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Norman Hartnell

Norman Hartnell

Overview
Sir Norman Bishop Hartnell, KCVO (12 June 1901, London – 8 June 1979, Windsor) was a British fashion designer. Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to HM The Queen 1940, subsequently Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II 1957.

Born to an upwardly mobile family in Streatham, a southwest London suburb, his parents were publicans and owners of the Crown & Sceptre, a large coaching inn at the top of Streatham Hill.
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Sir Norman Bishop Hartnell, KCVO (12 June 1901, London – 8 June 1979, Windsor) was a British fashion designer. Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to HM The Queen 1940, subsequently Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II 1957.

Early life and career


Born to an upwardly mobile family in Streatham, a southwest London suburb, his parents were publicans and owners of the Crown & Sceptre, a large coaching inn at the top of Streatham Hill. Educated at Mill Hill School
Mill Hill School
Mill Hill School, in Mill Hill, London, is a coeducational independent school for boarding and day pupils aged 13–18. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, an organisation of public schools in the United Kingdom....

, Hartnell read Modern Languages at Magdalene College, Cambridge
Magdalene College, Cambridge
Magdalene College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1428 as a Benedictine hostel, in time coming to be known as Buckingham College, before being refounded in 1542 as the College of St Mary Magdalene...

, but left Cambridge without a degree. More interested in performing, and designing productions, for the university Footlights
Footlights
Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, commonly referred to simply as the Footlights, is an amateur theatrical club in Cambridge, England, founded in 1883 and run by the students of Cambridge University....

, Hartnell was noticed by the London press as the designer of a Footlights production which transferred to the Dalys Theatre in London. Having unsuccessfully worked for two London designers, including Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon
Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon
Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon was a leading fashion designer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, best known as "Lucile", her professional name. The first British designer to achieve international renown, Lucile was a widely-acknowledged innovator in couture styles as well as in fashion...

, whom he sued for copying his designs without a credit, he opened his own business at 10 Bruton Street, Mayfair
Mayfair
Mayfair is an area of central London, within the City of Westminster.-History:Mayfair is named after the annual fortnight-long May Fair that took place on the site that is Shepherd Market today...

 in 1923 with the help of his father and sister Phyllis.

10 Bruton Street Mayfair 1923–1934


Hartnell acquired a clientele of young women and their mothers intent on fashionable originality in dress design for a busy social life centred on the London Season. Although expressing the spirit of the Bright Young Things
Bright Young Things
Bright Young Things is a 2003 British drama film written and directed by Stephen Fry. The screenplay, based on the 1930 novel Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, provides satirical social commentary about the Bright Young People: young and carefree London aristocrats and bohemians, as well as society in...

 and Flappers, his designs overlaid the harder silhouettes with a more fluid romanticism in detailing and construction, most evident in his predeliction for evening dresses and afternoon clothes often admired at Court Presentations and many lavish Society weddings, then held in London. Hartnell's success in London, Paris and New York ensured continual press coverage and growing business with those no longer content with 'safe' London clothes derived from Parisian designs. Hartnell became popular with younger stars of stage and screen, and went on to dress such names as Gladys Cooper
Gladys Cooper
Dame Gladys Constance Cooper, DBE was an English actress whose career spanned seven decades on stage, in films and on television....

 and Elsie Randolph
Elsie Randolph
Elsie Randolph was an English actress, singer and dancer. Randolph was born and died in London.She is best remembered for her partnership with Jack Buchanan in several stage and film musicals...

, later gaining as clients Gertrude Lawrence
Gertrude Lawrence
Gertrude Lawrence was an English actress, singer and musical comedy performer known for her stage appearances in the West End theatre district of London and on Broadway.-Early life:...

 (also a client of Edward Molyneux
Edward Molyneux
Edward Henry Molyneux was a British fashion designer whose fashion house in Paris was in operation from 1919 until 1950.- Overview :Born in London to Justin Molyneux and Lizzy Kenny, Edward Molyneux attended Beaumont College, a Roman Catholic preparatory school...

