NORMAN HARTNELL - MASTER OF THE ROYAL WARDROBE.
Norman Hartnell was born in 1901, and quickly showed that he had a great talent for drawing and design. He was actually born the son of a publican but had great ambition. It was while he was studying architecture at Cambridge that he began to design clothes. He went on to open a salon at No 10 Bruton Street. Early clients included Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence and Barbara Cartland. He quickly gained a “theatrical” reputation, and went on to dress many of the superstars of the day – Greer Garson, Merle Oberon, Norma Shearer, Marlene Dietrich and Vivienne Leigh.
In 1935 he received his first commission to design for the royal British family. He designed and produced the entire wedding party outfits for the marriage of the Duke of Gloucester and Lady Alice Montague including all the bridesmaids dresses (including those for the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret). And so his Royal connection had begun.
Norman Hartnell was a society couturier – his clients were the mothers and sisters of his Cambridge friends and now the Royals. He designed the Queen Mother’s entire wardrobe for her 1938 royal tour – 30 dresses.
The major stand out point with Norman Hartnell’s work was the utter dreaminess. When he designed Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress and then her dress for the coronation they were considered to be the most lavishly decorated of the 20th century.
It was during the 1950’s that Norman Hartnell also started to design jewellery. There is not a lot of it around today and it is highly collectable. He tended to design with crystals and pearls, again complementing his beautiful gowns.
Norman Hartnell continued to make for the great people of international society until he passed away in 1979.