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Royal weddings are some of the most iconic and memorable celebrations of all time. They are extravagant beyond compare and televised for millions to watch worldwide. Often the wedding dress that Royal women wear for their big day dictates the wedding dress trends for years to come, so there’s certainly an aspect of pressure to make the moment of reveal perfect. This means that the dress designers put extreme attention to detail into all their designs, and even have a few hidden details up their sleeves to make the dress design a custom-creation for a Royal bride. Follow along as we reveal hidden details about Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle’s Royal wedding dresses:
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Before the wedding, there were rumors that either Erdem, Alexander McQueen, or Ralph & Russo would design Meghan’s gown, but it was Claire Waight Keller who received the honor. According to her, Meghan wanted something “elegant and classical and timeless.” The process of making the dress took about five months and the two only met about seven or eight times. Keller was sworn to absolute secrecy. Not even her husband knew that she had designed the dress until the morning of the wedding!
The lace appliques on Kate’s Alexander McQueen design were handmade by the Royal School of Needlework and they used a design called Carrickmacross that began in Ireland in the 1920s. The employees who worked on the lace were mandated to wash their hands every 30 minutes to ensure the lace was pure white when Kate walked down the aisle. The flowers of the lace were also specifically chosen and were actual flowers including roses, thistle, daffodils, and shamrocks.
Although Princess Diana was a very progressive royal and became known for her forward-thinking nature, she still stuck to a few classic traditions on the day of her wedding! The bride followed the something old, new, borrowed, blue tradition on the big day. The fabric was spun specifically for the dress at a British silk farm, the lace was an antique and the gown featured a small blue bow sewn into the waistband. For the borrowed portion of the tradition, Diana borrowed a Spencer family heirloom — an 18th-century tiara!
Meghan’s dress was designed with the “heritage” of the Givenchy house in mind, which is why there were six “meticulously placed seams.” “The focus of the dress is the graphic open bateau neckline that gracefully frames the shoulders and emphasizes the slender sculpted waist,” Kensington Palace revealed. “The lines of the dress extend towards the back where the train flows in soft round folds cushioned by an underskirt in triple silk organza. The slim three-quarter sleeves add a note of refined modernity.”
Sarah Burton, the creative director who took over Alexander McQueen, was the leading force behind the Kate Middleton dress design and was required to sign a confidentiality agreement from Buckingham Palace. She was sworn to secrecy and denied any allegations that she was the designer right up until the moment Kate stepped out of her hotel on the way to Westminster Abbey. The secret project was so closely guarded that even Burton’s parents were unaware of her involvement in the creation. “Because my core team knew, it was okay for me to disappear and come back, then disappear again,” she explained in an interview with Vogue. “But I remember other people asking me, ‘Are you coming in on Friday?’ and I’d say, ‘Oh, yeah, see you in the morning.’ I’d be scheduling meetings knowing full well I wasn’t going to be there for them.”
To ensure good luck and a prosperous marriage, the Emanuel designers behind Diana’s dress decided to sew a tiny horseshoe into the label of the dress. The token was an 18-carat Welsh gold charm that was studded with white diamonds and created by jeweler Douglas Buchanan. “It was just there as a little token, a second good luck charm, from us to Diana,” the Emanuels explained of their gesture.
Meghan’s dress was made with double bonded silk cady fabric to bring a “fresh modernity to the dress.” “Perfect for the round sculptural look required, the silk cady has a soft matt lustre whilst the bonding process and pure white colour chosen by Ms. Markle and Ms. Waight Keller bring a fresh modernity to the dress,” Kensington Palace said in the wedding dress release.
Burton took the all the stops while designing Kate’s dress and was aware that her wedding creation would dictate the bridal trends going forward for years to come. Despite the underskirt being covered for the majority of the time that Kate would spend in the dress, Burton still paid attention to detail when designing it. The bottom of the dress was designed to resemble the opening of a flower. When Pippa Middleton lifted her sister’s train, wedding goers were able to see a glimpse of the lace-trimmed silk tulle the gave the gown the Cinderella-shape near the bottom. Burton definitely did not skimp on the detail in any aspect of the intricate design!