), Jessie Matthews
Jessie Matthews
Jessie Matthews, OBE was an English actress, dancer and singer of the 1930s, whose career continued into the post-war period.-Early life:...

, Merle Oberon
Merle Oberon
Merle Oberon was an Indian-born British actress best known for her screen performances in The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Cowboy and the Lady . She began her film career in British films as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII . She travelled to the United States to make films for Samuel...

, Evelyn Laye
Evelyn Laye
Evelyn Laye, CBE was an English theatre and film actress.-Early years and career:Born as Elsie Evelyn Lay in Bloomsbury, London, Laye made her first stage appearance in August 1915 at the Theatre Royal, Brighton as Nang-Ping in Mr...

, Anna Neagle
Anna Neagle
Forming a professional alliance with Wilcox, Neagle played her first starring film role in the musical Goodnight Vienna , again with Jack Buchanan. With this film Neagle became an overnight favourite...

 and even Alice Delysia and Mistinguett
Mistinguett
Mistinguett was a French actress and singer, whose birth name was Jeanne Bourgeois. She was at one time the best-paid female entertainer in the world...

, two French stars impressed by the young Englishman's genius.

Hartnell's more business-like sister Phyllis insisted on the design of practical day clothes for the bread-and-butter of the House and he achieved a subtlety and ingenuity with British woollens, scarcely imagined in British dress-making, but investigated by the Parisian Chanel
Chanel
Chanel S.A. is a French fashion house founded by the couturier Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, well established in haute couture, specializing in luxury goods . She gained the name "Coco" while maintaining a career as a singer at a café in France...

. She also showed a keen interest in his designs, when he showed in Paris in 1927 and 1929. He emulated his British predecessor Charles Frederick Worth
Charles Frederick Worth
Charles Frederick Worth , widely considered the Father of Haute couture, was an English fashion designer of the 19th century, whose works were produced in Paris.-Career:...

, by taking his designs to the heart of world fashion, Worth being the closest Hartnell came to having a hero. Hartnell rapidly specialised in expensive and often lavish embroideries to heighten his designs and create a distinction between mundane or wholesale clothes with his own distinctive form of luxury. The in-house embroidery workroom became a Hartnell speciality and remained so until his death. It even produced embroidered and prized Christmas cards during quiet August days, a practical form of publicity at which Hartnell was always adept. The originality and intricacy of Hartnell embroideries were repeatedly publicised by press reports of highly original wedding dresses designed for socially prominent young clients during the 1920s and 1930s, a natural extension of his designs for them as debutantes, when they wore his equally innovative evening dresses.

26 Bruton Street Mayfair 1934–1940


By 1934 Hartnell's financial success ensured his acclaimied move to the glass and mirror art moderne interiors designed by young innovative architect Gerald Lacoste (1909–1983). within the large late 18th century town house at 26 Bruton Street, Mayfair. These are now protected as one of the finest examples of moderne pre-war commercial design and through the years the mirrors reflected royalty, famous mannequins {later models}, such as Margaret Vyner, and a galaxy of society names and stars such as Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer.Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically. In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films...

, Merle Oberon
Merle Oberon
Merle Oberon was an Indian-born British actress best known for her screen performances in The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Cowboy and the Lady . She began her film career in British films as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII . She travelled to the United States to make films for Samuel...

 and amongst the post-war stars, Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor
Dame Elizabeth Rosemond "Liz" Taylor, DBE was a British-American actress. From her early years as a child star with MGM, she became one of the great screen actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age...

. At the same time he acquired his beloved Lovel Dene, the small foresters lodge remodelled by Gerald Lacoste as an oasis of contemplation and inspiration in Windsor Forest. Berkshire. He also lived in The Tower House, Regents Park, when in London.

Hartnell soon received his first royal orders at 26 Bruton Street and designed the wedding dress and trousseau of Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott
Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester
Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester was a member of the British Royal Family, the wife and then widow of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of George V and Queen Mary.The daughter of the 7th Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry, Scotland’s largest landowner, her brothers Walter and...

