It was the winter of 1947. With the Second World War and its dramatic consequences still well present in its day-to-day life, the citizens of the British Isles suffered an icy cold and continued with the rationing of food and other goods. However, there was a date on the calendar that every Briton looked forward to: the Royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of Edinburgh; the first great celebration in the postwar era.
When Jennifer Robson, the author of the novel Dress, I was collecting information to discover the people who were behind the wedding dress that made a dream come true, little did he imagine that he would end up interviewing one of the seamstresses who worked on the princess's dress. It was in Norman Hartnell's workshop: "For the first time, I felt a connection with all those faces and voices of talented hands," said the author.
The testimony of casulity
As a writer and historian, Jennifer Robson, prefers historical authenticity over dramatic tension in her novels. So, I knew that to write a book based on the manufacture – not the design – of the famous wedding dress, I had to start looking for the prints or, rather, the seams of its protagonists.
For months, the writer began to investigate a trail that started from all the information related to what was the business of designer Norman Hartnell. But despite all the contacts and visits to museums, the writer could not find anyone who had worked at Hartnell or any relevant information about it. So, he had to settle for seeing with his own eyes the very dress, exposed for a few days at Buckingham Palace.
Given the little success of his inquiry, Robson was determined to approach, in one way or another, the protagonists and thus understand them better: he decided to go to a London embroidery factory to sew herself and be able to connect with them . It was then that, by pure serendipity, he met the producer of a documentary about the Royal Wedding of 1947. And at that same moment, he first heard his name: Betty Foster.
Betty Foster spent her childhood in the East End (London). After the death of his father, at 14 years old, he began working as an apprentice at Hartnell and earning a salary of seven shillings and six pence a week, which would seem like a fortune for the young woman.
However, he soon worked on making great dresses for famous people. His greatest achievement was undoubtedly his participation in the dress of the future queen. A few weeks after the wedding, Betty's job was to sew no more or less than 22 eyelets on the back of the dress! Any mistake would have resulted in disaster. Imagine the responsibility!
A novel gift
The day Jennifer Robson met Betty came up with a real testimony of a great historical moment. Pulling the thread of Betty's life, the author was able to enter the heart and soul of Hartnell and, in this way, capture in detail that story that she so wanted to find.
Precisely from here it has come out Dress, the novel that reveals the lives of women who created a dream suit: the beautiful clothing of her princess. In this thrilling story, elegant as The crown and captivating as Time between seams, you can also see Betty become a character. A more than deserved tribute, don't you think?