By 1947 Princess Margaret was the only princess resident at Buckingham Palace after her elder sister Elizabeth moved to Clarence House. In the winter of 1947, when Princess Margaret was just 16 years old, the royal family embarked on a tour of South Africa, giving the princess her first taste of the royal duties she would soon be undertaking herself. When she turned 17, the Princess made her formal debut into society and was given a full public role.
In Princess Margaret’s first year of ‘coming out’ on the public scene she had more than 50 official engagements, easing her into her new role as she recognised the importance of her responsibilities as the princess of a royal family.
In 1949, after meeting Sharman Douglas, the daughter of the American Ambassador, the Princess’s social calendar also grew significantly as she attended many lavish balls and formed friendships with several young wealthy aristocrats including John Dalkeith and Sunny Blandford.
Main image: Princess Margaret at Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday party in Capetown, 1947. (TopFoto.co.uk)
For Princess Margaret’s official engagements and for society events, Norman Hartnell designed a number of her suits and gowns. He also designed the pale blue grosgrain gown Princess Margaret wore on her 18th birthday.
At the Princess’s request, Hartnell would send his sketches to her and he would then make up her favourite design into a glamorous debutante ball gown. For example, in the 1950s Hartnell devised for her a white satin dress embroidered in an open-worked design of Broiderie Anglais, embellished with crystal, and with marguerites and roses worked in silver thread and shimmering pearls.
Gemma Ainsworth, a fashion print student at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, created an exquisite collection for her BA graduation show in 2005, taking inspiration from Princess Margaret’s debutante dresses.
Her show featured an array of pastel coloured prom dresses embellished with Swarovski crystals. It exuded femininity, displaying full skirts and tight fitting bodices with ruffles, bows and petticoats.