Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review : Fashioning a Reign at Buckingham Palace – 23rd July to 2nd October 2016

Exhibition Review : Fashioning a Reign at Buckingham Palace – 23rd July to 2nd October 2016



The Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace includes a special exhibition in celebration of The Queen’s 90th birthday. The exhibition entitled Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe at Buckingham Palace is one of three special exhibitions, staged across each of Her Majesty’s official residences during 2016.


Fashioning a Reign explores significant events in The Queen’s life and reign through an unprecedented collection of dress, jewellery and accessories designed for these occasions, from childhood to the present day. Over the three residences, 150 outfits will be shown which illustrates fashions of ten decades, from the 1920s to the 2010s.


The exhibition opens with a selection of dresses and items representing key events from each decade in Her Majesty The Queen’s life. It enables visitors to see the full range of fashions from the Royal Christening Gown, Sir Norman Hartnell dresses from the 1940’s, 50s, 60s, 70s and the famous Angela Kelly dress from the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.


Whilst many people have seen Her Majesty The Queen in military and ceremonial dress, it might be a surprise to some that in 1945, the then Princess Elizabeth became the first female member of the Royal Family to join the Armed Forces in a full-time active role.  Her simple battle dress is shown amongst other grander military and ceremonial dress. For ceremonial occasions, such as The Queen’s Birthday Parade, usually wears a full dress uniform. This follows the tradition of Queen Victoria, almost 100 years earlier and two military tunics made for Queen Victoria and Her Majesty The Queen are included in this section.


The next section is related to Dressing for State and Family Occasions and illustrates the importance of clothes that are appropriate for the occasion.  Included here are examples worn on important occasions including the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees, the Investiture of The Prince of Wales and the State Opening of Parliament.  The most important State Occasion of The Queen’s reign was the Coronation in 1953 and for the first time both The Queen’s wedding and Coronation dresses were displayed together.


The importance for dress designers to create something for an occasion is once again explored in the Diplomacy and British Design section. As Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth, attention is paid to ensure that The Queen’s clothes respect religious and diplomatic conventions. Many of the dresses display symbolic meaning about nations or the particular occasions, this is often done with beautiful embroideries representing national, regional or cultural emblems.


Another aspect of dressing for these type of occasions is to show British design to a wide audience, The Queen is the only British female monarch to wear exclusively British-designed clothes and many famous names in British couture, such as Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies, Angela Kelly and Stewart Parvin have designed clothes for The Queen during her reign.


The next section, Dressing for Tours offers some insight into the logistics of creating outfits for a Royal tour. The Queen has visited 116 countries and carried out 265 official overseas visits and is the most travelled monarch in British history. Often in the longer tours, multiple designers will create ensembles for the many different engagements to be carried out.


The three exhibitions Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe are at the Palace of Holyroodhouse from 21 April to 16 October 2016, the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace from 23 July to 2 October 2016, and at Windsor Castle from 17 September 2016 to 8 January 2017.


The exhibition at The Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are just one aspect of a visit which includes a tour of the State Rooms and a chance to have a drink or eat in the café overlooking the extensive Palace gardens. However, this year’s exhibition celebrates the remarkable reign of  Her Majesty The Queen and  provides some insight into the considerable effort needed to make sure that The Queen’s ensembles portray her position in a way that is relevant and up to date. The wonderfully designed exhibition takes visitors on a trip through most of the 20th century royal fashion, this remarkable collection is unique for its breadth and significance in a period where every aspect of the role of the monarchy including fashion has been subjected to intense scrutiny.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended


Adult £21.50

Over 60 / Student (with valid ID) £19.60

Under 17 / Disabled £12.30

Under 5 Free

Family £55.30 (2 adults and 3 under 17s)

If you would like further information about the exhibition or buy a ticket, visit the Royal Collection website here

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