, a daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch
Duke of Buccleuch
The title Duke of Buccleuch , formerly also spelt Duke of Buccleugh, was created in the Peerage of Scotland on 20 April 1663 for the Duke of Monmouth, who was the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II of Scotland, England, and Ireland and who had married Anne Scott, 4th Countess of Buccleuch.Anne...

, engaged to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
The Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester was a soldier and member of the British Royal Family, the third son of George V of the United Kingdom and Queen Mary....

, third son of George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

. Two bridesmaids were Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI....

, daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

 (later George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 and Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the queen consort of King George VI from 1936 until her husband's death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II...

). Both George V
George V
George V was king of the United Kingdom and its dominions from 1910 to 1936.George V or similar terms may also refer to:-People:* George V of Georgia * George V of Imereti * George V of Hanover...

 and Queen Mary
Mary of Teck
Mary of Teck was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, as the wife of King-Emperor George V....

 approved the designs, Queen Mary also becoming a client. The future Queen accompanied her daughters to the salon to view the fittings and met Norman Hartnell, whose dresses had been seen at varied Royal or social events for over a decade.

Although Hartnell's designs for the Duchess of Gloucester achieved worldwide publicity, the death of her father and consequent period of mourning led to the cancellation of the large state celebration of a wedding in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. The substitution of a small private wedding in the chapel of Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, in London, is the principal residence and office of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality...

 meant that the full theatre of a royal wedding and display of the Hartnell wedding dress amongst the uniforms and dresses of the guests was cancelled. However much Hartnell regretted this from as personal and business angle, his Society, stage and film commissions soon included those of other members of the Royal Family and he was patronised by all the many Royal ladies until his death. Vast crowds did at least see Princess Alice leave in her Hartnell going-away ensemble.

On the accession of King George VI as King, his consort Queen Elizabeth ordered the dresses of her Maids of Honour
Maids of Honour
Maids of honour were the junior attendants of a queen in the royal households of England and later of the United Kingdom. Anne of Brittany is said to have instituted the queen's maids of honour at the court.-Role:...

 from Hartnell, remaining loyal to Madame Handley-Seymour for the creation of her Coronation dress, as she was a client of long standing. Thereafter, Hartnell soon received most and then all of the major orders from Queen Elizabeth. He created the streamlined fitted look for her day and evening wear, this together with his all-over sequinned evening wear worn by his wealthier clients, was expertly created by Mademoiselle Davide, the French workroom magician said to be one of the highest paid experts in the business. This was augmented by the re-introduction of the crinoline
Crinoline
Crinoline was originally a stiff fabric with a weft of horse-hair and a warp of cotton or linen thread. The fabric first appeared around 1830, but by 1850 the word had come to mean a stiffened petticoat or rigid skirt-shaped structure of steel designed to support the skirts of a woman’s dress into...

 to fashion, after the King showed Hartnell the Winterhalter
Winterhalter
Winterhalter is a surname, and may refer to:* Albert G. Winterhalter , admiral in the United States Navy, commander in chief of the U.S...

 portraits in the Royal Collection
Royal Collection
The Royal Collection is the art collection of the British Royal Family. It is property of the monarch as sovereign, but is held in trust for her successors and the nation. It contains over 7,000 paintings, 40,000 watercolours and drawings, and about 150,000 old master prints, as well as historical...

 with the suggestion that the petite Queen would gain stature and incorporate a visible symbol of updated continuing tradition for the monarchy worldwide, following the uproar over the abdication crisis
Edward VIII abdication crisis
In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire was caused by King-Emperor Edward VIII's proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite....

.

Mrs Simpson, subsequently the Duchess of Windsor, had also been am elegant Hartnell client and the creator of her wedding dress, Mainbocher
Mainbocher
Mainbocher is a fashion label founded by the American couturier Main Rousseau Bocher , also known as Mainbocher. Established in 1929, the house of Mainbocher successfully operated in Paris and then in New York...

