The wedding dress may be the most photographed dress a woman wears in her life, but a look at dresses over the decades show that the classically white gown has changed vastly. The role of the British Royal family in these trends cannot be overstated, as many highly attended and closely watched Royal Weddings received high accolades and chiseled their place into the history of fashion. Here’s a closer look at three of the most iconic royal wedding dresses of all time.
Kate Middleton, 2011
While Kate Middleton looked beautiful on her wedding day, part of the excitement surrounding her wedding dress was related to the kept mystery of its designer. On the day of, it was revealed to be created by the creative director of Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton. Its nine-foot train and hand-cut flower designs on the bodice added to the intricate detail that was made to mimic the design of a flower opening. Burton also designed Pippa Middleton’s coordinated dress, which received a lot of attention on that day.
As anticipated, the Party Pieces heiress’s dress influenced fashions around the world, influences that are still very much in fashion. “The Kate Middleton effect” as “ladylike gowns with clean, simple lines.” The iconic characteristics of the dress include long, dramatic trains and veils, lace detailing, plunging V-necks, and long sleeves.
After the wedding, the dress was on display for a little over two months at Buckingham Palace, attracting a record number of visitors. During that time, replicas of the dress popped up all over the world.
Lady Diana Spencer, 1981
After a longstanding trend of more casual dresses with some women even getting married in business suits, Diana brought back the concept of a fairy tale wedding with her dress for her 1981 marriage. In the classic bigness of the ‘80s, the train on Diana’s dress put Kate’s to shame, measuring in at 25 feet. The dress, the design of which was called fashion’s “most closely guarded secret” at the time, featured sensationally poofy sleeves and a (very) full taffeta skirt. The “something old” on the dress was the antique lace detailing; the “something new” was spun silk, and the “something blue” of British tradition was a blue bow around the belt. The dress was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who had previously designed a blouse for Diana that was a favorite of hers.
Where is Diana’s dress today? After a decade of display in the museum at the Spencer family’s Northampton estate, Althorp, and then a long trip on the road in the charge of Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, it is finally coming home to live with Prince William and Prince Harry, as was stipulated in Diana’s will. (source: People magazine)
Queen Victoria, 1840
175 years ago, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha wearing white. That statement shouldn’t seem surprising, but at the time, it was essentially an unheard of choice. Even though Mary, Queen of Scots had also worn white, the style didn’t become a trend until Victoria did it. Prior to 1840, brides often wore colored dresses on their wedding days, with red being a particular favorite but other colors being widely accepted as well. One particularly iconic feature of the dress was the appliqued lace, which she described in her journal as “an imitation of an old design.”
Shortly after her wedding, the infamous Godey’s Lady’s Book described white as “custom… from the earliest ages,” while fashion magazines began saying white was the best choice for brides, citing its purity and elegance as fitting for the day and the change from girlhood to womanhood. (source: Wikipedia)