Little Common Ladies Club

On June 24th, the club had a very interesting and informative presentation about the life and times of Sir Norman Hartnell by Mrs Annlyn Boyes, whose father was an accountant working with the royal dressmaker.

Sir Norman, who was born in 1901, was educated at Mill Hill School and Cambridge, where he became very involved in designing costumes for the university ‘Footlights Club.’ He left without a degree and in 1923 opened his own business in Bruton Street Mayfair, with financial help from his family.

He made his name designing for debutantes and society gatherings. Hartnell’s designs were worn by aristocratic ladies and by many theatre and film stars of their day. He was asked to design a full wardrobe for the King and Queen’s state visit to France in 1938. However, following the death of the Queen’s mother, all the clothes utilising colour had to be re-made and in just three weeks, Hartnell’s workrooms created a new wardrobe [some 138 items,] in white, which Hartnell remembered had a precedent in British royal mourning.

During the war, he joined the Home Guard and designed utility clothes, produced by Berketex. Austerity measures were still in place in 1947 when the Queen asked him to design the wedding dress for Princess Elizabeth and coupons were used. After the death of George VI, Hartnell designed the new queen’s magnificent coronation robe which was embellished with depictions of the national emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Knighted by the Queen Mother in 1977, Sir Norman Hartnell died in 1979. He is buried in W.Sussex.

Mrs Boyes showed us many photos, samples of embroidery and ornate cards which were of great interest to all those present. The vote of thanks for a most interesting talk was given by Patricia Grayling, who recalled that her father knew Sir Norman Hartnell as his shoe company had made shoes for the queen.The next meeting will be on July 22nd, when Pam Goodall will talk about “Riding it Out.”

Anyone wishing to attend will be most welcome. Meetings begin at 7.30pm at Little Common Community Centre, Shepherd’s Close, Little Common. Call 01424 843337 for further details.

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