, was credited by Hartnell with sound early advice ,when he showed his 1929 summer collection in Paris. Then a Vogue
Vogue (magazine)
Vogue is a fashion and lifestyle magazine that is published monthly in 18 national and one regional edition by Condé Nast.-History:In 1892 Arthur Turnure founded Vogue as a weekly publication in the United States. When he died in 1909, Condé Montrose Nast picked up the magazine and slowly began...

editor, Main Bocher told Hartnell that he had seldom seen so many wonderful dresses so badly made. The advent of 'Mamselle' Davide and other specialists was soon accomplished to visible effect. But Hartnell's long evening dresses, after a decade of rising hems, made the Parisian silhouette outmoded overnight and all French designers then followed his lead. He opened a House in Paris.

Within a decade Hartnell again changed the silhouette of fashion worldwide as the crinoline line worn by the Queen created a sensation on the State Visit
State visit
A state visit is a formal visit by a foreign head of state to another nation, at the invitation of that nation's head of state. State visits are the highest form of diplomatic contact between two nations, and are marked by ceremonial pomp and diplomatic protocol. In parliamentary democracies, heads...

 to Paris in 1938. The death of the Queen's mother Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, wife of the Earl of Strathmore
Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, KG, KT, GCVO, TD, was a landowner and the maternal grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II....

, shortly before the visit led to Court Mourning and a complete re-creation of the colourful wardrobe designed by Hartnell. With the bitter experience of the Gloucester wedding in his mind, he was intent on success and knew the history of dress, so was able to suggest that black and shades of mauve were unnecessary for the July State Visit, as white had also been used for Court Mourning. 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
Christian Dior
Christian Dior , was a French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses, also called Christian Dior.-Life:...

, 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.

The Queen was provided with another extensive wardrobe created by Hartnell for The Royal Tour of Canada and Visit to North America in the worrying days of 1939. Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 termed Queen Elizabeth "the most dangerous woman in Europe" on viewing film footage of the successful tour with which Hartnell had been involved as designer. This is captured by Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton
Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton, CBE was an English fashion and portrait photographer, diarist, painter, interior designer and an Academy Award-winning stage and costume designer for films and the theatre...

 in his 1939 portraits of the Queen wearing her Hartnell dresses in and around Buckingham Palace. Hartnell received a Royal Warrant
Royal Warrant
Royal warrants of appointment have been issued for centuries to those who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages. The warrant enables the supplier to advertise the fact that they supply to the royal family, so lending prestige to the supplier...

 in 1940 for his accomplishments.

By 1939, other young designers such as Victor Stiebel had also set up their own Houses in London. Redfern
Redfern (couture)
Redfern was a British couture house with branches in Paris and the United States which operated between 1881 and 1929. It was founded in London in 1855 by John Redfern. His designs were often featured in La Gazette du Bon Ton....

, Worth
House of Worth
The House of Worth is a Haute Couture fashion house founded in the 1850s by Charles Frederick Worth. Today the house is owned by Shaneel Enterprises, entrepreneurs of Indian descent, based in the UK...

 and Paquin
Jeanne Paquin
Jeanne Paquin was a French fashion designer, known for her resolutely modern and innovative designs.Born in Saint-Denis in 1869, Paquin trained as a dressmaker at Rouff and later opened her own fashion house in 1891, the first woman to ever do so...

 already had London salons, when Hartnell began in 1923, but were safe rather than innovative. Schiaparelli
Elsa Schiaparelli
Elsa Schiaparelli was an Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli's designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators...

 and Molyneux
Edward Molyneux
Edward Henry Molyneux was a British fashion designer whose fashion house in Paris was in operation from 1919 until 1950.- Overview :Born in London to Justin Molyneux and Lizzy Kenny, Edward Molyneux attended Beaumont College, a Roman Catholic preparatory school...

 were two amongst others opening branches in what had become a viable fashion centre attracting overseas buyers, especially from the USA. There were also tax implications involved in this. Molyneux
Edward Molyneux
Edward Henry Molyneux was a British fashion designer whose fashion house in Paris was in operation from 1919 until 1950.- Overview :Born in London to Justin Molyneux and Lizzy Kenny, Edward Molyneux attended Beaumont College, a Roman Catholic preparatory school...

 also had a favourite royal client, Princees Marina, who married Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George, Duke of Kent was a member of the British Royal Family, the fourth son of George V and Mary of Teck, and younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI...

