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Royal Fashions

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Shetland has held a close link with Royal fashions since the reign of Queen Victoria. Following her coronation in 1838 Queen Victoria bought 12 pairs of Shetlandic lace stockings after a meeting with the Shetlandic founder of P&O, Arthur Anderson, when he gifted her a pair. This pushed Shetland lace into high fashion for aristocratic customers in the following years. 

Garments made by female crofters from Orkney were “much admired for their beauty and fine texture” at the Great Exhibition, which had been instigated by Prince Albert in 1851. Unusually, these items were woven from bog cotton. 

Another famous Shetland brand is Fair Isle knitting.  These distinctively coloured designs first became commercialised in the 1920s.  The brand received a royal boost when Edward VIII, while still Prince of Wales, was seen sporting it. Famously, Edward VIII went on to be King for less than a year in 1936 when he abdicated to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.

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The Queen of Norway, and the Duchess of Rothesay, were both presented with Shetland lace items when they visited Shetland in 2007 (to open the Museum & Archive), but the traditional designs have also been sent as gifts to other royals for weddings and christenings.

Shetland knitted lace is made using a very fine hand spun thread and fine needles. Wool from the throat of a sheep is usually used as it has the finest fibres. Shetland lace shawls are sometimes called wedding ring shawls as they can be passed through a wedding ring due to their fineness. Today the lace is bought for christenings, weddings and as fashion accessories.


Harris Tweed has had a long association with royalty since the Duchess of Dunmore, owner of Harris and founder of the Harris Tweed industry, introduced it to Buckingham Palace circles when she worked there in the mid-1800s. Many famous royals, from King Edward VIII and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, have been photographed wearing various Harris Tweed designs.

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