Friday, 22 February 2013

Hartnell to Amies. Couture by royal appointment exhibition.

 Bronze & silver geometric patterned brocade
day dress with decorative fur tippet.
The first dress you see! I love a bit of brocade.

I spent a few days in London recently and went to this amazing exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. It is only on until the 23rd February so if you get a chance to go in the next two days I really would do. It focuses on the timeless elegance of fashionable London couture and the selection of outfits is absolutely stunning. Only a few are behind glass, the rest are on mannequins so you can get quite close up and see all the amazing fine detail.

I thought about writing about the lives of Hartnell and Amies and their influence on couture but then realised that I just want to talk about the beautiful clothes and that others have written huge books on the subject. If you wish to read more about them and the period of couture featured in this exhibition then this book, this book and this book should cover it.

Norman Hartnell

Hardy Amies
I should just say that some of my pictures are a little dark as flash photography was not allowed. I am including the pictures that I think are the best. There are some lovely clothes that I have had to leave out as the lighting and lack of flash did not allow for a good picture. This applies particularly to a gorgeous 1950s black coat embellished with tiny black beads.

I am showing the outfits pretty much in the order that they are laid out in the exhibition so that it will be a little like taking a tour around it yourself. This is why they are not in period order.

There are lots and lots of photographs to come!

Hartnell. 1929.
Embroidered silk satin wedding dress for
Miss Oonagh Guinness.
The picture does not do it justice. It is so, so beautiful.

Close up showing beading round neck, waist and cuffs and
embellished bodice.
Close up of the embellishment on the train.
I can't imagine how much time and patience this work would have taken.

 Hartnell. 1935.
 Evening dress embroidered with
gold palliates.
Worn by HM Queen Mary.

 Close up of bodice. So twinkly!

Amies. 1968.
Hunting, shooting and fishing green tweed suit.
Worn by Lady Delamere.
Check out the knickerbockers!

 Hartnell. 1938.
Black crepe evening dress with matching beaded
bolero jacket.

Close up to show the pink rope twist bead embroidered decoration.
Such a gorgeous dress. One of my favourites.

 Amies. 1940.
Prince of Wales check fine woollen suit.
Worn by Mildred Shay.

The edges of the jacket lapels show the woven selvage stating
Made in England. This adds unusual detail.

 A view of the exhibition staging.

Hartnell. 1947.
A sketch of the wedding gown for  Princess Elizabeth.

 Examples of embellishment.
I love the Christmas cards. You could use these for inspiration for cards or
for making covered notebooks.

Sequin and feather hats worn by Virginia Cherrill.
I like the colour combination, classic metallic with a
 shot of pink.

I would like to see this on.

 Hartnell. 1930s.
Gold silk dress with large bow.

 Close up of bodice embellishment.
Hours and hours of work here, it is so pretty.

Hartnell. 1945.
Detail of embroidered black silk and velvet coat
with 3/4 sleeves. Known as the Jewel Coat.
Not to my taste but magnificent all the same.

 Amies. 1962.
Abstract white leaf printed blue silk day ensemble
of sleeveless dress and long sleeved loose coat.
Another favourite! I need a day ensemble!

Foreground - Amies 1950.
Blue and grey fine tweed suit with blue velvet collar
and slant flaps to pockets.

Background - Hartnell 1959.
Ribbed taupe and grey suit with a velvet collar.
These make me want a suit even though I have no need
of one.

Hartnell. 1956.
Blue crepe two piece suit with blue and white polka
dot detail. So lovely yet so simple.

 Hartnell. 1957.
Black and white printed silk three piece suit
with blouse top.
I like the cut and drape of this.

Hartnell. 1932.
Pale celadon bias gut gown.
So elegant!
Full length view of the Jewel Coat in the background.

 Love, love, love.

 Amies. 1960.
Dark red and black printed, glazed man made satin
cocktail dress. Boat shaped neck, fitted bodice,
3/4 sleeves and a full skirt.
I need this dress.

Amies. 1952.
Copper satin strapless cocktail dress with a fitted
bodice and a full reinforced skirt with wide pleats.
Love the colour!

 Hartnell. 1952.
Chartreuse beaded evening dress.
The photo does not do the colour justice. It is a truly
stunning dress. I want it alot.