.

26 Bruton Street Mayfair 1940–1952


During the Second World War (1939–1945) Hartnell was subject to the daunting government trading and rationing
Rationing
Rationing is the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods, or services. Rationing controls the size of the ration, one's allotted portion of the resources being distributed on a particular day or at a particular time.- In economics :...

 restrictions; apart from strict rules on the amount of fabric allowed per garment, the number of buttons, fastenings and the amount and components of embroideries were all calculated – and rationed. He joined the Home Guard and sustained his career with government sponsored collections for show and sale to overseas buyers, competing with the Occupied French and German designers, but also a growing group of American designers. Private clients ordered new clothes within the restrictions or had existing clothes altered. This also applied to the Queen, who appeared in her best possible clothes in bombed areas around the country. Hartnell received her endorsement to design elegant and innovative clothes in the government Utility scheme, mass produced by Berkertex with whom he entered a business relationship that continued into the 1950s. He became the first world-famous designer to design such clothing on a large and varied scale. Together with other prominent designers, he founded The Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, known as INCSOC, early in the war, to promote British fashion design at home and abroad. Hartnell was also commissioned to design women's uniforms for both army and medical corps during the war and subsequently designed others, including those for the women's Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan police
Metropolitan Police is a generic title for the municipal police force for a major metropolitan area, and it may be part of the official title of the force...

 in London.

In 1946 Hartnell took a varied and successful collection to South America, where his clients included Eva Peron
Eva Perón
María Eva Duarte de Perón was the second wife of President Juan Perón and served as the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She is often referred to as simply Eva Perón, or by the affectionate Spanish language diminutive Evita.She was born in the village of Los Toldos in...

 and Magda Lupescu
Magda Lupescu
Elena Lupescu , better known as Magda Lupescu, was the mistress of King Carol II of the Romanians and later , his wife.-Parents and siblings:...

. In 1947 he received the Neiman Marcus Award for his influence on world fashion and in the same year created an extensive wardrobe for Queen Elizabeth to wear on the Royal Tour of South Africa in 1947, the first Royal Tour abroad since 1939. Both slimline and crinoline
Crinoline
Crinoline was originally a stiff fabric with a weft of horse-hair and a warp of cotton or linen thread. The fabric first appeared around 1830, but by 1850 the word had come to mean a stiffened petticoat or rigid skirt-shaped structure of steel designed to support the skirts of a woman’s dress into...

 styles were included. Hartnell also designed for the young Princess Elizabeth
Princess Elizabeth
-People:* Elisabeth of Bohemia, eldest daughter of Frederick V* Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, wife of future Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor* Elisabeth of Hungary, daughter of Andrew II of Hungary, and Saint...

 and Princess Margaret, Edward Molyneux
Edward Molyneux
Edward Henry Molyneux was a British fashion designer whose fashion house in Paris was in operation from 1919 until 1950.- Overview :Born in London to Justin Molyneux and Lizzy Kenny, Edward Molyneux attended Beaumont College, a Roman Catholic preparatory school...

 also designing some day clothes for the Princesses.

Although worried that at 46 he was too old for the job, he was commanded by the Queen to create the wedding dress of Princess Elizabeth in 1947 for her marriage to Prince Philip (later the Duke of Edinburgh
Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh is a British royal title, named after the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, which has been conferred upon members of the British royal family only four times times since its creation in 1726...

