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‘Duchess of Savoy’ Fancy Dress

For the last blogpost of the year, we decided to treat ourselves with the interesting story of an amazing ballgown picked from the Europeana Fashion archive.

'Duchess of Savoy' fancy dress, 1897, Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum CC BY

the fancy dress costume consists of an embroidered silver satin dress and lace ruff, and was made in England in 1897. The costume is embellished with pearls and silver strips; it has a low round neckline, large slashed and puffed sleeves with tight lower sleeve covered in pearls, jewelled girdle. The dress was given by Lady Victoria Wemyss, Duchess of Portland, to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Duchess of Portland dressed as the Duchess of Savoy, 1897, at the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Ball, © National Portrait Gallery, London, All Rights Reserved

Lady Victoria Wemyss was an intimate of the royal circle: her father, the sixth Duke of Portland, was Master of the Horse to Queen Victoria and her mother, the Duchess, later Mistress of the Robes to Queen Alexandra. Lady Victoria, probably the last surviving godchild of Queen Victoria, was for 57 years an Extra Woman of the Bedchamber to her cousin Queen Elizabeth.

Lady Victoria Wemyss was the subject of a photograph that is probably the earliest surviving commercial work by the photographer Alice Hughes. In the photograph, now part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, she is wearing the dress she donated to the Victoria and Albert museum. The dress – which ‘transformed’ Lady Victoria in the Duchess of Savoy – was worn in occasion of what has been called the ‘social event of the year’ 1897, the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Costume Ball.

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