with some sort of feathers. Ostrich maybe? Considering who she is the daughter of, who Hartnell was, and the fact that she became a duchess, I can’t believe I had such a hard time finding out anything about this dress! I did find a video of the wedding though.

Our next entry is only known as “Norman Hartnell Wedding Gown: 1960s.” Everyone looks happy, and sometimes that’s all you need.

We started with “Hollywood” and we’ll end with Hollywood. Even though it’s been proven that he could work miracles while under enormous time constraints, I’m very sure the next gown was chosen “off the rack” since the bride and groom had only known each other for about two weeks when they married. Model/actress Britt Ekland wore a Hartnell dress embroidered with “fantasy flowers” to her February 19, 1964 marriage to actor/comedian Peter Sellers.

Embed from Getty Images

The gown, along with other items of Britt’s, was auctioned by Christie’s in 1996 and sold for $820.

Photo Credit:

And there you have it! What originally started out as a four or five part series on Norman Hartnell sketches somehow morphed into an 11 part series with wedding gowns to boot! So what do you think now that you’ve had a chance to see the outfits featured here and in the links? Do you have a new appreciation for his talent? Speaking of the links, I hope you’ve had a chance to fall down a few deep rabbit holes, and explore the offerings at a few of the many blogs. So much good work out there!

Our next “The Designer’s Diaries” series will focus on Royalty and Dior. The Handbag herself has been busy pulling this one together and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us!


We have a late addition to our Hartnell Brides! Princess Beatrice chose one of Granny’s vintage Hartnell gowns for her wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi on July 17th, 2020. Designers Angela Kelly and Stewart Parvin altered the gown that was once worn by Her Majesty at the 1967 opening of Parliament. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Photo Credit: Getty Images: Copyright in the photograph is vested in Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Benjamin Wheeler