Palace to showcase Queen's dresses to celebrate 90th birthday

Outfits worn by the Queen during her record-breaking reign are to go on display in Scotland to help celebrate her 90th birthday.

The Queen at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh in a dress by Sir Normal Hartnell. Picture: Contributed
The Queen at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh in a dress by Sir Normal Hartnell. Picture: Contributed

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, her official residence north of the Border, will play host to the biggest ever exhibition of her clothes and accessories in Scotland.

The palace, at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, will be one of three royal residences to play host to special fashion shows this year.

The Edinburgh exhibition, which will open on the Queen’s birthday in April, will be the first to be staged, before later shows at Buckingham Palace then Windsor Castle.

Some of the Queen’s favourite designers, including Sir Norman Hartnell, Ian Thomas and Stewart Pavin, an Edinburgh College of Art graduate, will have their outfits showcased in the state rooms at Holyroodhouse.

Among the highlights of the exhibition will be an outfit worn at the Queen’s annual garden party in the grounds of the palace seven years ago and a silk evening dress chosen for a reception for the Commonhealth Heads of Government there in 1997.

Visitors to Fashioning a Reign will also be able to see an evening gown worn by the Queen to a performance of Rob Roy at the Royal Lyceum Theatre during the state visit of King Olav of Norway to Edinburgh in 1962.


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Among the oufits worn overseas by the Queen which will be part of the Edinburgh exhibition will be a silk and lace gown worn by Her Majesty for an audience she had with Dwight Eisenhower, the first serving American president she met after being crowned.

A black silk velvet and taffeta dress won to the Vatican when she met Pope John Paul II in 1980 will be displayed to illustrate the level of diplomacy and planning that goes into preparing her wardrobe.

The Edinburgh exhibition, which will run from 21 April till 16 October, will also feature outfits worn by the Queen during her childhood and before her coronation.

Caroline de Guitaut, curator of the exhibition, said: “We think it is going to be a fairly significant exhibition.

“It will really connect our visitors to the Queen, will be a really fitting way to mark her birthday and will have a particular focus on Scottish events and also look at the use of tartan in royal dress, which will also us to go back in time a little.

“The idea of the exhibition is to try to include pieces which span the Queen’s lifetime. There is a reflection of changing fashions to a certain extent but her role is not to be a leader of fashion, or indeed a follower of fashion. “The dresses are unique in a waybecause they enable her to fulfil her duty in all those different roles she is required to undertake.”


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Mike Cantlay, chairman of national tourism agency VisitScotland, said: “Visitors continue to be fascinated by Scotland’s role in the history of the monarchy and our capital’s top attractions are testament to that popularity.

“The Royal Yacht Britannia has welcomed almost five million world-wide visitors since it opened in 1998, while Edinburgh Castle, home to the Crown Jewels of Scotland, is the number-one paid admission visitor attraction in Scotland.”