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Best-dressed Briton in history: the nominations

Published: September 6, 2010 at 5:54 pm
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We've launched a poll to find out who readers believe should be crowned the best-dressed Briton in history, based on the nominatations made by 10 fashion experts in the October issue of BBC History Magazine.


You can cast your vote at www.historyextra.com/bestdressed but before you do, why not find out more about the nominees..?

Anne Messel, 6th Countess of Rosse (1902–92)

Nominated by Amy de la Haye, professor of dress history and curatorship at London College of Fashion

Amy says: "Society beauty Anne was born in an era when women’s fashions were somewhat rigid, but she defied the prevailing norm, choosing instead to take her inspiration from history, and from the clothing of her ancestors. She preserved and wore the clothing of three generations of women before her, displaying an incredible awareness of history and narrative, but using her own needlework skills to embellish her clothes: virtually unheard of in the 1920s and 1930s..."

Queen Alexandra, queen consort of Edward VII (1844–1925)

Nominated by Kate Strasdin, assistant curator at Totnes Fashion and Textile Museum, Devon

Kate says: "As a prominent royal, Alexandra was acutely aware of her duty to dress appropriately, yet managed to influence British fashion, often without meaning to do so. She rejected Victorian bustles and fishtail trains and adopted a feminised version of the male suit, consisting of a tailored jacket and skirt. Another trend started by Alexandra was the choker necklace, an accessory still popular today..."

David Bowie (1947– )

Nominated by English designer Wayne Hemingway

Wayne says: "I saw David Bowie (1947–) for the first time on the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour when I was nearly 13: I left the gig utterly blown away by his music and style. Bowie changed youth culture, and had a gift for predicting and anticipating fashion trends, always doing his own thing. His clothes, including the huge-legged striped bodysuit designed by Kansai Yamamoto, were works of art that were the result of his vision and creativity, and as memorable as his music..."

Henry III (1207–72)

Nominated by Dr Benjamin Wild, historian of men’s fashion and guest lecturer at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design

Benjamin says: "The fifth-longest reigning monarch in British history, Henry III (1207–72) used art and fashion to enhance his authority, and is the first English king for whom we have detailed household records describing the purchase of clothes and jewellery. He was one of the first kings to really acknowledge the significance of sartorial style in politics and used sumptuous materials in his garments – from the spring fur of the northern squirrel to luxurious gold embroidery..."

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806)

Nominated by Katy Werlin, a fashion and textile historian specialising in the early modern period

Katy says: "Georgiana was the most stylish British woman of the late 18th century and a fashion innovator in her own right, demonstrating her creativity and eye for style with innovative creations such as the ‘picture hat’ – a wide-brimmed, medium-crowned black hat not unlike the cavalier hats of the early 17th century. She was even dubbed the Empress of Fashion by the press for her influence on style and clothing..."

Beau’ Brummell (1778–1840)

Nominated by Rachel Dickens, deputy art editor of BBC History Magazine

Rachel says: "‘Beau’ Brummell revolutionised men’s fashion in Regency England, moving trends away from knee breeches to a more modest trouser, jacket and neckwear combination, which is seen as a forerunner to the modern suit and tie. He is said to have taken six hours a day to get ready, had his boots polished with champagne, and went through dozens of neckcloths before the creases were deemed perfect..."

Charles James Fox, Whig politician (1749–1806)

Nominated by Dr Hannah Greig, author of The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian London (OUP, 2013)

Hannah says: "Charles James Fox might seem like an unlikely fashion hero, but he used clothes successfully and strategically to political ends, clearly understanding the power of clothing as a brand. He used fashion to further his political cause throughout his career, including leaving his wigs unpowdered to protest against William Pitt’s taxation policies (which included a tax on hair powder). Fox understood, crafted and promoted fashion as a political tool..."

Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603)

Nominated by Ulinka Rublack, author of Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe (OUP, 2010)

Ulinka says: "Elizabeth I stands out for the perfection with which she dressed throughout her long reign. Her whole attire was a perfect performance of gravity: even in her 60s, with an ageing face and rotten teeth, Elizabeth managed to mostly defy the misogynist conventions of the time, which dwelt so insistently on women’s physical decline. She was a queen of fine satins, emblematic embroidery, and loved to decorate her gowns with jewels and pearls..."

Ellen Terry, actress (1847–1928)

Nominated by Veronica Isaac, assistant curator in the Department of Theatre and Performance at the V&A, London

Veronica says: "Terry brought the drama of the stage to her everyday apparel, favouring the rich colours, heavy fabrics and loose cuts that characterised the aesthetic movement of the late 19th century. She understood the powerful role that dress can play as a means of communicating the identity of the character she was impersonating on stage, yet recognised and exploited the fact that it was also possible to use dress as a vehicle through which to fashion her identity off stage..."

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)

Nominated by Anna Reynolds, curator of paintings for Royal Collection Trust

Anna says: "We don’t automatically see Pepys as a fashion icon because we don’t have many paintings of him, but to me he exemplifies the Restoration courtier who valued fashion and spent large amounts of money on looking good. Anyone reading his diary comes away with the sense that Pepys was an avid follower of fashion, recording in detail the clothes that both he and his wife wear, as well as fashion dilemmas such as whether to shave his hair in order to wear a periwig..."

Cast your vote at www.historyextra.com/bestdressed. We'll announce the name of the individual who receives the most votes on 15 October

You can read the nominations in full in the October issue of BBC History Magazine - on sale in print, and on iPad, iPhone, Google Play, Kindle and Kindle Fire from 12 September


Now see what you would look like as Napoleon, Queen Victoria and others in our interactive fashion gallery. Simply upload a picture of yourself at www.historyextra.com/fashion and choose your outfit


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