The Designer Diaries – Norman Hartnell: Pt. 3

The last wedding to be featured in this Hartnell series is the May 6th, 1960 wedding of Princess Margaret to photographer Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones. You can revisit the other two weddings (Princess Elizabeth) here, and (The Duchess of Gloucester) here. And as always, no part of this series could have been assembled without the Wiki page for Norman Hartnell.

Princess Margaret’s wedding was the last full State occasion for which Hartnell designed an impressive number of gowns and dresses. Her memorable dress was made from yards and yards of silk organza, with the skirt alone containing close to 100 feet (98.4252 to be exact) of fabric. Due to her small stature, embellishments were purposely kept to a minimum (a rarity for Hartnell as he loved his floof) in order to prevent the bride from being completely overwhelmed. Many have described the dress as stunningly tailored and a study in simplicity, with 1960’s Life magazine declaring it “the simplest royal wedding gown in history.” It has also been referred to as one of Hartnell’s most beautiful and sophisticated pieces.

I’m afraid all Getty has for us today are black and white sketches. Boo.

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But have no fear! Internet for the win! I’m not really sure if this is an alternate sketch for Margaret’s gown or not. It does look a bit like her though, and it is a Hartnell, so you can be the judge.

Photo Credit:

A watercolour sketch/painting – “Gifted to the seller by his aunt, Mrs Edith Anne Price [Annie], who was private assistant to Norman Hartnell in the West End of London.” Hartnell’s signature isn’t on it, but who am I to doubt Auntie Annie.

Photo Credit: UK

And the final result.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Queen Elizabeth’s gown was a turquoise-blue faille and lace creation, with matching bolero jacket in silk taffeta. The dress marks a turning point in the Queen’s wardrobe as this would be the last time members of the Royal Family would wear full-length gowns for a daytime event.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Nine year old Princess Anne was one of the eight bridesmaids. Their dresses were replicas of Princess Margaret’s first evening dress, created in white silk organza with panels of broderie anglaise, and trimmed with blue ribbons. Bit of trivia – Hartnell assistant David Sassoon was sent to Buckingham Palace to do a fitting on Anne’s gown. HM appeared out of nowhere, looked at the dress and asked him, “Will it wash?” “She was very concerned that it would wash.” he would later recall.

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And the results.

Pretty sure this is why Betty asked about washing instructions. That’s Anne with the basket, and a young Charles to the far left.

And here’s a bit of wedding to liven up your day. Links to part two and three can be found here and here.

So what do you think? One of the most iconic royal wedding gowns ever, or too much of everything for such a wee little lady? Are you all about QEII in unrelieved turquoise, or would it have been nice to break that up a bit? Do you think Anne will somehow find a way to wear this dress again? Leave your comments below, along with your favorite memories and photos of Margo on her big day.


Open Post: The Cambridge Wedding

Today marks the 9th Wedding Anniversary of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Why not take a few minutes to relive the excitement, and share your favorite stories and photos from the day!

I’ll even start you all off with MY personal favorite memory and photo. My favorite memory was from after the ceremony, as they were headed back to Buckingham Palace. Everytime they passed a war monument William gave a salute and Kate bowed her head until they passed. I thought right there and then, “She gets it. This girl really gets it.”

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As for my favorite photo? Any of the ones with father and daughter. Mike was so proud that day. He was amazing.

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Now it’s your turn!

Belgium · Luxembourg

Royal Wedding Gowns – Eighties Excess

This is the last in our series on royal wedding gowns. We hope you enjoyed the tour, which took us through family traditions, cultural aesthetics, matching gowns to venues, scaling gowns to the occasion, coats and wraps galore, and many other aspects of designing a royal wedding gown. If you want to revisit any part of it, go to “Find that Post” on the header, select “Recurring Feature” and “Royal Wedding Gowns”.

We are leaving with a fun post by revisiting the era of excess, otherwise known as the eighties. Big sleeves, big hair, big design, big, well – everything. If you are wondering where the granddaddy of all big dresses is, we have already covered that one! Take a trip back and enjoy some other gowns.