). With a fashionable sweetheart neckline and a softly folding full skirt it was embroidered with some 10,000 seed-pearls and thousands of white beads. He subsequently became one of the Princesses main designers and so gained a new worldwide younger generation of clients, as the Princess began to take on more duties and visits abroad. The younger Princess Margaret became the obsession of the press and her Hartnell clothes were similarly given huge publicity and received much newsreel coverage.

26 Bruton Street Mayfair 1952–1979


Following the early death of George VI in 1952, Hartnell was commanded by the Queen Elizabeth II to design her 1953 Coronation Dress. Many versions were sketched by Hartnell, and his new assistant Ian Thomas
Ian Thomas (dressmaker)
Ian Thomas was a British dress designer who worked for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.-References:...

. These were then discussed with the Queen. The final design chosen had the similar 'sweet-heart' neckline used for the wedding dress in 1947, the fuller skirt with heavy, soft folds of silk embellished with varied embroideries, including the depiction of the national botanical emblems of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the Commonwealth
Commonwealth
Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic."More recently it has been used for fraternal associations of some sovereign nations...

 countries, echoing earlier Coronation Dresses. The complicated construction of the supporting undergarments is described by Hartnell in his autobiography, the weight of the dress having to be perfectly balanced to give a gentle forward swaying motion rather than the lurching list of the prototypes. This was the work of his expert cutters and fitters, as he could not sew a stitch, although he understood construction and the handling of various fabrics.

Hartnell designed not only the Maids of Honour
Maids of Honour
Maids of honour were the junior attendants of a queen in the royal households of England and later of the United Kingdom. Anne of Brittany is said to have instituted the queen's maids of honour at the court.-Role:...

 dresses, but also those of all the major Royal ladies, creating a tableaux in the setting of Westminster Abbey. He also designed dresses for many clients and his summer 1953 collection of some 150 designs was named The Silver and Gold Collection, subsequently used as the title for his autobiography, illustrated largely by his assistant Ian Thomas
Ian Thomas (dressmaker)
Ian Thomas was a British dress designer who worked for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.-References:...

. Together with Hardy Amies
Hardy Amies
Hardy Amies, Ltd. is a British-based fashion house specialising in modern luxury menswear.-Sir Edwin Hardy Amies:Sir Edwin Hardy Amies, KCVO , was a British fashion designer, best known for his official title as dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II, from her accession to the throne until his...

, Thomas subsequently shared the large task of creating wardrobes for The Queens many State Visits and Royal Tours abroad and endless events at home, all three maintaining flourishing Houses. During 1954 Queen Elizabeth II made an extensive Royal Tour of most of the countries forming the British Commonwealth. The Coronation Dress was worn for the opening of Parliament in several countries, her varied and enormous wardrobe gained press and newsreel headlines internationally, not least for the many cotton dresses worn and copied worldwide, many ordered from a specialist wholesale company Horrockses . The Hartnell designs were augmented by a number from Hardy Amies
Hardy Amies
Hardy Amies, Ltd. is a British-based fashion house specialising in modern luxury menswear.-Sir Edwin Hardy Amies:Sir Edwin Hardy Amies, KCVO , was a British fashion designer, best known for his official title as dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II, from her accession to the throne until his...

, her second designer from 1950 onwards.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the name of Norman Hartnell was continually found in the press. He was always available for publicity events, whether they involved making a dress of pound notes or creating sensational, evening dresses for celebrities such as the pianist Eileen Joyce
Eileen Joyce
Eileen Alannah Joyce CMG was an Australian pianist whose career spanned more than 30 years. She lived in England in her adult years....

 or the TV cookery star Fanny Cradock
Fanny Cradock
Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey , better known as Fanny Cradock, was an English restaurant critic, television cook and writer who mostly worked with her then common-law husband Johnnie Cradock, adopting his surname long before they married. She was the daughter of the novelist and lyricist Archibald...

. All the female members of the Royal Family used Hartnell's skills at one time or another, not only for personal wear within the United Kingdom, but also for their own visits abroad. Hartnell fashion shows travelled the UK and were shown on publicised trips abroad.

Hartnell's design for the wedding dress of HRH Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI....

 in 1960 marked the last full State occasion for which he designed an impressive tableau of dresses for his many Royal clients. It also marked the swan-song of lavish British couture. The bride wore a multi-layered white Princess line dress, totally unadorned, but demanding in its construction, utilising many layers of fine silk, and requiring as much skill as the complexities of the Coronation Dress, which it echoed in outline. The Queen wore a long blue dress of similar design with a slight bolero jacket and a hat adorned with a single rose reminding everyone of the Princess's name, used in full only when she was a girl, Margaret Rose. Victor Stiebel
Victor Stiebel
Victor Frank Stiebel was a South African-born British couturier.Born in Durban he arrived in Britain in 1924 to study architecture at Jesus College, Cambridge. Having designed for theatre wardrobe at university, he worked as a dress designer for the House of Reville for three years beginning in...

 made the going-away clothes for The Princess and the whole wedding and departure of the couple from the Pool of London on HMY Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

 received worldwide press and television publicity; the design of the wedding dress had clear references to the Coronation Dress of the Queen worn in the same building only seven years previously.

Fashion rapidly changed in the 1960s and by the time of the Investiture of The Prince of Wales in 1969 the Hartnell clothes worn by The Queen and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother were short day clothes ingeniously reflecting their own styles. Royal clothes designed by Hartnell created a style for each client and the style was made fashionable without being a high fashion statement. This exemplified his genius and was practised to a sophisticated level, as he became increasingly pre-occupied with the large number of royal orders, many worn for Tours and State Visits. In this he was helped by Ian Thomas
Ian Thomas (dressmaker)
Ian Thomas was a British dress designer who worked for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.-References:...

, who left to create his own business, and the Japanese designer Yuki
Yuki
Yuki, Yuuki, Yuhki or Yūki are romanizations of various Japanese given names or words...

(Gnyuki Tormimaru), who similarly left to create his own highly successful business.

At the time of the Queen's Silver Jubilee
Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II
The Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II marked the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth realms...

 in 1977, Hartnell was appointed KCVO. On arriving at Buckingham Palace to receive the honour, he was delighted to find that The Queen had arranged for it to be given by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, a loyal client of Hartnell beyond his death and until the House closed. Hartnell was termed by the press The First Fashion Knight. Only the late Sir Hardy Amies was similarly honoured and it is unlikely that we shall witness another in this reign.

Hartnell was still designing collections at his death in 1979. Although much quieter, the enormous House also sold ready-to-wear, introduced in the 1950s, and was the source of merchandising,the many products ranging from scent to stockings, bags to costume jewellery and Hartnell mens-wear – also found in stores around the globe. His career truly began around 1920 up at Cambridge and so spanned six decades. It is unlikely that there will ever be such a House in London again, employing at its peak in the 1950s some 550 people in-house and many thousands more employed in allied ancillary trades.

Hartnell was buried on 15 June 1979 next to his mother and sister in the graveyard of Clayton church, West Sussex
West Sussex
West Sussex is a county in the south of England, bordering onto East Sussex , Hampshire and Surrey. The county of Sussex has been divided into East and West since the 12th century, and obtained separate county councils in 1888, but it remained a single ceremonial county until 1974 and the coming...

.
A large memorial service in London was led by the then Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood
Mervyn Stockwood
Arthur Mervyn Stockwood was Anglican Bishop of Southwark from 1959 to 1980.Mervyn Stockwood was born in Bridgend, Wales, to a middle-class family. His solicitor father was killed during the First World War. He was introduced to Anglo-Catholic worship at All Saints' Church, Clifton, which...

