Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon’s Wedding Dress

It’s been awhile since we talked about a royal wedding dress, so today is all about the future Queen Mum’s gown,for her 1923 wedding.

At that time, Madame Handley Seymour was a London coutourier who made numerous gowns for Queen Mary and other royal and aristocratic ladies. It’s unfortunate that her name has pretty much been lost to history since she had such a thriving fashion house. She made both Elizabeth’s wedding dress and, later, her coronation robes.

Here’s a look at seamstresses hard at work before the 1937 coronation:

Madame Handley Seymours work room before the coronation, April 1937 (via sheep and chic)

Madame Handley Seymours work room before the coronation, April 1937 (via sheep and chic)

As we discussed in our post on one of the Queen Mum’s letters to Prince Bertie, they were engaged on January 14, 1923. This  formal portrait was taken shortly afterwards, on the 18th of January. They sure look serious, even a little forlorn.

Lady Elizabeth and Prince Bertie January 18, 1923 (via forum.alexanderpalace)

This portrait was taken on January 18, 1923 (via forum.alexanderpalace)

When it came to picking out or designing a dress, Elizabeth didn’t spend much time deciding, not that there was much time since the wedding was on April 26. Thanks to the book Counting One’s Blessings, we have her diary entry from March 19, 1923 to reference and she makes only a quick mention of it. Keep in mind that this was a little over a month before the actual wedding!

Diary: Monday 19 March 1923

Woke at 9. Breakfast 10…[…] Bertie came round, & we went & looked at furniture at Harris & also went to Carrington. […] Then mother & I went to Handley Seymour & looked at hundreds of lovely clothes. Chose my wedding dress. 

And there we have it. So simple! Interesting when you think of how much time and effort and thought went into Lady Diana and Kate Middleton’s dresses what with the months and months it took to get everything just right. It’s interesting to know that Lady Elizabeth’s dress wasn’t designed from scratch, but came straight out of the shop, with perhaps just a few changes here and there. I suppose we should remember that this laissez faire attitude could be attributed to the fact that Lady Elizabeth had no expectation that she’d ever become Queen. She was marrying the younger brother and expected to stay the Duchess of York.

The gown is certainly of its time, and we can’t say it did much for Lady Elizabeth’s tiny frame. Love the train, however, and how she wore an elaborate white fur in the carriage to Wesminster Abbey. This photograph shows Elizabeth leaving her family’s London home at 17 Bruton Street. The future Queen Elizabeth was born in the home a few years later.

Leaving for Westminster Abbey

Leaving for Westminster Abbey

She wore fur on the balcony as well! It’s a shame she didn’t wear one of her tiaras (come on!), and chose to wear a circlet of fabric flowers instead.

Via Royal Musings

Via Royal Musings

Now, whatever you do, DON’T SMILE!

Via Royal Musings

Via Royal Musings

Recently, a prototype of the dress was auctioned off and sold for 3,500 pounds. That seems like a relatively small sum for a dress that has so much historic value. It’s the closest thing that you could get to a royal wedding dress!

Prototype of Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon's wedding dress via BBC

Prototype of Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon’s wedding dress via BBC

Here’s a better look at the intricate beadwork. Ultimately Elizabeth’s dress was floor length:

So what do you think of this dress? Yay or nay?

Here are some more royal wedding dresses that might strike your fancy:

Queen Victoria’s Wedding Dress made her a real trend setter in 1840!

Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding Dress was another that was of its time

Princess Margaret’s Wedding Dress was perfect for her. Perfect!

Princess Alexandra of Denmark’s Wedding Dress made an entrance

Princess Stephanie of Luxembourg’s wedding dress was truly gorgeous

As was Princess Madeleine of Sweden’s wedding dress (even if the straps kept slipping off her shoulder…oops!)


Categories: British Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Royal Weddings

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

  1. Oh you make me laugh. Love the “whatever you do, DON”T SMILE!” The fellow on the left (E’s dad?) is sprouting, pardon me, sporting a fine moustache. Yes, I’m with you – the gown is of its time and no, certainly didn’t do much for her tiny frame. As one with a tiny frame I can so relate.That circlet of fabric flowers is rather reminiscent of something Ali MacGraw might have chosen for Love Story … Its unfortunate she couldn’t consult with you on an appropriate tiara.


  1. April 26, 1923: Lady Elizabeth’s Diary Entry on Her Wedding Day « The Royal Post
  2. A Look at 17 Bruton Street | The Royal Post

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