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Kensington Palace, London

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ABOVE: Ladies, gentlemen, and officers at court. INSET BELOW: 19th Century court dress.

Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection

After you've shown your tickets to the guard and picked up your audioguide, you'll enter the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection.

In these rooms, you'll see display cases with mannequins outfitted in ceremonial dress from the 18th Century until modern times. Most costumes are displayed in a real-life context: e.g., in the workrooms of a seamstress and tailor, in a ladies' dressing room, and at social events from different eras.

photoThe displays of court dress are especially interesting, if only because of the rigid codes that governed clothing worn by the ladies, debutantes, and gentlemen who attended social functions in the palace. (The tradition of wearing special court clothing persisted until World War II, when ostrich-feather headresses and trains finally disappeared from aristocratic wardrobes.)

You can also see a large selection of dresses owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Changing temporary exhibits, such as a recent display of the Queen's hats mounted on rotating spindles, provide a bonus for repeat visitors. 

Warning: The display rooms can be crowded on weekends or during summer, so find a corner or a place along the wall to stand while listening to the audioguide. The narration is well worth hearing.

Next page: State Apartments

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