Rare 1961 Norman Hartnell Couture Black Silk Taffeta Dress w Crystal Detailing
Norman Hartnell was a British Couturier who is known for his long relationship dressing Queen Elizabeth dressed the royals and the aristocrats. Hartnell opened his couture house in 1923 and by 1947 his house was thriving. Besides his appointment as a dressmaker for the Royal Family he also had a loyal following with Hollywood starlets and socialites. The dress is of particular note as it is from the same collection as the one made for Queen Elizabeth. The Queen originally wore her version in 1961, 1962 and then again in 1966 with a revised hem. It was then lent to Princess Beatrice by the Queen to wear as her wedding dress where it was altered yet again. You can see in the original photo of the dress from 1961 that the skirt shape and volume are the same. There is also similarities in the way that the crystals on the dress are laid out on the bodice and upper skirt. It is an absolutely stunning example of his work and one of the best dresses by him that I have seen.
Norman Hartnell was known for his evening wear. The best of his work incorporate lavish embroidery and intricate details like this one has. The dress is made out of a black silk taffeta and has that distinctive skirt hem that it shares with the Queen's dress. The top is cut to skim over the bodice and has wide straps that gracefully curve up and over each shoulder. They can be worn higher up like a proper strap or to sit slightly off the shoulder to give just the suggestion of a capped sleeve feel. The waist is seamed and I added a ribbon to give it a little more shape. Under that the skirt falls to the floor in a widening sweep of silk as it nears the hem. Several yards of silk are used just for the skirt. At the hem the silk is swept up and under to create that unusual full rounded hem. This technique gives the skirt extra volume. It also create this stunning movement once on the body. When you walk or move it floats and moves around you. It is incredible on. The dress is detailed with sharp and precise knife pleating around the waist that extend and then opens up and into the bodice and then does the same under the waistline down into the skirt. For the perfect bit of a glitzy finish there are hundreds of hand set crystal rhinestones scattered over the dress. They are each individually prong set and there are couple of different sizes so that they catch even the smallest bit of light. It makes you think of a sky full of stars. The dress is very beautiful. It is an extraordinary example of British Couture from this time period. Excellent condition
Fully lined in a black silk and closes with a back metal zipper. There is an additional hook & eye closure just inside the zipper area and an inner waist stay. All the inner seams are hand finished to couture standards. The inner skirt is silk and has a tulle finish to the bottom half. There is an additional layer of tulle in the inside of the outer skirt. Each prong set rhinestone has been hand placed and hand set. Hand finished throughout to couture standards
Bust: to 17.5" flat across from side seam to side seam
Waist: 14" flat across from side seam to side seam
Bodice: 15.5" from top of shoulder to waist
Skirt: approx 45" from waist to hem
Modern Sizing Equivalent: SML-MED
Reference Photo: (1-3) Queen Elizabeth in Norman Hartnell. / (4) Cherie, Owner of Shrimpton Couture by Erin Leydon.
This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.
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