Hawes & Curtis was the shirtmaker chosen to make the khaki shirt and tie for Princess Elizabeth’s Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) uniform in 1949. Specialising in luxury shirts and fine tailoring since 1913, the company was a favourite for royalty and the brand was awarded four Royal Warrants, including ones from the Duke of Windsor and King George VI.
The princess's uniform can be viewed in the National Army Museum's Army gallery.
'Part of our role as a museum is to preserve our amazing collections for the public and future generations, but it is also about keeping those items relevant and sharing their history in new and different ways. Our partnership with Hawes & Curtis has given us the opportunity to look at the production of uniform, specifically the Queen’s, which they tailored items for, and uncover the heritage behind it. It’s very exciting to be working with the same tailor to produce new items influenced by the Queen’s uniform, and it also demonstrates the timeless inspiration that comes from Army fashion.'
Museum curator Sophie Anderton, 2018
When the WRAC was founded in 1949 as a successor to the wartime Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) became an Honorary Senior Controller and later Honorary Brigadier.
Her uniform has the following medals ribbons above the left breast pocket: Royal Order of Victoria and Albert; British War Medal 1939-45; King George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935; and King George VI Coronation Medal 1937.
During the Second World War (1939-45) Princess Elizabeth joined the ATS in February 1945 as Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor.
By the end of the war she had reached the rank of junior commander, having completed her course at No 1 Mechanical Training Centre of the ATS at Aldershot, and passed out as a fully qualified driver.
The princess and thousands of other women in the ATS took on increasingly diverse roles during the war. As well as drivers and mechanics, ATS women were telephonists, despatch riders, mess orderlies, postal workers, ammunition inspectors, searchlight operators, range finders and military police. But they were still prevented from fighting.
Their groundbreaking work was taken up in the post-war era by a new force, the WRAC. Princess Elizabeth continued to play a role in this new organisation, holding honorary ranks until 1953 when she resigned these appointments on becoming Queen.