Close up of the incredibly detailed beading.

Lovely grey beaded evening gown.
I don't seem to have written down who this is by
but it is too pretty to leave out.

 Close up of the bodice beading.

 Background. Amies. 1950.
Ivory silk evening dress with a fitted bodice, sweetheart
neckline and an open back to a full skirt with draped
panel decoration.

Foreground. Amies. 1981.
Cream silk taffeta wedding dress with long sleeves.
It has a draped bustle effect held by bunches of white
roses. Worn by  the Duchess of Buccleuch.

 Bodice detail.

 Hartnell. 1959.
Embroidered crystal bead vermicelli pattern grosgrain white
evening dress.

Close up of beading on bodice.
Look at all that work!

Hartnell. 1956.
Satin organza wedding dress worn by Lady Anne Coke.

 Close up of the silver corded lace bodice.
How gorgeous!

Hartnell. 1953.
Embroidered sky blue and white silk faile evening dress.
I don't know that I like this dress but the detail is amazing.

Close up of the embellished collar.

Brown silk satin short evening dress.
This looks stunning but very wearable.

 Close up of white and crystal bead geometrically embroidered bodice.

 Hartnell. 1952.
Pearl grey gathered and draped shot silk taffeta cocktail
dress with wrap around panel.
I think this is a really interesting shape.

Amies. 1965.
Scarlet nubbed wool cape with black and white
checked fabric lining.
I would love to have this cape.

 Amies. 1968.
Pink and gold abstract patterned brocade evening coat
with long sleeves.
Another lovely piece of brocade.

 Close up of fabric.

Hartnell. 1962.
Sky blue satin cocktail dress with floating fringed sash
and saucer button decoration.
Worn by the Duchess of Leeds.

 Close up of pleating and saucer buttons.
I bet it looks amazing on.

Amies. 1980.
Pink chiffon and net embroidered cocktail dress with
full skirt.
Worn by  Barbara Cartland.

 Close up of bodice embellishment.
Again, not to my taste but I had to include it because it just screams
Barbara Cartland.

The Queen.
Hat close up in next picture.

An interesting hat! I like the fact that you can see how
the flowers were made.

These three dresses are by other designers, there was a small section at the end of the exhibition of the work of contemporaries of Hartnell and Amies.

On the left is a wedding dress made by Worth London in 1950. It is a cream damask full skirted , pleated dress with a drop shoulder bodice. Worn by Miss Peggy Cummins.

In the middle is a pink silk organza suit by Michael of Carlos Place in 1960. It is a straight dress with a waisted jacket with 3/4 length sleeves.

On the right is a pale green zibeline butterfly and leaf diamante evening dress made by Cavanagh in 1962. It has slim shoulder straps and a slim bow at the waist. It was worn by Lady Daphane Straight.

Dotted throughout the exhibition were sketches of designs by Hartnell and Amies. This are beautiful works of art, finely drawn with the detail painted in. The photographs are not brilliant but I am including a couple as I don't want to leave them out of the story.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of the exhibition.


  1. That exhibition looks great!

    1. Thanks, it was one of the best I have seen!

  2. What a great report on the exhibition for those of us who can't get there. I particularly like the close-ups showing the detailed work on the the lovely textiles in combination with the shots showing the silhouettes. Thank you!

    1. I am glad that you liked it. Nice to know that you liked the photograph combinations. I really wanted to show the amazing amount of work and skill that had gone into the beautiful embellishments.

  3. Thanks so much for the tip off on this show. It was lovely! Think my fav was the blue star number in the first room, although very difficult to decide.

  4. I thought you might like it as much as I did! Unfortunately my picture of the blue star dress just wasn't clear enough to use, due to the lighting and it being behind glass. Such a shame as it was gorgeous!

  5. To say that I enjoyed this marvelous, photo rich post would be a fast understatement. I think it would have taken a team of wild horses to pull me away from such a fantastically awesome display of designer vintage fashions. Thank you much for the tour, dear gal - I loved it!!!

    ♥ Jessica

    1. I know what you mean about the wild horses! My friend and I were in there for a long time. There is a gallery where you can look over the exhibition space. We spent one time up there picking out our favourite outfits. That was hard to do! I am glad the you enjoyed it!