Nearly 70 years after the Queen walked the aisle of Westminster Abbey to marry Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a bridal expert has described the then-Princess Elizabeth’s Norman Hartnell gown as a ‘fresh and timeless’ classic.
‘She looked absolutely beautiful on her wedding day,’ Jenny Swire said of the 21-year-old bride. Swire, who is contributing fashion director at Wedding Venues magazine, told the Press Association: ‘I can’t imagine that it could have been improved upon. I think it was perfect in every way. She looked incredibly regal. She wasn’t Queen yet but she looked like a Queen.’
‘She was so young and somehow the dress still looked good on such a young bride. It didn’t age her in any way. It wasn’t too fuddy-duddy or old fashioned,’ she added. ‘Seventy years on, it still looks fresh and timeless and beautiful.’
Created by the royal family’s go-to designer Sir Norman Hartnell, the dress played upon the fit and flare silhouette popular for brides in the 40s and 50s, with long sleeves, a heart-shaped neckline and a fitted bodice.
When Sir Norman was called upon to design a dress for the Princess, he aimed to create ‘the most beautiful dress’ he had ever made. After submitting designs to the Palace, one finally received the royal seal of approval, less than three months before the wedding date (20th November 1947).
The finished product boasted a 15-foot train made from silk tulle and patterned with an embroidered star print, inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera to symbolise post-war rebirth in the United Kingdom. As Swire puts it, ‘the embroidery was unbelievable – everything stitched by hand – pure couture.’
Due to austerity measures in place after World War II, the Princess had to use clothing rations to pay for the fabric for her dress, with the government giving her an allowance of 200 extra coupons to cover it. Brides-to-be from all over the country donated clothing coupons to Elizabeth, which were eventually returned to the senders, as to use them would have been illegal.
The Queen and Prince Philip will reportedly celebrate their milestone 70th anniversary with a low key gathering at Windsor Castle, having chosen to opt out of a special service at Westminster Abbey.
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