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Sir Norman Hartnell (1901-79)

Wedding gown 1947

Duchesse silk satin, white seed pearls, silver thread, sparkling crystal and transparent appliqué tulle embroidery, silk tulle veil. | RCIN 100019

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Britain’s leading couturier, Norman Hartnell (1901 – 79) submitted designs for the wedding dress, one of which was approved in mid-August, less than three months before the wedding. Hartnell visualized a bridal gown of fine pearl embroidery in a floral design, and cites as his inspiration Botticelli’s painting of Primavera, trailed with garlands of flowers. The dress has a simple cut with fitted bodice, heart-shaped neckline, low v-pointed waist and floorlength panelled skirt. It is made from duchesse satin, ordered from the firm of Wintherthur, near Dunfermline. The rich ivory of the satin contrasts with the white seed pearls, imported from America, silver thread, sparkling crystal and transparent appliqué tulle embroidery. The magnificent 15-foot silk tulle full court train, which was attached at the shoulders, is embroidered in pearl, crystal and appliqué duchesse satin. The satin for the appliqués was produced at Lullingstone Castle, Kent and woven by Warner & Sons. Hartnell first drew out the embroidery design with his head embroideress, Miss Flora Ballard, on tracing paper and describes how ‘the motifs had to be assembled in a design proportioned like a florist’s bouquet’. The ensemble was completed by a silk tulle veil and ivory duchesse satin high-heeled sandals, trimmed with silver and seed pearl buckles, made by Edward Rayne.