Bride: Princess Astrid of Belgium
Designer: Louis Mies

The daughter of King Albert and Queen Paola married in 1984, and the operating word on her gown is leg-o-mutton sleeves. No one ever remembers that gown was made of taffeta, had a massively long train and some lovely lace insets. The sleeves simply take over.

Brides: Princess Marie Astrid and Princess Margretha of Luxembourg
Designers: Unknown

The mini-marriage boom in Luxembourg occurred in 1981 and 1982, with Hereditary Grand Duke Henri marrying in 1981, and his two sisters in 1982. Just in time for ruffles! The older of the sisters, Marie Astrid, married first. Her gown featured ruffles at the sleeves, v neckline and waist. The gown also featured an assymetrical wrap that secured the skirt adorned with – you guessed it – ruffles.

Princess Margretha, Grand Duke Henri’s younger sister, married a few weeks later. The gown has many similarities to her sister’s, in this case, though, the ruffles decorate a high neckline and are even more liberally applied to the sleeves. The same volume can be found in the skirt, though! It remained 1982 ; ).

The eighties were my heyday, and I have more than my share of fondness for their more outrageous elements. The good news is that all of these marriages have lasted, and there are many children from the unions. The big, of-their-times dresses made not a difference to long term happiness, and they give us something to look back on with, we hope, amused tolerance if not outright appreciation.

What part of the "Eighties Excess" is your favorite?
Bhutan · Brunei · Japan

Royal Wedding Gowns – Color

Royal weddings are not always about white gowns. Today we’ll look at color, and how it is reflected in the wedding ensembles worn in Japan, Brunei and Bhutan. Previous entries in this series can be found on the header, under Find That Post!/Recurring Feature.

Bride: Masako Owada
Traditional Dress: Jūnihitoe

Did you know that when Crown Prince Naruhito was engaged to diplomat Masako Owada in 1993, Japan was gripped by “Masako Mania”? Much of the country was excited to see what western-style dress Masako would wear for the wedding, but part of her ensemble was pre-ordained and traditional. The traditional jūnihitoe , or the colorful part, is what we are concerned with today.

Jūnihitoe means 12 layer robe, although the number of layers differ depending on the event. The layers are all silk garments, and the number of layers can only be discerned at the sleeves, neckline and hem. A description of each layer can be found here.

Look at the layers more closely here. The colors, including green, light yellow, orange and burgundy, blend harmoniously. These colors are often given poetic names to mark the occasion. The layered garment can weigh up to 20 kg, so kudos to Masako for making it look easy. Note the elaborate fan which color coordinates with the dress, and is an important part of the entire ensemble.

Just for contrast, here is her western style gown and the Japanese scroll tiara, worn by several generations of Japanese royals on their wedding days.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Bride: Jetsun Pema
Traditional Dress: Kira, toego, wonju (The bride wore several iterations of this ensemble)
Groom: Jigme Khesar Namgeyl Wangchuck
Traditional Dress: Gho and tshoglham

When Jetsun Pema married the current King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in 2011, a veritable explosion of color was on display. In this case we should look at both bride and groom, because their ensembles are equally beautiful and colorful.

First, the bride. She wore the traditional kira, the ankle dress that is traditional to Bhutan. Her kira was red, yellow, green and white. Her toego, or jacket, was light yellow. Her wonju, or blouse, was red, and she added red earrings. During the ceremony, the Phoenix Crown was placed on her head.

The King wore the traditional gho in bright yellow, which was worn by his own father. He wore colorful Bhutanese boots (tshoglham), the elaborate design displaying the status of the wearer. During the ceremony the Raven Crown was placed on his head.

Bride: Princess Hajah Hafizah Sururul Bolkiah of Brunei
Traditional Dress: Long gown, lace head scarf for the bride, and knee length jacket for the groom.

The princess and her groom, Pengiran Haji Muhammad Ruzaini, married on September 23, 2012, in a celebration that encompassed the wedding ceremony and several receptions. The bride and groom wore lavish incarnations of traditional dress.

