Journal Article

Empire Dressing—The Design and Realization of Queen Alexandra’s Coronation Gown

Kate Strasdin

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 25, issue 2, pages 155-170
Published in print June 2012 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online May 2012 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/eps014
Empire Dressing—The Design and Realization of Queen Alexandra’s Coronation Gown

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In 1863, the young Danish princess Alexandra married Edward, eldest son of Queen Victoria and heir to the throne. For forty years she successfully negotiated the notoriously complex rigours of the London Season and its British aristocracy, a popular figure with both her peers and a wider general public. Much of her success derived from a sartorial shrewdness, gaining herself a reputation for elegant, appropriate dress whatever the occasion. On the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, Alexandra was faced with sartorial decisions based upon her new status as queen consort. This paper will examine the design and realization of her most important ceremonial garment—the gown worn for the coronation of her husband in August 1902. Alexandra chose to have her dress designed and woven in India with the final construction taking place at a couture house in Paris. Taking an object-based approach, studying the gown as it survives today, this article interrogates some key questions. What was Alexandra’s vision of India before the coronation? How did her clothing practices sit within the contemporary Anglo-Indian textile trade, and why was it so important for the new queen that her coronation dress be made in India?

Keywords: India; material culture; dress; design; monarchy; Great Britain

Journal Article.  8812 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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