The oldest wedding dress held in the UK’s Royal Collection dates from 1816 and will be part of the new ‘Style and Society: Georgian Period Dress’ exhibition, which opens today at the Palace of Buckinghamuntil October 8.
The silver-embroidered dress belonged to Charlotte Augusta of Wales, daughter of King George IV of England, married to the future Leopold I of Belgium in 1816 in one of the most important royal weddings of its time. The one who was destined to be Queen of England, however, she would die a year later in childbirth of her first child.
At the center of the exhibition is a life-size portrait of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III and grandmother of Charlotte Augusta, painted by the popular 18th-century portraitist Thomas Gainsborough.
The painting is displayed next to a similar period dress from the Queen’s court in the 1760s, so that visitors can appreciate how women of the Georgian era would wear such costumes.
Through the fashion of the time, the exhibition recreates England in the 18th and 19th centuries, among the more than 200 objects on display from the Royal Collection, as well as costumes and jewellery, paintings, engravings, drawings and fans that demonstrate innovation and wealth of the Georgian period, from the accession to the throne of George I to the death of George IV (1714-1830).
Due to the elaborate styling of the period, cosmetics and refined skin and hair care products for men and women are also on display, such as the George IV personal care set, a silver chest made in France that includes razors shaving, perfumes, combs, toothbrushes and utensils to prepare teas and chocolate drinks.
In addition, designs and fabrics from the Ottoman Empire, India and China that were incorporated into English fashion of the time are on display, demonstrating the global reach of the British Empire in the 19th century, which expanded its commercial networks on five continents.