A display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace will reveal life in the 18th century through the fashions of the day, featuring more than 200 works from the Royal Collection.
Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians will showcase paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Gainsborough, Zoffany and Hogarth, as well as rare surviving examples of clothing and accessories.
The exhibition will aim to build up a layer-by-layer picture of what the Georgians wore – from the practical dress of laundry maids to the gowns worn at court – and chart the transformation of clothing and silhouettes from the accession of George I in 1714 to the death of George IV in 1830.
Historians describe the era as an exciting period when trade, entertainment and technological innovations became driving forces for iconic fashion trends across all levels of society. Groups of 15 or more will receive a 10% discount on admission.
Anna Reynolds, curator of the exhibition, said: “During this period, we start to see court dress lagging behind street style, with people from across a much broader social spectrum than ever before setting fashion trends.
“The Royal Collection is so rich in visual representations from this period and the exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to share them with the public.
“Showing paintings alongside surviving items of dress really adds an extra layer of insight, helping us to understand how clothing was constructed, what it felt like to wear, and how artists approached the challenge of representing Georgian fashion in paint.”
Exhibition highlights to look out for
At the heart of the display will be a full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Gainsborough (c.1781), which usually hangs in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.
Painted by candlelight, it depicts the Queen in a gown, worn over a wide hoop and covered with gold spangles and tassels. The painting will be shown alongside a 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. The expensive fabric, decorated with metal threads to glimmer in candlelight, was most likely repurposed after the dress had passed out of fashion.
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, from Frederick, Prince of Wales and his lavishly dressed companions to soldiers, sailors and working-class serving women.
The exhibition will also include items of jewellery from Queen Charlotte’s famed 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 English and French fans, plus quirky items like a set of miniature bellows and a sprinkler used for applying hair powder, loaned by The School of Historical Dress.
Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection and manages the public opening of the official residences of The King.
Groups of 15 or more receive a 10% discount on admission to the exhibition. For more information, go to www.rct.uk.