Royal Women, the Court and the British Couture Industry in the 20th Century

September 28, 2014
Lecture 2:00 p.m. Reception following 3:00 p.m.
Complimentary for Museum members.

For information about becoming a member or to make a reservation contact Jessica Applebee at or 312.482.8933, ext. 45  

The relationship between the court and London’s great couture houses was extremely close during the 20th century. Historically, members of the royal family, from Queens Mary and Elizabeth, to the Queen Mother and reigning Queen Elizabeth II, have been patrons of British design. They purchased wardrobes from London-based designers such as Madame Elizabeth Handley-Seymour, Reville and Norman Hartnell, whose royal connections enhanced their reputations in Britain and abroad.

In this illustrated lecture, Dierdre Murphy will explore the relationship between the court and the couture industry in Britain. She will demonstrate how royal women supported the British fashion industry by attending fashion shows and encouraging aristocratic women to wear British dresses at formal court ceremonies. Couturiers had much to gain from aristocratic women and their debutante daughters, for whom a court dress might be a single purchase in a whole new wardrobe for the London Season. The lecture will include images of court fashion in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace and will provide insight into what these historic collections can tell us about the close ties between the court and industry.

Historic Royal Palaces is an independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. Each of the five royal palaces has survived for hundreds of years and has witnessed many defining historical moments, not only of Great Britain but for the entire world. The HRP mission is two-fold; we protect the historic palaces and help all explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society.  We reflect this story to the people of Britain, and project it to the people of the world.  We give these palaces continuing life.  Learn more at Historic Royal Palaces.

As a curator at Historic Royal Palaces, Deirdre Murphy is responsible for the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection and for curating exhibitions and displays at Kensington Palace.  Deirdre has also curated fashion exhibitions at the Gallery of Costume in Manchester and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.


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