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A look inside Queen Elizabeth's tartan wardrobe

April 11, 2016
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Having lived through 10 decades of trends, Queen Elizabeth knows her fashion! Therefore it comes as no surprise that three special exhibitions dedicated to her style, titled Her Majesty The Queen, Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from the Queen's Wardrobe, will be opened to mark her milestone birthday.

The first of the three installments held at the Queen's royal residences across the country, Tartan in Royal Dress, opens on April 21 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland.


The Queen wore this outfit by Norman Hartnell for her sister Princess Margaret's wedding in 1960 Photo: Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Significant events in the Queen's life and reign, Her Majesty's support of British craft and design, and tartan in royal dress, are among the themes explored in the largest display of the Queen's dresses and accessories ever to be shown in Scotland.

Mad for plaid: Royals wearing tartan

Queen Elizabeth's fascinating history with tartan will of course be a huge draw. Designer Norman Hartnell, who first worked for the then-Princess Elizabeth in the 1940s, created the evening dress of embroidered duchesse satin worn by the Queen with a sash of Royal Stewart tartan for the Gillies Ball at Balmoral Castle in 1971.

Originally introduced by Queen Victoria, the Gillies Ball is given for neighbors, estate and castle staff when Her Majesty is in residence. Traditionally gentlemen of the Royal Family wear Highland dress, while royal ladies wear long evening dresses with Royal Stewart tartan sashes.


The evening dress that the Queen wore to the Gillies Ball at Balmoral Castle in 1971 Photo: Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

For the official opening of the Scottish Parliament on July 1, 1999, Her Majesty wore a purple coat made of a silk-wool blend with a green silk-crepe and lace dress, and a shawl of purple and green Isle of Skye tartan, woven on the Island of Lewis.

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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert championed the wearing of tartan, both in their own clothes and in the clothing of their children. A woven silk-velvet dress worn by Queen Victoria in 1835–7 will feature in the exhibition. Members of the Royal Family wear a range of different tartans for both official and informal occasions in Scotland.

Balmoral tartan, designed by Prince Albert in the 1850s, remains the private property of the Royal Family and can only be worn with the Queen's permission.

Tartan in Royal Dress, opens on April 21 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. An exhibition of royal couture will be held at the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at London's Buckingham Palace from July 23, 2016 and a display focused on eveningwear, daywear and costumes will open at Windsor Castle from September 17, 2016.

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