30 March 2011

Wedding Wednesday: The Queen Mother's Gown

When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married Prince Albert, the Duke of York, on April 23, 1923 at Westminster Abbey, she became one of the trendiest royal brides...well, ever. This gown is a true relic of its time.
Her gown was crafted by Madame Handley Seymour, a former court dressmaker for Queen Mary, but it certainly wasn't your typical court dress. The design followed the Coco Chanel-dictated trends of the time: dropped waists, silhouettes without much shape. Unfortunately, those designs were better off on reed-thin models. They just didn't do much for curvier gals, like Elizabeth.
The gown is silk crepe moire embellished extensively with pearls and silver embroidery. The detail and weight of the decoration gives the dress an almost medieval feel. She went for a short train and a longer veil.
Her veil (loaned to her by Queen Mary) covered her head almost as a hat would and fell cloak-like at her sides. She anchored it with a band of myrtle and a York rose on each side rather than the tiara we'd expect today. (Bridal tiaras in the royal family weren't so common back then.)
Since her gown was short-sleeved, she had a wrap to guard her against the April weather.
It's a bit of a shocker, this one, at first glance. It's just so different from the images we most remember about her (a transformation we will discuss later this week!). Sometimes I wonder if she would have chosen differently if she'd known what the future held: perhaps the gown of a future queen would have been more traditional? A grander affair? We'll never know.

Photos: Getty Images/Rex Features