“My dress became a story I could tell.”
For most people, attending the Nobel Prize banquet or award ceremony is a once in a lifetime experience – and one with a strict dress code.
Female guests – such as May-Britt Moser, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014 – are requested to wear a floor-length evening gown, of any style, or national dress.
“I’m not a party queen, and I’m usually not fond of long dresses,” says Moser on her preparations for the award ceremony and banquet. However help came her way when she received an email from Matthew Hubble, a designer who offered to make her a dress with a very special twist: the design would showcase her research.
Moser was awarded the Nobel Prize for her research on grid cells – specialised neurons that help us determine our position in space. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘GPS’ of our brains. For Hubble, Moser’s research was the perfect stimulus for a dress.
“We take inspiration from science and engineering when designing clothing,” says Hubble, who was an engineer before working in fashion. He took Moser’s research to create a piece that was based on the hexagonal pattern of grid cells, with beaded neurons embroidered across the fabric.
“Instead of wearing a boring dress, I had a beautiful dress that I could talk about, because I could talk about my science,” says Moser on the final creation. “My dress became a story I could tell.”
Male guests have an even stricter dress code. Many Nobel Laureates make a trip to Hans Allde, a Stockholm-based outfitter, for the white tie and tails required for both the award ceremony and banquet.
It’s often the first time they have owned such an outfit: “This is only my second ever white tie plus tails fitting – and possibly the last!” joked Chemistry Laureate Richard Henderson before the 2017 Nobel Prize award ceremony.