Two of the most significant dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth II are set to be shown together for the first time this summer.
Elizabeth’s wedding dress from 1947 and the gown from her Coronation from 1953 will serve as the centerpieces for the Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe installment at Buckingham Palace starting on July 23.
Both gowns were designed by British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell, who died in 1979. The exhibit will the largest display of the Queen’s couture ever staged. And, according to the Royal Collection Trust, it also charts important moments in her “life and the nation’s history through Her Majesty’s wardrobe, encompassing themes such as State occasions, international tours and family celebrations.”
Deploying the wedding dress is something of a nod to next year’s 70th anniversary of that spectacular occasion. Hartnell said he set out to produce “the most beautiful dress I had so far made” for the nuptials. It was made in ivory silk and decorated with crystals and 10,000 seed pearls and incorporates a 15-foot star-patterned train, woven in Braintree in Essex, and inspired by the famous Renaissance painting of Primavera by Botticelli. That, the Royal Collection says in a statement, symbolized the “rebirth and growth” after World War II.
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“With her bridal dress and tiara on her wedding day, she was a knockout,” one of her bridesmaids, Lady Pamela Hicks, had previously told PEOPLE.
After that success, Hartnell was commissioned to design a dress for the Queen’s Coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953. The gown was created in the finest white duchesse satin, and embroidered in a lattice-work effect and was encrusted with seed pearls, sequins and crystals. And unknown to the Queen, Hartnell added a good luck charm. Amid floral emblems signifying the nations of the U.K. and the countries of the Commonwealth, he added an extra four-leaf shamrock on the left side of the skirt so that her hand could rest upon it during the ceremony.
The summer opening at Buckingham Palace runs from July 23 to October 2. For advance tickets and visitor information go to Royal Collection Trust
The dress display in Buckingham Palace is one of three separate exhibits taking place around Britain. The other displayed are at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, and at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England.