Designer David Emanuel stated that there was no question that Diana’s veil should be dramatic and extend past the hem of the dress. The extravagant veil was anchored by her tiara and used 153 yards of tulle total. The veil accompanied a dramatic train that reached an impressive 25 feet! “We wanted her to look like no princess had ever looked before,” Elizabeth Emanuel explained. “So we set out to discover the length of the longest royal wedding dress train there’d been, and discovered it was 23ft. We joked that we could go one better — in fact, two feet better — and make one that was 25ft. She loved the idea.”
Although Kensington Palace did not reveal how much Markle’s dress cost, Time reported that the dress could have cost anywhere between $250,000 and $400,000, which is still less than what Kate Middleton’s dress cost. It looks like Markle didn’t want to upstage her sister-in-law, which is why she went for something less expensive and more understated.
It would be impossible to have a royal wedding without a legendary family heirloom making an appearance! Kate followed the “something borrowed” tradition and wore a Cartier halo tiara that the Queen provided for her to wear on her wedding day. The Queen was given the tiara on her 18th birthday, but it was originally purchased by her father King George VI as a gift for his wife. The dainty headpiece consists of 19 diamond arches with pearls dangling beneath them as well as lovers’ knot bows throughout. Middleton also ensured her veil was simple, romantic and with minimal embellishment to allow her vintage Cartier tiara to steal the show.
Surprisingly Queen Elizabeth didn’t try on her finished wedding dress until the morning of her wedding, according to The Telegraph! It was a wedding tradition that trying on the dress before the wedding was bad luck and Elizabeth chose to respect the tradition. Allegedly Princess Elizabeth was highly nervous in the morning prior to the wedding that the dress wouldn’t fit. Miss Yvonne, vendeuse to the Queen and the two Princesses, was sent to the Palace in the morning to help fit the gown and confirm the final touches.
Princess Diana accidentally spilled her Quelques Fleurs perfume down the front of the dress while getting ready, according to her makeup artist Barbara Daly. Fortunately, she was able to simply tuck the stained area and hope that the damaged area would go unnoticed. Clearly guests were too busy swooning and being awestruck over the gown to realize the stain, but Diana can be pictured in a few photos hiding the stain with her handing and covering it with her bouquet of flowers.
Ahead of the couple’s wedding, Harry handpicked several flowers from the couple’s private garden at their home at Kensington Palace and gave them to the florist to be added to Meghan’s bouquet. Some of the flowers included in her bouquet were sweet pea forget-me-nots, lily of the valley, astilbe, jasmine, astrantia and the royal tradition of myrtle flowers. Forget-Me-Nots were one of Princess Diana’s favorites and incorporating them into the couple’s big day was their way of paying tribute to her.
Kate Middleton’s timeless dress definitely generated comparisons to previous royals and public figures who donned similar styles in decades past. The lace collar and long sleeves was not an original concept, but the V-neck design and dainty configuration definitely made it unique. Fashion critics compared the dress to that of the dominant bridal trends of the ’50s as well as Grace Kelly’s iconic wedding gown and the Queen’s own style. An official statement was released following the dresses reveal which stated that Kate wished to “combine tradition and modernity with the artistic vision that characterizes Alexander McQueen’s work.”
Despite the best of intentions and careful selection involved in choosing the silk for Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress, it was later confirmed to be a poor selection. Thirty years following the wedding, the curator at the London Museum observed when the dress was on display that the fabric had deteriorated and didn’t age well. Additionally, it was noted that “weight of the embroidery dragged the skirt down, increasing the strain on the weave.”
Designer David Emanuel has previously admitted that Diana kept insisting for a longer train. The team of designers worked hard to ensure the excess fabric would fold for when she needed to be chauffeured around throughout the day, but unfortunately the gown was so long that the taffeta barely fit and got crushed in the coach she took to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Elizabeth Emanuel also shared that the crowded ride created visible wrinkles on the dress upon her arrival.
