European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Fashion & History

Object Voices: ‘Duchess of Savoy’ Fancy Dress

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A festive memory from the Victoria and Albert Museum archive

This silver satin dress with lace ruff was made in England in 1897. It 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. It was given by Lady Victoria Wemyss, Duchess of Portland, to the Victoria and Albert Museum and is a fancy dress

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.