Posts Tagged ‘Museum of London Exhibit’

Princess Charlotte's Court Dress, 1814-16, also known as the Bellflower Dress

Princess Charlotte's Court Dress, 1814-16, also known as the Bellflower Dress

embroidered-bellsWhen I saw Princess Charlotte’s bellflower court dress (1814-16) at the Museum of London I remember being transfixed and standing in front of the glass case for a half hour. I could not get over the exquisite details and embroidery of this gossamer thin gown, and wondered at the hours it took to create it, the number of seamstresses that must have toiled over it, and its cost. It was so beautiful that I mistook it for a wedding dress. The train, which showed slight damage where some of the embroidered bells were missing, is similar to the one on Princess Charlotte’s silver net wedding gown. Tradition has it that this court dress was made for Princess Charlotte on her engagement in 1814. The bellflowers were fashioned from silk covered wire and net decorated with silver thread darning and the tiny beads were made from blown glass. (The London Look, p 22)

The Museum of London website states that this sumptuous dress, which is “covered with hundreds of tiny three-dimensional bellflowers, exemplifies the technical excellence of London’s dress-makers in this period. The dress needed 600 hours of conservation work and is so fragile it may never be shown in public again.”

Detail of bells and net embroidery

Detail of bells and net embroidery

Short in stature and slightly dumpy, and not known for her fashion sense, Princess Charlotte could easily afford elaborate costumes. Her provisioners included the William King of Pall Mall, a silk mercer, and Mrs. Triaud and Mrs. Bean, London dressmakers who worked on her trousseau. (The London Look, p 22.)

According to a contemporary description, the Princess entered her mother’s drawing room in May 1815 in an exquisitely beautiful dress that (from the description) looked similar to the bellflower dress:

Gold lama and white draperies over a petticoat of rich white satin and gold twisted trimming; train of rich figured white satin, body elegantly trimmed with rich gold and blond lace; head-dress, plume of ostrich feathers, with a beautiful diadem of brilliants; necklace and ear-rings of diamonds. – The London Look, p 24

  • The London Look, Fashion from Street to Catwalk. By Christopher Breward, Edwina Ehrman, Caroline Evans, 2004

princess-charlotte-court-dress3Front of gown, Museum of London

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