Markle’s veil was designed to represent a connection to the commonwealth. It was made from five-meter long silk tulle and featured a trim of hand-embroidered flowers from each of the 53 countries in the commonwealth. According to the designer Clare Waight Keller, she and the bride wanted to tell a story with her veil. “We had different conversations back and forth and I came up with the idea of maybe representing each of the countries, the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, through their flora and fauna,” she told People. “We both loved the story of that. It also meant that single one of those countries also journeyed up the aisle with her. It was a really poetic moment.” As well as honoring the Commonwealth, the embroidery included three other symbols as well: a California poppy that pays homage to her birthplace. Wintersweet, a type of shrub that grows in front of the couple’s cottage at Kensington Palace, and finally, the design incorporated crops of wheat interspersed among the flowers to symbolize love and charity.
Following the big reveal on the day of Kate and William’s royal wedding, the dress was transferred and put on display at Buckingham Palace. Although many replicas of the dress were created, the original worn by Middleton herself was definitely worthy of a spectacle. The dress was on display from July 23, 2011, to October 3, 2011, during the annual summer exhibition. According to reports, by the end of the summer, the Sarah Burton /McQueen creation helped to raise 8 million pounds, most of which was donated to Kate Middleton’s own charity fund.
Florist Martin Longman was in charge of the bouquets for Queen Elizabeth’s royal wedding and he allegedly submitted five designs, but his arrangement of three all-white orchids was the chosen style for the big day. To add a touch of sentimental value, the orchid design also included myrtle which was grown from the same myrtle in Princess Victoria’s wedding bouquet. The floral design was undeniably stunning, but when the Royals went to go take the official portrait following the ceremony, the bouquet seemed to have vanished. A week later, Longman was later asked to make an identical bouquet so the bride and groom could be rephotographed.
Ever since news broke that the Emanuel duo were going to be designing Diana’s dress, their studio was flooded by the media who desperately wanted a peak. Elizabeth and David installed heavy-duty blinds on their windows and maneuvered a safe in through the first-floor window to ensure they could lock up sketches and fabric swatches while they were not around to protect them. “It sounds a bit over-the-top, but it really did seem like people would go to any lengths to find out what the dress looked like,” Elizabeth explained.
When the dressmakers were making Meghan’s veil, they had to wash their hands every 30 minutes to ensure that the material stayed a shining white. “The workers spent hundreds of hours meticulously sewing and washing their hands every 30 minutes to keep the tulle and threads pristine,” Kensington Palace said in a statement after the dress was revealed. According to designer Clare Waight Keller, hand-washing was a necessity because of the oils that build up on your hands. “Over a period of time, you build up oils on your hand and when you work on something of such purity — absolute pure white — you need to keep it immaculately clean,” she explained.
Although Kate’s dress was highly conventional in many aspects, the design also broke tradition by featuring more than one color. Typically, brides stick to either white or ivory but this fashionista opted for both when designing the gown alongside Burton! The dress was made of satin gazar, which is a smooth and stiff fabric, in both layers of ivory and white! Despite her progressive color preferences, she did stick to one good luck charm when it came to color and allowed Burton to sew a blue ribbon on the inside of the gown as her “something blue.”
In 2005, an auction blew up the media when it claimed it was offering a spare version of Princess Diana’s original 1981 gown. While Elizabeth Emanuel spoke up and insisted she never had a copy of the dress, she did reveal that they had created a different dress in case their dress design was leaked to the media. The backup gown included a more exaggerated V and skipped the lace detailing. Apparently, Elizabeth claimed the unfinished gown unexpectedly vanished from their studio and is thought to be the dress that surfaced and was put up for auction in 2005.
