A black silk and velvet evening gown embellished with beads and sequins that used to belong to Alexandra of Denmark, who became Queen of the United Kingdom as the wife of King Edward VII, has been discovered hidden away in a private collection. The dress date to around 1908-1910. It was designed for Queen Alexandra by Parisian-styled London dressmaker Baroletof Knightsbridge and has Alexandra’s signature black and gold name tag sewn into the waist tape.
The owner, Francesca Counsell Risius, got in touch with the Fashion Museum in Bath after reading about their Royal Women exhibition. Her great-aunt had bought the dress in the 1950s. Her great-aunt passed the dress to her, and she stored it in a box in her attic. It remained hidden until Francesca saw there was an exhibition about royal women. “My great aunt gave me the dress in the late 1960s and I’ve kept it in a box ever since. I’ve carefully tried it on a couple of times, so has my daughter and occasionally we’ve taken it out of its tissue paper to show interested friends and family. I can’t wait to see it on display alongside other pieces from Queen Alexandra’s wardrobe.”
Dr Kate Strasdin, dress historian and one of the leading experts on Queen Alexandra, has examined the dress and verified its authenticity. Queen Alexandra was a style icon and this dress is a fabulous find, not just because of its beauty, but because of what the dress reveals about Alexandra’s fashion choices. Placing orders with smaller, less well-known dressmakers such as Barolet as opposed to always favouring big couture houses like Worth shows a measure of Alexandra’s determination to dress apart from her peers and indicates a degree of sartorial independence.”
The gown will now become a treasured part of the museum collection and it will appear on display in the Royal Women exhibition from 7 September. Royal Women, which runs until 28 April 2019 features fashions worn by four successive generations of women in the royal family including Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret.