From the power ruffs of Queen Elizabeth I to Princess Diana’s wedding dress and the coats of the Duchess of Cambridge, the fashion adopted by the Royal Family has long had the power to fascinate.
Now, the secrets of the royal wardrobe are to be revealed following a collaboration between academics from Glasgow University and Historic Royal Palaces.
A new online course, A History of Royal Fashion, will study the power dressing Tudors, the fashion-conscious Stuarts, and the complicated dress etiquette of the Victorians, with around 400 years of elite clothing examined.
Dr Sally Tuckett, lecturer in dress and textile histories at Glasgow University, said fashion had historically been a powerful tool in how royals conveyed themselves to the public with a long trend of commentary on the regal dress code.
Dr Tuckett said: “Historically, the royals have been the pinnacle of society, where you agree with the monarchy or not. They were the elite and they were very conscious of what they wore and the messages this sent out.
“For example, Charles II was considered to be too frivolous, with too much flounce and too many billowing ribbons.
“He developed what basically became a three piece-suit as he wanted his court to considered more frugal and to be taken more seriously.
“George III created the Windsor Uniform, which looks quite military, because he wanted everyone to look the same. Then you have his son, George IV, who at his coronation got everyone dressed up in medieval costumes.”
Commentary on royal fashion became popular in the 17th century with records of who was wearing what further developing during Queen Victoria’s reign, given the rise in newspapers and photography. Court circulars also contained details of how the Royal Family were dressing.
Queen Victoria is known to have entertained a number of different styles of fabrics, such as Honiton lace, and promoted parts of the textile industry that were struggling.
Paisley shawls also became popular during her reign, Dr Tuckett added.
Thousands of people from around the world have already enrolled in the free course, which is available on FutureLearn and will launch on 7 May.
Dr Megan Gooch from Historic Royal Palaces said: “We are delighted to have joined forces with the University of Glasgow to explore the stories of royal fashion in this online course. We’ve worked together to share our expertise, collections and palace spaces to bring this fascinating subject to life.
“Just like our own clothes, royal fashions over the centuries could be practical or functional, yet they also had a vital part to play in pageantry, iconography and even diplomacy. If you’ve ever worn that jumper you got for Christmas when the person who gave it to you visits, then you may have more in common with fashion royalty than you’d realise.”
The five-week course is hosted by FutureLearn, which is part of Open University.