Dressing the Queen by Angela Kelly

This is a great coffee table book — really fun and interesting read! It’s a birthday present from a good friend of mine, and although I’ve briefly looked at the photos when I first got it months ago, it’s been sitting on my book shelf and haven’t read it until yesterday.

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It was written by the Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly, who gives the reader a fascinating insights into the detailed work that goes into designing, sewing, cataloguing, and caring for all the outfits and accessories worn by Queen Elizabeth.

There’s plenty of photographs of Her Majesty’s impressive collection of accessories such as brooches, hats, bags, shoes, gloves, silk scarves, etc. (not to mention a huge collections of ‘see-through’ plastic umbrellas in every colour imaginable!)  There’s also photos of different ensemble she wore to important events, including the jubilee celebrations — Thames river pageant, concert, the Olympics opening ceremony film and appearance. The outfits she wore are discussed in detail with original sketches, photos of the fabrics, etc. Ms Kelly shares the story in detail how she directly worked with Danny Boyle’s team to create the perfect outfit for the complicated Olympics opening ceremony. Two outfits were made for Her Maj and the stuntman who amazed the world when he parachuted into the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony dressed as the Queen.

For jewel lovers, the book offers quite a unique behind-the-scenes look at the jewellery that are worn regularly by the Queen — the diamonds give us information about their provenance and how they’re actually used today.  There are photos of the Queen’s precious jewels — rubies, aquamarines, pearls, sapphires and diamond tiaras and their matching necklaces.

We also get to see the way that these precious jewels are presented to HM — on a tray with a lace that once belonged to her grandmother, Queen Mary, hand-sewn by the late Queen with her initial ‘M’. The Queen then can choose from the tray the specific pieces she wants to wear. This is my absolute favourite section of the entire book! It was lovely to see the way those jewels are put to use and not just sitting in the royal vaults.

Although the complicated issues with the Queen’s jewels are left to the crown jeweller, Ms Kelly is also responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of HM’s jewellery collections such as basic cleaning before and after they are worn by Her Maj. A series of photographs show how Ms Kelly works with the Vladimir tiara (photos above) — she’s swapping out the tiara’s pearls for the set of emeralds, and the images show how the individual pearls and emeralds are stored — every piece is numbered and put in pouches before they are returned to the vaults for safekeeping.
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Two fascinating thing I learned is that the Queen’s dresser pick very striking colours to make sure she stands out, and that the seamstress always place discreet weights in the hemlines of the Queen’s outfits to avoid any possible royal embarrassment (think of The Duchess of Cambridge’s dress being lifted up by a sudden gust of wind — photos below from The Mirror newspaper).
Interestingly, the Philippines was mentioned in the book (please see first photo above) because the Queen’s hats are made of ‘Sinamay’ straw (banana leaves fiber).
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This is a nice addition to my royal biography collection (although it’s not a biography). I am just fascinated with royal jewels after I’ve watched a documentary about the history of the tiaras and precious jewels of the European royal houses. This book provides a unique perspective on the everyday use of The Queen’s jewelries, and it will be one of the books on top of my coffee table someday, when I finally have a nice coffee table to put it on! 🙂

 

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