Exhibition review: Style & Society, Dressing the Georgians at Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery 21 April – 8 October 2023
- Published on Tuesday, 25 April 2023 16:41
- Last Updated on 25 April 2023
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The joy and surprise of the Style & Society, Dressing the Georgians exhibition is the inclusion of the intimate along side the grandiose. I was expecting ranks of Coronation and ceremonial robes. This is an exhibition curated by the Royal Collection Trust, in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces, at Buckingham Palace no less. And it does not disappoint, with Princess Charlotte’s wedding dress, complete with gold threads of six different thicknesses. And the sumptuous court dress that juts out like a riot barrier.
But the underwear. An inspired decision, to invite us to explore what exactly went on under all the finery. I have to admit I was fascinated. Strip-away clothing diagrams elucidate the vocabulary and order of events. It was a complete faff and required a servant. Fashion in which you are dependent on underlings to dress you would leave me feeling not powerful but very vulnerable. All you need is a Revolution and then what.
The star ‘undie’ exhibit is George III’s chemise, a long voluminous shirt they wore under all the other layers by day, wodged into their britches and doubling as boxers. It served also as a nightshirt, immortalised by Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George, who I now know was charging about, flippant and ranty, in the equivalent of his jammies. It is delicately monogrammed and dated. Quite humble, I thought, to include this, an admission that monarchy doesn’t always get it right. Extraordinary also that it has survived. Who secreted it away, who chose not to bin it across 300 years of culls, how is it in such great condition…
The other delight is the rare experience of seeing real Georgian garments displayed next to paintings showing the very same or similar items, and appreciate how fiendish it was to both make the garments and depict them in oils. The Princess’s gold gilt wedding dress is beautifully complemented by the wedding portrait of the grand occasion.
Historic tailor Zac Pinsent of Pinsent Tailoring was “lusting after all the accessories”.
While the vast majority of portraits relate to grandees of Georgian society, the curator has included a smattering of middle class and poor fashion. Commoners are represented in Hogarth prints and peripherally in some oil paintings, the reason being that the middle classes began to drive trends in fashion and taste towards the end of the Georgian period.
Finally, what they included in their family portraits and the composition thereof is an insight into what they treasured most.
This painting of a lady choosing to pat her pet rather than her primped up sons, reminded me of a wry comment made by a friend who works in a noble household, ‘They love their dogs more than their children.’ The noblewoman’s bedroom is bristling with a lifetime of photos of her, each with a different dog-in-arms, and her children at a respectful distance!
Tickets for Style & Society, Dressing the Georgians are available from here.
Click to access LONDON_MUMS_2022_Issue_37_R1.4-LR_Spreds.pdf
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Hi! I have a ‘portfolio’ lifestyle, jumping between mum, journalist, curator of my own museum, chauffeur, French tutor and carer. I love music, dance, theatre and dancing in the evenings, and helping others to enjoy life. I’ve been through the mill healthwise, along with my family, and am grateful for every day.