LONDON — Fifty years ago this week, 27-year-old Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England, and to mark the occasion Kensington Palace has put together — what else? — a display of the monarch’s crowning glories — hats and headgear spanning six decades.
This story first appeared in the June 3, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Joanna Marschner, who curated “Hats and Handbags: Accessories from the Royal Wardrobe,” said a royal hat exhibition was a highly appropriate and obvious choice to mark the anniversary.
“Before deciding on a theme for the exhibition, we asked the Queen’s friends and associates what they thought epitomized her. Almost unanimously, they came back to us with one word: hats,” said Marschner. “Over the years, hats have become the Queen’s trademark, her leitmotif and a potent symbol of her reign.”
The exhibition — which showcases some 120 hats, headscarves, handbags and gloves — tells a variety of tales about the Queen.
For a start, it shows how her style and tastes evolved. On display is everything from her Sixties-era Brigitte Bardot-style green silk headscarf to the groovy, Pucci-esque number she wore to Fiji in 1977 to the neat, minimal straw designs from the Nineties. “You can see how her style has evolved and how, in a very gentle way, fashion has been followed,” Marschner said in a telephone interview.
The hats also reflect the needs of a unique career woman. They are all designed to be eye-catching — so the Queen can stand out in a crowd — and anchored securely, whether with hat pins or a small comb sewn into the hatband.
“This is a working wardrobe. These hats all do a job, and must do so efficiently,” said Marschner. “They cannot be too big because then they might blow away, and while they have to be rather flamboyant in order to stand out, they also need to have a gravity and seriousness about them so as to give a sense of occasion and show respect for their audience.”
The hats also serve as markers for major events in the Queen’s life. The exhibition begins with the small gilt circlet made by the royal jewelers Garrard that Princess Elizabeth wore to her parents’ coronation in 1937. It ends with a variety of models the Queen still wears, including the bright red hat trimmed with black feathers she wore during the Golden Jubilee ceremonies last summer.
In between, there are Frederick Fox hats the Queen wore at the christenings of her grandsons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Also on show is the eye-popping pink silk turban festooned with 25 pink fabric bells, which the Queen wore to open the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
The exhibition, which runs until April, also features a selection of the Queen’s handbags — most of them made by the companies Rayne and Launer, and gloves fashioned by Cornelia James.