Queen Elizabeth I’s only surviving dress is going on display

(Image credit: Ann Ronan Picture Library / Heritage Images)

Before Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton broke all the style rules, before even the Queen and her brightly coloured co-ords, there was the OG trendsetter, Queen Elizabeth I.

Now while most of her wardrobe hasn't survived the centuries, you will now be able to see the one dress that made it, well part of it at least.

A 16th century piece of her court dress, called the Bacton Altar Cloth, has been lovingly restored for two years, to be put on display at Hampton Court Palace in October, in an exhibition titled The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I.

Historic Royal Palaces curator Eleri Lynn told the Telegraph, 'When I saw it for the first time I knew immediately that it was something special. As I examined it, I felt as though I had found the Holy Grail, the Mona Lisa of fashion. None of Elizabeth I’s dresses are known to have survived, but everything we have learnt since then points to it being worn by Elizabeth.'

(Image credit: © Fine Art Images)

The piece features an ornate floral motif made real gold and silver thread, and was apparently once part of a skirt, which may well be the one she is seen wearing in the Rainbow Portrait, a painting also part of the exhibition.

Further research into the fabric found traces of Mexico-sourced red and indigo dyes, which was only used in clothes worn by nobles in Tudor times.

© Historic Royal Palaces, Courtesy of St Faith’s Church, Bacton

As to why it's called the 'Bacton Altar Cloth', it was because it ended up being used as an altar cloth. In the days before fast fashion, you didn't just get rid of clothes, and it's believed the Virgin Queen gave the skirt to her lady in waiting, Blanche Perry, who was part of the Parish of the Church of St Faith, in Bacton. She must've then donated it to the church after the Queen's passing.

The exhibit is set to open on October 12, 2019 and finish on 23 February, 2020.

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.