A collection of national and international importance
The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection is a Designated collection of national and international importance, cared for by Historic Royal Palaces. It contains 10,000 items of historic dress from the 16th century to the present day, providing information about the history of fashion, life at court, British ceremonial traditions, and the lives of key historical figures. Our collection contains items of clothing worn by royalty including George III, Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret, Diana, Princess of Wales and The Queen.
The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection was created in the early 1980s after Aubrey Bowden, an amateur historian, loaned Historic Royal Palaces a significant collection of court uniforms. In 1989, the collection was passed to Historic Royal Palaces, who have continued to expand and develop the collection, which also contains prints, sketches, historical photographs, letters, diaries and scrapbooks.
The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection is open by appointment for research and education purposes. The collection is based at Hampton Court Palace with a smaller selection at Kensington Palace. Advance booking is essential to avoid disappointment. To book an appointment please email [email protected].
Treasures from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection
The Rockingham Mantua, c1760s
A mantua was a large wide dress worn over whalebone hoops and lined with heavy silver thread. This dress has silk satin brocaded in silver thread with silver lace trim. Probably worn by Mary, Marchioness of Rockingham, wife of British Prime Minister Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham.
Muslin sack-back court dress
White Indian cotton muslin embroidered with trailing sprays of flowers and leaves in silver wire and silver strip, trimmed with silver lace and gimp. The sack-back was a fashionable 18th-century gown with the fabric at the back arranged in box pleats at the shoulders, falling loose to the ground with a slight train. The dress would have been worn with a wide square hoop under the petticoat.
Royal baby gown
A hand-stitched, fine silk robe worn by George, Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent, then King George IV) (1762-1830).
King George III's waistcoat (back), 1819
This silk damask waistcoat was probably one of the last items of clothing the King wore before his death in January 1820. In the last years of his life, pieces of fabric were inserted into the sleeves to aid mobility and make dressing the King easier.
Queen Victoria's underwear, c1850
A pair of cotton open drawers or knickers worn by Queen Victoria (1819-1901).
Queen Victoria's underwear was numbered and embroidered with her monogram, 'VR' so they could be kept track of when sent to the laundry. This style of drawers, made without a gusset, was fashionable when Victoria was a young woman and she stayed with it throughout her life, despite the fact that trends changed over the course of the 19th century.
Ivory silk satin shoes believed to have been worn by Princess Beatrice (1857-1944) when she was about 18 months old. These are the smallest shoes in the collection.
A gold confetti bag with tassel for the wedding of Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (1887-1969). This silk and gilt cone of rice confetti, with the initials VE adorning the side, is thought to have belonged to a bridesmaid of Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg and carried at the wedding. The confetti is still inside as tragedy struck the wedding procession when an anarchist threw a bomb at the royal carriage and an outrider was killed. Victoria Eugenia was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She was Queen Consort of Spain as the wife of King of Spain Alfonso XIII of Bourbon, whom she married on 31 May 1906.
Jeanne Lanvin court dress, 1928
Court dress of pale peach silk georgette with silver bugle beads. Created by Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946).
This dress was worn by Lillian Wardman at her daughter’s court presentation ceremony in 1928.
Tyrolean suit jacket, c1937 by F. Humhal
Grey jacket, part of a Tyrolean suit worn by the Duke of Windsor.
Diana 'Travolta' dress, Victor Edelstein, 1985
A midnight blue silk velvet evening dress designed by Victor Edelstein, also known as the ‘Travolta dress’. The Princess of Wales wore this dress when she danced with John Travolta at the White House, Washington DC, while at a State Dinner in 1985. She wore the dress with her pearl and sapphire choker.
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Conserving the palaces and our collections is expensive work and as an independent charity we receive no funding from the Government or the Crown. We depend on our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors to help us.Support us