While it was speculated that the Suits star would skip the royal tradition of wearing a tiara, Meghan ended up following protocol and was lent one of the Queen’s tiaras from her jewelry vault. On her big day, she wore the Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau. It was made in 1932 and features diamonds set in platinum and a center detachable brooch made of ten diamonds that date all the way back to 1893. The County of Lincoln gave the diamond bandeau as a present to the then Princess Mary when she married Prince George, Duke of York, who would later become King George V., in 1893. It was passed on to Elizabeth by Queen Mary in 1953, but her sister, Margaret, has been seen wearing this particular tiara to events in the past.
Alexander McQueen is known for his dramatic Victorian-inspired designs and for his tendency to use waist-cinching corset styles to make the waist appear as small as possible. If you thought that Middleton looked a little curvier than usual as she walked down the aisle, your instinct was correct! The silhouette of the gown featured padding at the hips as a tribute to McQueen’s traditional Victorian corsetry and to make her waist appear even tinier. The back of the dress also featured 58 gazar and organza covered buttons that ran up her back which created even more of a figure-slimming and flattering shape.
Netflix original The Crown designed an exact replica of the iconic gown for Claire Foy to wear as she took on the role of Elizabeth! The gown appears in the premiere episode and roughly cost $37,000 to replicate. Actress Claire Foy dished the details of what it was like to wear a gown of this stature. “It took five days to shoot that scene, and the dress, an exact replica, weighed a ton. All the fiddling to get it right, and needing the loo and you’ve got a crown on your head. For this young woman to be wearing all that and then have the composure to walk through the Abbey full of dignitaries and heads of state, and then having to be anointed… It must have taken huge gumption.”
Although Diana’s gown was so extravagant that her shoes were barely visible, the silk slippers that Diana opted for took a surprising six months to handcraft! The shoes featured 542 sequins and 132 pearls that formed a heart-shaped design. The soles were hand painted and featured a custom C and D design on the arch. The slippers were also very low in height since Princess Diana and Prince Charles checked in at a similar height.
Meghan’s second dress that she wrote to the more intimate reception at Frogmore House was designed by British designer Stella McCartney. Like her first dress, it didn’t have any lace or embellishments, but it was more revealing and form-fitting than the Givenchy dress, featuring a high halter neckline and an open back. It was very reminiscent of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s dress from her wedding to JFK Jr., which wasn’t surprising given that Meghan has said in the past that the late star’s bridal look was her “everything goals.”
Kate also paid tribute to her own family legacy upon the day of her wedding! Prior to the ceremony, her parents gifted her custom Robinson Pelham dangling earrings that echoed Middleton’s family crest by featuring the acorn and leaf motifs. Kate’s mother Carole and father Michael gave their daughter the diamond set of earrings as a wedding gift. The style stayed consistent in matching with her heirloom tiara and also followed an all-British tradition by being made by a UK craftsmen.
The Queen was completely unaware of this detail, but Hartnell later enclosed that he added an extra lucky shamrock onto the skirt! The good luck four-leaf clover was sewn onto the left side of the skirt, “so that Her Majesty’s hand could rest upon it during the ceremony,” Hartnell shared of the sentimental detail.
After Diana donned the legendary wedding dress in 1981, the dress went on to make many public appearances over the years and all over the world. Her brother, Charles Spencer, was in charge of watching over the dress at the family’s Althorp estate in Northampton where it went on display twice a year. Diana instructed that the dress would be entrusted by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry to look after once Harry turned 30. In 2014, Charles gave the dress over to his nephews in accordance with Diana’s wishes.
To the intimate reception at Frogmore House, Markle wore a pair of satin Aquazzura pumps, which had blue soles, with her slinky Stella McCartney dress. The Designer, Edgardo Osorio revealed that he made the soles blue so that she could have her “something blue.” “The shoes are expertly handcrafted in Florence [Italy] from silky satin with a contrasting see-through net backed with nude mesh showcasing a modern, timeless and feminine feel. The soles were painted in baby blue to ensure Meghan carries with her, her ‘something blue,’” he said.
