The Queen’s Gallery next to Buckingham Palace will be taking a look at the fashions of the Georgian era in a new exhibition opening this spring.

Extract from David Garrick with his Wife Eva-Maria Veigel by William Hogarth (c) Royal Collection Trust

From the practical dress of laundry maids to the glittering gowns worn at court, the exhibition will bring together over 200 works from the Royal Collection, including paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Gainsborough, Zoffany and Hogarth, as well as rare surviving examples of clothing and accessories.

The exhibition will chart changing fashions from the accession of George I in 1714 to the death of George IV in 1830.

At its heart, will be a rarely displayed, full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Gainsborough that was painted by candlelight and usually hangs in Windsor Castle.

Also on display for the first time will be Queen Charlotte’s book of psalms, covered in the only silk fabric known to survive from one of her dresses. The expensive fabric, decorated with metal threads to glimmer in candlelight, was most likely repurposed after the dress had passed out of fashion. As textiles were highly prized, Georgian clothing was constantly recycled, even by the royal family, and there was a thriving market for second-hand clothes.

The exaggerated fashions of the period were a gift for caricaturists, coinciding with what has become known as the golden age of the satirical print. In the never-before-displayed New Invented Elastic Breeches, 1784, Thomas Rowlandson depicts a large man being manhandled into an optimistically small pair of leather breeches by two tailors.

New-Invented Elastic Breeches. Thomas Rowlandson (c) Royal Collection Trust

While court dress provided a brilliant spectacle, it was on the streets of Georgian Britain that a fashion revolution was underway, as styles and fabrics from the Ottoman Empire, India and China were incorporated into an everyday dress.

As well as influences from abroad, fashionable society increasingly looked to the lower classes for style inspiration, adopting previously working-class garments such as aprons and trousers. Knee breeches were worn by men for most of the 18th century, but by the end of the Georgian period, upper-class men adopted trousers for the first time, a legacy that continues today.

From the popularity of fancy-dress and the evolution of childrenswear, to the introduction of military uniforms and the role of clothing in showing support for revolutions at home and abroad, the exhibition will show off what clothing can tell us about all areas of life in the rapidly changing world of 18th-century Britain.

The exhibition, Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians opens at The King’s Gallery on Friday 21st April 2023.

Tickets are available from here.

A money saving tip!

If you’ve not been to the current exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Japan: Courts and Culture, if you visit before it closes, then your ticket can be converted into a one-year pass, which means you can visit both the Japan and Georgian exhibitions, and also the Winter 2023 exhibition — all for the price of just one of them.

To take advantage of that, book tickets to Japan: Courts and Culture from here before Sunday 26th February, and when you visit, print out your ticket and get it stamped by a member of staff to get repeat visits for a year.

St James’s Park and the Mall – Attributed to British School, 18th century (c) Royal Collection Trust


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