Power Dressing With Queen Victoria

1. Secret painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1843.jpg

From a simple white cotton petticoat from 1848, with pleating described by Polly Putnam, exhibition curator at Historic Royal Palace as so tiny “they must have been created by the hand of a fairy” to her voluminous black satin gowns decorated with embroideries or ribbons, Queen Victoria was always stylish and concerned with her image.

“There is a preconceived idea that Queen Victoria was plain and didn’t care about her appearance, especially after Prince Albert passed away, but a closer look at her mourning dresses debunks this myth. They may be black, but they are definitely not plain,” she remarks, pointing to fruit basket embroideries on one of them.

Through different dresses, portraits and personal objects, the Victoria: Woman and Crown exhibition at Buckingham Palace, running until January 2020, re-examines important periods of Queen Victoria’s life, from a young bride utterly in love with her husband – as seen a very personal “secret portrait” she had commissioned for her husband’s 24th birthday, that shows her with her hair down as Victoria the wife, not Victoria the regal monarch — her married life and then to the different 
stages of her 40-year mourning period.

“After Albert died, she curated her grief. In the room where he passed, she placed a statue made out of his death mask and made sure his pyjamas were laid out every single day, as well as fresh flowers. It was a living shrine to his memory,” Putnam says.


Amongst some of the Queen’s many mourning outfits on display is a rare bodice with a white patch on the neck. “We think it was to show her dresser how dirty her black dress was, because it was otherwise hard to tell,” Putnam explains.