Princess Margaret and the 1950s

Princess Margaret and the 1950s

A ‘royal rebel’ in the fashion stakes, Princess Margaret was at the forefront of fashion and style. The differing roles of Margaret and her sister The Queen were reflected in their fashion choices.

(Pictured: Princess Margaret at a performance of Guys and Dolls at the London Coliseum, 1953. Wearing: Norman Hartnell for Princess Margaret, 1953. Lent by Fashion Museum, Bath.)

The New Look

The end of clothes rationing in 1949 freed fashion designers from post-war austerity measures and saw British fashion fall under the spell of the luxurious full skirts of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look.’

Princess Margaret adopted the New Look style with great enthusiasm, wearing full skirts and nipped-in waists of the latest fashion. She became a well-known fashion leader – newspapers and magazines published extensive spreads of her glamorous wardrobe.

Princess Margaret ordered this dress in Paris from the French designer Jean Dessès in 1951 and wore it again with matching blue silk organza jacket with white collar and cuffs for the second day of Ascot when The Queen’s colt Choir Boy won the Royal Hunt Cup, 1953.

The bold blue colour contrasted sharply with white accessories in the black and white images published in the newspapers.

Image: Jean Dessès for Princess Margaret, 1951. Lent by the Victoria and Albert Museum. Worn by Princess Margaret at Ascot, 1953

Differing roles

The differing roles of The Queen and her younger sister Margaret were reflected in their clothing choices. Princess Margaret had greater freedom to wear changing fashions and was under less pressure to patronise British designers.

Bold Accessories

Princess Margaret was admired by women around the world for ‘The Margaret Look,’ which she achieved with the help of well-designed accessories.

During holidays on the Caribbean island of Mustique or at the races at Ascot, up-to-the-minute sunglasses gave the Princess added glamour.

Princess Margaret also wore a variety of headwear to establish her unique style from formal brimmed hats to cool tweed hoods to relaxed silk scarves. She never failed to impress the crowds excited to see her nor the demanding fashion press.

Image: Yves St Laurent for Dior given to Princess Margaret, late 1950s. Lent by Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto.

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