Home » Exhibitions » Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians at The Queen’s Gallery from 21 April to 8 October 2023

Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians at The Queen’s Gallery from 21 April to 8 October 2023

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

A major exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace will reveal life in the 18th century through the fashions of the day. Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians will bring together over 200 works from the Royal Collection, including paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Gainsborough, Zoffany and Hogarth, as well as rare surviving examples of clothing and accessories.

British, Court dress, c.1740–60. © Fashion Museum Bath

The exhibition will build up a picture of what the Georgians wore and charts the transformation of clothing from the accession of George I in 1714 to the death of George IV in 1830.

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

At the heart of the exhibition will be a rarely displayed, full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1781, which usually hangs in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. The painting will be shown alongside a beautifully preserved gown of a similar style, worn at Queen Charlotte’s court in the 1760s, on loan from the Fashion Museum Bath. On display for the first time will be Queen Charlotte’s book of psalms, covered in the only silk fabric known to survive from one of her dresses. As textiles were highly prized, Georgian clothing was constantly recycled, even by the royal family, and there was a thriving market for second-hand clothes.

Fashion on the streets of Georgian Britain became a spectator sport with new locations for fashionable display including pleasure gardens, coffee houses and theatres. The painting St James’s Park and the Mall (British School, c.1745) brings to life the hustle and bustle of 18th-century London’s most fashionable meeting place and provides a snapshot of Georgian society.

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

Britain empire expanded its global reach during the 18th century and styles and fabrics from the Ottoman Empire, India and China were incorporated into everyday dress. In a portrait of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress wears a floral gown, possibly made of painted silk imported from China.

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

In William Hogarth’s c.1757–64 portrait of the celebrated actor-manager David Garrick and his dancer wife Eva-Maria Veigel, Veigel chose to wear a gown in a distinctive shade of yellow. The colour was revered in China due to its association with the emperor and became popular in Britain at this time during a craze for chinoiserie.

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

Knee breeches were worn by men for most of the 18th century; examples on display will include those depicted in Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of the musician Johann Christian Fischer, 1774–80, and a red silk-velvet court suit from the 1760s, remarkably like that worn by Fischer, loaned by the Fashion Museum Bath. However, by the end of the Georgian period, upper-class men adopted trousers for the first time. The future George IV and Lord Byron were early adopters of the new style, as shown in a portrait of Lord Byron by George Sanders, c.1807–8.

Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

The fashions of the period were used caricaturists to illustrate the absurdities of Georgian life. In the never-before-displayed New Invented Elastic Breeches, 1784, Thomas Rowlandson depicts a large man being manhandled into a small pair of leather breeches by two tailors.

The exhibition will include items of jewellery from Queen Charlotte’s collection, such as a diamond ring featuring a miniature of her husband George III, given to her on her wedding day. Other accessories on display will include beautiful English and French fans and jewel-encrusted snuffboxes.

The exhibition will reveal how the Georgians ushered in many of the cultural trends we know today, including the first stylists and influencers, the birth of a specialised fashion press and the development of shopping as a leisure activity.

For more information, visit the Royal Collection website here

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