Close up image showing silk taffeta, mourning crepe and covered buttons
Comprising of a bodice and skirt, the dress is made from black silk taffeta and embellished with layers of black silk mourning crepe. Mourning crepe is a textured open weave silk, specifically worn to indicate to others that the wearer was in a certain stage of mourning. The bodice is lined in fine cream silk, with baleen (whalebone) boning at the waist.
Although most of the seams are machine stitched, the dress has many handstitched elements and shows a high quality of craftsmanship, as you may well expect the Empress of the British Empire at the height of its power to be wearing. These details: the quality and cut of the fabric, the colour, the shape, the size, and texture, all help to build up a picture of the Queen's life at this time.
As a textile conservator, my job is to care for the museum's large collection of fabric objects in order to maximise their longevity and ensure they are available now and in the future for museum visitors. This includes assessing, conserving and mounting objects required for exhibitions. This is always a collaborative process, working alongside other conservators, curators, exhibition designers and technicians.