Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
Queen Victoria's wearing black mourning clothes for 40 of the 63 years of her reign prompted much discussion between fashion-setting Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra about what should the new queen wear for her coronation, the first state occasion in which they, as king and queen, could define taste and fashion for what was to become the Edwardian era. With such a long interval of time since the last coronation there were no strong expressions of traditional attire for such a ritual occasion which prompted the new king and queen to think expansively about the roles and functions the coronation attire would project to the world. In 1901 Lady Curzon, wife of the Viceroy of India, returned to England from India and at a social event met the new queen. Lady Curzon wore a dress made from Indian cloth that so impressed Alexandra that she requested Lady Curzon upon her return to India to make her coronation gown as well as three additional dresses. The gown, embroidered with gold, magnificently portrayed the pomp and grandeur of a coronation as well as vividly demonstrated the extraordinary textiles India produced. Queen Alexandra's use of Indian fabric in her gown however markedly contrasted with the attire worn by British women in India who steadfastly used British cloth for their gowns and dresses. This paper analyzes Queen Alexandra's coronation gown, British power, imperialism, and the textile traditions of India from which its fabric came.