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Dress worn by Queen in Olympic stadium 'parachute' jump to go on display

Published 23/07/2016

Curator Caroline de Guitaut adjusts the dress worn by the Queen at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Curator Caroline de Guitaut adjusts the dress worn by the Queen at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

The dress worn by the Queen when she "parachuted" into the Olympic stadium during the London 2012 opening ceremony will be a star attraction at a new Buckingham Palace exhibition.

Dresses, gowns and outfits from the monarch's life, charting important personal moments and major events for the nation, will go on display in Fashioning a Reign from today.

The handmade garments created by British designers range from the Queen's wedding and coronation gowns - exhibited together for the first time - to items worn at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, during overseas state visits and her "neon at 90" outfit for this year's Trooping the Colour ceremony.

The Queen had her own starring role in the Olympics when she filmed a cameo appearance for Danny Boyle's opening ceremony, greeting James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, at the palace with the words "Good evening, Mr Bond".

They boarded a helicopter and set off, flying over London to the Olympic Stadium, where the scene ended with the Queen's stunt double parachuting live into the arena.

Seconds later, the real Queen, wearing the same peach coloured dress as she did in the filmed sequence, entered the stadium to rapturous applause.

It was created by Angela Kelly, the Queen's personal assistant and adviser, using sumptuous materials like silk, lace, beads, feathers and enamel and a second was also made for the monarch's stunt double Gary Connery who jumped out of the helicopter.

Exhibition curator, Caroline de Guitaut from the Royal Collection Trust, said only Ms Kelly, and not her seamstresses, knew why two outfits were needed.

"The second version was made in complete secrecy and even those working on the making of these didn't actually understand why there were two identical outfits - so it has a fantastic story," she said.

"The philosophy behind the design I believe is to have something in a colour that wouldn't be in anyway representative of any of the countries participating, so that's why the colour is quite unique, that sort of peachy, coraly pink.

"And also to have quite striking, strong design lines so the kind of illusion of the Queen potentially jumping out of the helicopter would not be lost.

"So you've got these quite strong pleats across the shoulder, band of lace around the torso, and then the pleats around the skirt."

Mr Connery, who has worked on movie series ranging from Harry Potter to Indiana Jones, said at the time he "thoroughly enjoyed getting dressed up".

Visitors to the exhibition, which forms part of the summer opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace, will first see a display space featuring an outfit for each of the 10 decades the Queen has lived through.

Highlights include the dresses worn by the then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret to the coronation ceremony of their father King George VI in 1937, as well as a silk gown by couturier Sir Norman Hartnell which the Queen wore in 1956 to the royal premiere of the film The Battle Of River Plate where she met the actress Marilyn Monroe.

During official state visits the Queen will often wear gowns featuring significant symbols, colours or motifs in honour of the country she is visiting, and the exhibition features some of these gowns.

And she will also wear strong, bold colours so she can be seen by crowds at events - this was typified by her outfit for Trooping the Colour this year, which had a vivid green colour.

At the Mall street party, staged the day after Trooping, which honoured the Queen's patronages, Prince Harry asked one of the guests about the outfit's colour: "Neon at 90, should we encourage more?"

Asked whether the Queen's use of fashion to support her role was unique to the monarch, the curator replied: "I don't think so, because I think female sovereigns have always used clothes in certain ways.

"I suppose it's the longevity of the Queen's life and her reign that really draws a focus to it... she has clearly used clothes as a kind of diplomatic tool, that's probably been a bit of a hallmark.

"But also the overwhelming thing really about her reign, in terms of her clothes, is her absolutely steadfast support of British fashion and she's the first female sovereign ever to wear exclusively British-made clothes, British couture."

In the exhibition there is also a section on hats with more than 60 featured, from the 1940s to the present day, reflecting styles of the various decades.

The exhibition at Buckingham Palace opens today and runs until October 2 and is one of three - all on the same theme - being staged this year at separate royal residences in celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday.

A total of around 150 outfits will be shown across the historic buildings. At the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh the use of tartan in royal dress is explored, while at Windsor Castle magnificent evening gowns worn on official occasions will be contrasted with Princess Elizabeth's fancy-dress costumes from wartime family pantomimes held at the castle.

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