In Celebration of Her Majesty’s 7th cycle Birthday 2016
July is always a busy month at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Bangkok, as annual preparations take place for Her Majesty’s August birthday. This year was a big one—7 cycles of 12 is very auspicious and the museum pulled out all the stops. Two new exhibits premiered—Fit for a Queen couture clothing by Balmain for Her Majesty’s World Tours, and Dressing Gods and Demons, costumes for the Khon Ramayana dance. The theatrical exhibit highlights modern dance textiles with historic examples, exemplifying the rigorous revival work that the Queen initiated over the past decades. The dresses of Her Majesty are superb—fit for a queen! Designed by the renowned French couturier Pierre Balmain, specifically for the 1960’s and 70’s State Visits and world tours. He worked closely with the Queen, tailoring a look that was both elegant, au courant and majestic. Balmain chose exquisite Thai silks to transform into sophisticated suits, party frocks, cocktail dresses, and ball gowns, lavishly embroidered by the legendary Monsieur Lesage; thus marrying European style with Thai luxury. There are also Balmain’s original sketch books, Louis Vuitton luggage with royal cyphers, and hats and shoes.In the “back of the house,” the conservation department had been preparing for months, but in the final 6 weeks, 12-hour days were the norm to ensure that the exhibits were perfectly prepared and installed.
One of the highlights was the fabrication of “invisible mannequins.”Audiences were captivated and the press was enthralled, as reported in this Bangkok Post review from August 6, 2016, by Parisa Pichitmarn:
Besides the processes of preventing and reversing damage on the clothes, the very ball gowns themselves seem to be floating on air—a first in Thailand. Conservator Julia M Brennan noted, ‘We’re pioneering …a new style of mannequin, …a technique used in the US and Europe. We want to push the boundaries and do that here. It’s a big contribution to the style and to understanding conservation and the mechanisms of displaying.’
In fact, what you don’t see is [this] highlight that elevates “Fit For A Queen” towards world-class standards. How are these magical forms made? Conservation consultant Julia M. Brennan laughed,
“We work with our hands, if we do our job well then you cannot see what we do.”