George Hayter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Queen Victoria’s reign is notable for its length, for its innovations and revolutions, and for her steadfastness in navigating the Crown through to modern times. Her fashion was legendary both contemporarily—she helped popularise white wedding dresses—and today as a study not only of the woman but also the kingdom she reigned over.
The morning she ascended the throne, 20 June 1837, she appeared in a simple black gown for her first appearance as Queen.
Just over a year later—on 28 June 1838—she appeared at Westminster Abbey in a simple white satin gown with golden embroidery on the chest to take part in the most solemn ceremony of her life: her coronation.
Her coronation ceremony earned the title of ‘a botched service’ for its five-hour duration and host of gaffes that saw an ill-sized ring jammed onto her finger, a bishop wrongly declaring that the service was over when it wasn’t yet, and other tiny mistakes which led witnesses to believe that nobody had rehearsed (though Queen Victoria was adamant that she knew what to do throughout).
Her coronation gowns were simple but her fashion that day is mostly remembered for the brilliant bits of splendour including crown and jewellery and a brilliant golden cloak: the dalmatica. Only part of these coronation robes survive today, the Supertunica, which is stored by the Royal Collection Trust, whose description of the clothing item reads: “A gold lame coronation supertunica of gold thread on yellow warp brocaded in polychrome silk in a scrolling design incorporating Tudor roses, thistles, and shamrocks, within scrolling design of stylised palm leaves.”
After her proclamation as queen, Victoria changed her outfit from the white and golden dress and red robe to a simple white satin dress. The silk for her coronation dress was made at Signeratt and Bourdillon in London. After the ceremony, all of her coronation wardrobe items were stored at Kensington Palace.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, Queen Victoria drew sketches of herself after the coronation and wrote in her diary, “In her journal entry of 28 June 1838, Queen Victoria describes how she would ‘ever remember this day as the proudest of my life’ but that ‘the [Imperial State] Crown hurt me a good deal.’”