, a friend, and was attended by many clients including one of his earliest from the 1920s, his life-long supporter Barbara Cartland
Barbara Cartland
Dame Barbara Hamilton Cartland, DBE, CStJ , was an English author, one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century...

 and from the 1930s the former Margaret Whigham, whose marriage in a Hartnell dress stopped the traffic in Knightsbridge, when she became Mrs Charles Sweeny, latterly still a client as Margaret, Duchess of Argyll. The service brought together not only former clients, but a large number of his models and employees.

The business continued after Hartnell's death, HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother remaining a loyal client with many others. For a short time John Tullis, a nephew of Molyneux, designed for the Hartnell business. A consortium headed by Manny Silverman, formerly of Moss Bros., acquired the business and after some guest collections designed by Gina Fratini and Murray Arbeid, the building was renovated under the direction of Michael Pick and the original art moderne splendours designed by Gerald Lacoste for Norman Hartnell were brought to life, the famous glass chimney-piece retrieved from the V&A as the focal point of the grand mirrored salon. The House re-opened with an acclaimed collection designed by Marc Bohan
Marc Bohan
Marc Bohan is a French fashion designer.In 1945, he worked as a design assistant for Robert Piguet. In 1949, he left the Piguet couture house and worked as a design assistant for Edward Molyneux. From 1954 until 1958, Bohan worked as a designer for Jean Patou.In 1958, he joined the Christian...

. The Gulf War and subsequent recession of the early 1990s killed the venture and the House closed its doors in 1992.

On 11 May 2005, the Norman Hartnell premises and his rare British genius were commemorated with a blue plaque
Blue plaque
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker....

 at 26 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London, W1, where he spent his working life from 1934 to 1979.

Filmography


Norman Hartnell designed costumes for the following films ( list incomplete ):
  • Such Is the Law (1930)
  • Aunt Sally (1933)
  • A Southern Maid (1933)
  • That's a Good Girl (1933)
  • Give Her a Ring (1934)
  • Princess Charming (1934)
  • The Church Mouse (1934)
  • The Return of Bulldog Drummond (1934)
  • Brewster's Millions (1935)
  • Two's Company (1936)
  • Jump for Glory (1937)
  • Non-Stop New York (1937)
  • Climbing High (1938)
  • Sailing Along (1938)
  • Design for Spring (1938)
  • Making Fashion (1938)
  • He Found a Star
    He Found a Star
    He Found a Star is a 1941 British musical film directed by John Paddy Carstairs and starring Vic Oliver, Sarah Churchill and Evelyn Dall. A frustrated stage manager quits his job and sets up a theatrical agency with the help of his secretary.-Cast:...

    (1941) (dresses for Sarah Churchill
    Sarah Churchill (actress)
    Sarah Millicent Hermione Tuchet-Jesson, Baroness Audley, usually known as Sarah Churchill , was a British actress and dancer.- Early life :...

     and Evelyn Dall
    Evelyn Dall
    Evelyn Dall was an American singer and actress.-Career:Born in The Bronx, New York City Dall began her career in short films and in supporting roles on Broadway. In 1935, she was invited to become the female vocalist for Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra, in the UK, where she remained until 1946...

    )
  • Ships with Wings (1942)
  • The Peterville Diamond (1942)
  • This Was Paris (1942)
  • The Demi-Paradise (1943)
  • Maytime in Mayfair (1949)
  • The Passionate Stranger (1957) (gowns for Margaret Leighton)
  • Women in Love (1958) (TV)
  • Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) (costumes for Katharine Hepburn
    Katharine Hepburn
    Katharine Houghton Hepburn was an American actress of film, stage, and television. In a career that spanned 62 years as a leading lady, she was best known for playing strong-willed, sophisticated women in both dramas and comedies...

    )
  • Never Put It in Writing (1964)
  • The Beauty Jungle (1964)
  • A Double in Diamonds (1967) (TV episode: The Saint)

Theatre Designs


Norman Hartnell first designed for the stage as a schoolboy before the First World War and went on to design for a least twenty-four varied stage productions, after his initial London success with a Footlights Revue, which brought him his first glowing press reviews. ( List in compilation).

External links