21 April, 2012

Privilège du Blanc

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, by Beaton. 1938.

In 1938, five days before a royal visit to France aimed at strengthening Anglo-French ties, the Queen's mother, the Countess of Strathmore died, and the colorful dresses designed for the trip were set aside. Norman Hartnell suggested all white. It would be more appropriate than black for the trip, and many royal widows have mourned in white in the past. The trip was postponed for three weeks, and Norman Hartnell created a completely new wardrobe, the famous "White Wardrobe"The sparkling designs for day and evening created in slim and crinoline silhouette were recreated within two weeks of continuous work, led to huge acclaim and Hartnell was decorated by the French government. Christian Dior, creator of the full-skirted post-war New Look, publicly stated that whenever he thought of beautiful clothes, it was of those created by Hartnell for the State Visit in 1938, which he viewed as an ingenue in the fashion world. The crinoline fashion for evening wear influenced world fashion and the French designers contributed their own take on the influence of Hartnell and the Queen's ancestry by creating day clothes featuring plaids or tartans in their next seasons designs.
Sir Norman Hartnell became the Queen's primary designer for the rest of her life.