The Hartnell Look by Michael Pick

Thursday 19 December | 2pm

A lecture by author and historian Michael Pick

This lecture examines the major reasons for Hartnell’s personal success in making London a viable alternative to Parisian haute couture dominance, even when given minimal government assistance in contrast to the French competition. In London, Hartnell employed some 500 people in House by the mid-1950s. His embroidery workroom was prized for displaying his unique innovations and luxurious colourful patterns allied to fashionable shapes and forms of a variety of clothes.

It also pays tribute to the many occasions when the Hartnell Look captured the world headlines when worn by some of the most sophisticated women of his time, including stars of stage and screen. The lecture examines why the many ladies of the Royal Family put their trust in the specially fashioned variations of the Hartnell Look, as exemplified at its most sublime by the universally recognised mid-C20th iconic dress, the 1953 Coronation Dress of Her Majesty the Queen.

It is forty years since Sir Norman Hartnell (1901-1979) died still designing at what was then a highly respectable old age. His legacy endures in the vibrancy defining London as a major fashion capital, something he had mainly achieved alone by the 1930s when American buyers began to visit the London collections before Paris.

In his later years Hartnell once quipped that he had shown Worth how to create the Hartnell style, for if he had a hero it was certainly Charles Frederick Worth, the Englishman credited with the birth of French couture.

Norman Hartnell: The Biography, £35, published by Zuleika is available to purchase in the Museum shop.

Free with exhibition ticket
Numbers are limited for this event. It is essential to secure your place by booking online

If you have already booked an exhibition ticket for Wednesday 19 December and would like to secure a place on the talk, please e-mail

The talk takes place in the Fashion Studio and lasts for approximately one hour with an opportunity to ask questions and a book signing. The talk is free with your exhibition ticket and visitors are welcome to view this before or after the talk.

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