In Brunei, a conservative Muslim culture, brides typically wear long gowns, in a light color, often with flower designs. They also cover their hair with head scarves that feature prominent lace work at the border. The princess added several different tiaras, as well. The groom wore a knee length jacket and matching trousers, as is typical, along with a traditional turban. What is not typical is the level of jewelry accessorizing that you see below, because this was an elaborate and very Brunei-royal wedding on every level.

The light blue and purple gowns pictured below were worn to the receptions. The light yellow gown was worn during the wedding ceremony in the throne room.

What do you like most about colorful wedding ensembles? Choose as many options as you want!
Britain · Monaco · Spain

Royal Wedding Gowns – Fatigue-Defying Lace

Welcome our Royal Wedding Gown series, where we look at royal gowns from a different perspective. Today we are tackling everyone’s favorite subject, lace fatigue, and defying it with gowns that do lace right.

Previous entries in this series can be found in the Recurring Feature section, Weddings, found under “Find that Post!” in the header bar.

Bride: Beatrice Borromeo
Designer: Giorgio Armani Privé

Yes, Beatrice Borromeo had five wedding dresses and heaven knows how many other changes of clothes over her wedding weekend. The one we are focusing on is the religious ceremony wedding dress, a dreamy, flowing vision of a lace gown.

The wedding between Beatrice Borromeo and Pierre Casiraghi is best described as aristocratic and royal adjacent, not truly royal, but one thing really lept out at me. The groom was besotted with his bride, and who can blame him? Just look at her in that dress. She is a lace fever dream. The ivory Armani Privé dress sported a flared silhouette in Chantilly lace and layers of silk chiffon, which flowed and moved with the bride as she walked. The open neckline dropped to a deep-V in the back, and was fastened with a row of buttons. She finished the look with a delicate silk tulle veil attached with sparkly hair ornaments.

Bride: Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark
Designer: Jean Dessès

The wedding of Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark and Prince Juan Carlos of Spain was truly royal, uniting two European houses (although Spain had yet to return to a monarchy). Many of the European royal houses represented in the bridal party, so the whole shebang was quite the occasion. The dress itself had to represent royalty with a capital R.

Princess Sofia requested that her gown be sewn by Greek seamstresses, and they delivered a beautifully constructed dress of tulle and lace on a silver-white lamé base. The open neckline, 3/4 length sleeves and split skirt add design interest without overwhelming the bride. It’s a lace extravaganza, imperfectly rendered in the period photographs.

Fortunately, the dress has been on display in the Museum of Palace Life in Aranjuez. We can get a better look at the back of the gown in particular, with that spectacular train that extended from her shoulders for 20 (!) feet. It, too, was covered with tulle, and more lace. She anchored her veil with the Prussian Diamond tiara on loan from her mother, Queen Frederica.

Bride: Catherine Middleton
Designer: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

This dress worn by Catherine Middleton at her wedding to Prince William needs no introduction or explanation. It has been widely photographed and extensively discussed. It would be no exaggeration to say it was one of the most, if not the most, anticipated royal wedding gowns of the last twenty years.

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As lacey as the dress appeared on first viewing, much of the lace detail was not that apparent on the television screen, particularly the appliques on the skirt, underskirt and bodice. The bodice incorporated floral motifs cut from machine-made lace,  in a style influenced by traditional Carrickmacross lace. The entire dress was fabricated from white satin gazar. The impeccably tailored bodice opened into a full skirt with padded hips and a bustle, flowing into a 270 cm train. She attached her chapel length veil with the Cartier Halo tiara.

Bride: Grace Kelly
Designer: Helen Rose

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I debated even including this one because it’s almost beyond discussing at this point. Since everyone knows it very well, I’ll hit the high points. Point 1: The dress was a gift from MGM, and designed by a Hollywood costume designer. This makes it more of a set piece rather than a wedding dress, but it served its purpose to such a degree it’s become iconic. Point 2: It’s not a dress at all. Skirt, train, bodice and cummerbund are all separate pieces. The whole thing is supported by a corset and two petticoats. Point 3: The dress materials included “twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk net, peau de soie, tulle, and 125 year old Brussels lace”.

Which is your favorite Royal lace wedding gown?