Princess Diana made jaws drop all around the world when she walked down the aisle in 1981 wearing a 25-foot long wedding dress train that cascaded for miles behind her. For years following this royal wedding, inspired brides took on the trend and opted for a long train of their own on their Cinderella day which is why many assumed Kate Middleton would follow suit and opt for a long train! She did have a train, but it was only 9 feet long rather than the whopping 25 feet that Diana’s was. The train was undeniably elegant as it glided behind her down the aisle, but it didn’t break any records.
Even the royals fall victim to a mishap or two on their wedding day! The morning of the wedding, Queen Mary’s fringe tiara actually snapped just before Elizabeth left for Westminster Abbey. Luckily, a jeweler fixed it as quickly as he could; however, in certain photos a noticeable gap is evident near the center of the tiara.
Not only did Princess Diana’s dress and shoes require intricate custom design, but so did the potential umbrella she would need in case of rain! Elizabeth Emanuel purchased two antique silk parasols and covered them with white and ivory fabric to make sure no one knew which one matched her dress. The umbrella was hand-embroidered with pearls and sequins and was trimmed with the same lace used on the dress. Luckily the day ended up being quite dry and the umbrella wasn’t necessary.
Prince Harry and Meghan made sure to honor Princess Diana on their wedding day by having Meghan wear her emerald cut aquamarine ring to the intimate gathering at Frogmore House. Diana famously wore the ring and its matching bracelet to a gala dinner in Australia in 1996.
Although months of time and effort were put into the ceremony dress that Middleton donned, the 9-foot long design, unfortunately, wasn’t the most practical option to bring her through to the reception. Instead, Middleton opted for another McQueen design that featured a smooth satin material, sequined belted waist, and a flattering sweetheart neckline. She added a touch of visual interest by pairing the dress with a fuzzy quarter length shrug to cover her shoulders. She also changed up her hairstyle and opted for voluminous curls instead of her half-up style from earlier in the day.
Many designers search for inspiration before designing a gown, and even more so for a gown as important as Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress! When crafting the masterpiece, designer Hartwell supposedly took inspiration from Botticelli’s Renaissance masterpiece Primavera. The gown signified a new world following the war and Hartwell wanted the gown to symbolize motifs of rebirth, renewal, and growth. He crafted patterns using gold and silver thread of wheat, roses, and star-shaped flowers to mimic the designs in the painting.
The antique lace on her dress was the “something old” feature of the gown. It came from a bag of cast-off scraps that were purchased at an auction by the Emanuels. This was a regular practice for designers that were in search of vintage materials to add a touch of timelessness to their creations. Once the purchased lace was clean and pressed, a fabric expert realized the Carrikmacross lace came from the bodice of a gown that dated back to Queen Mary’s day.
Markle wore white gold and diamond studs in her ears and a 10.11 carat bracelet constructed with more than 150 individual diamonds, which was valued at $155,000, to the wedding. To the reception at Frogmore House, she wore a pair of 18-karat white gold Cartier chandelier earrings, which cost a reported $68,000.
Even the Royals weren’t spared when it came to finances during the depression following World War II! At the time of Quee Elizabeth’s wedding wartime rationing was still in place for everyone, the royal family included! Allegedly Queen Elizabeth saved up her coupons in order to afford the dress of her dreams. Luckily, the government made an exception for the wedding and granted Elizabeth with 200 extra clothing coupons in addition to the ones she saved to purchase the material she needed for the gown.
Although no one can know for certain aside from the Duchess herself how much the astonishing dress cost, word leaked that Kate Middleton’s dress cost a whopping $434,000 to create! The royal wedding between Kate and William was definitely one of the most expensive of all time, reportedly costing $34 million, but the dress itself definitely played a role in the high cost. Although this seems like quite the hefty price tag for a wedding, in comparison, Lady Diana and Charles wedding cost close to $70 million in today’s dollars.
As many brides tend to do, Princess Diana worked to lose weight leading up to her wedding which meant that multiple fittings were required to ensure a perfect fit. In the seven months leading up to the wedding, Princess Diana’s waistline shrunk over five inches. The designers were forced to make five different bodices to fit and ultimately had to make last minute changes and stitch her into the final version the day of the wedding.
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