Royalty

Inspired by a princess's uniform

Queen Elizabeth II views her old WRAC uniform at the National Army Museum, 2017

Queen Elizabeth II views her old WRAC uniform at the National Army Museum, 2017

Royal tailoring

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

WRAC uniform

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.

Princess Elizabeth's Women's Royal Army Corps uniform, c1949

Service

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.

Princess Elizabeth (left) at a map reading class, 1945

Princess Elizabeth working on an engine, 1945

New roles

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.

Princess Elizabeth changing the wheel of a vehicle, 1945

Queen Elizabeth II views her old WRAC uniform at the National Army Museum, 2017

Queen Elizabeth II views her old uniform in the Army gallery, 2017

A collection fit for royalty

The limited edition collection is available to purchase in the National Army Museum shop, the Hawes & Curtis store on Jermyn Street in London, and will shortly be available online at www.hawesandcurtis.co.uk and www.nam.ac.uk/shop.

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