This Museum of Costume exhibition, which opened on 12 December 2001, gave visitors a glimpse into the glittering wardrobe of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The exhibition was the Museum of Costume's celebration to mark fifty years of The Queen's reign.


Her Majesty had given her special permission for these dresses, which have never before been on public exhibition, to come to Bath.  Curators at the Museum of Costume, working with colleagues from Historic Royal Palaces and The Royal Collection, carefully selected fourteen dresses in order to turn the spotlight on the complex world of costuming the Head of State.


"We are thrilled and honoured that Her Majesty has agreed to lend these magnificent dresses to the Museum" said Penelope Ruddock, Curator of the Museum of Costume. "2002 is a landmark year for the country and I know that our visitors will be fascinated and entranced by this once in a lifetime chance to see these dresses."

The exhibition showed how Her Majesty must wear dresses in strong colours, frequently with only the subtlest decoration, so that she can always be visible. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a bright yellow silk dress worn to a White House banquet during the State Visit to celebrate America's Bicentenary in 1976.
While The Queen's dresses must make a splendid impression, they must also be practical.  The Queen is always in the spotlight and everything that she does, from getting out of a car to walking up and down steps, is always under scrutiny.  It is the job of the royal fashion designers to ensure that both needs are seamlessly met.  The exhibition included a glittering yellow dress embroidered in sequins, beads and diamanté designed by Sir Hardy Amies. This dress was worn to a special performance of The Mikado at the Saville Theatre in London in 1968.


The Jubilee! exhibition included dresses designed by perhaps the most famous royal dressmaker, Sir Norman Hartnell, including a stunning white silk dress encrusted with pearls, gold beads and sequins in a scalloped design.

Image: close up picture of detail on a white sleeveless ball gown with dense rows of gold and pearl beading on the bodice and skirt

Decorative detail from one of the Queen's dresses on display

Image: black and white photograph of the Queen wearing a white silk gown and gloves, dark sash, jewels, medals and a tiara

Her Majesty The Queen in a Norman Hartnell evening dress during the royal visit to Ghana in 1961.
Courtesy: Camera Press Ltd