Thursday, 8 September 2011

The dress

So it was exactly 19 weeks ago that Wills married Kate at Westminster Abbey and there I was standing right next to 'the' wedding dress of the decade.

I didn't really know what to expect as we slowly shuffled around Buckingham Palace, side-stepping past exquisite paintings and refraining the need to touch the gold painted furniture, until we made it to the ballroom, to see the dress eerily placed on a tiny mannequin. Effortlessly trailing with respectful lighting, the dress looked magnificent. It was then that I realised that I definitely did not appreciate the full craftsmanship that went into this stunning design.

Sarah Burton, now leading the McQueen brand with pride and tenacity, created this beautiful gown with direct instructions from the Duchess herself, along with an army of helpers to intricately place it all together.

From the official Royal Wedding website itself, it describes the dress materials and main attributes..

'The dress is made from ivory and white satin-gazar (stiffened organza). The shape of the skirt, with arches and pleats, echoes an opening flower, and the ivory satin bodice, which is narrowed at the waist and padded at the hips, draws on the Victorian tradition of corsetry - a hallmark of Alexander McQueen’s designs. The back of the dress is finished with 58 gazar- and organza-covered buttons fastened by Rouleau loops. The underskirt is made of silk tulle trimmed with Cluny lace. The train measures 2.7 metres.'

'The Duchess’s wedding dress reflects the work of skilled craftsmen and women from across the United Kingdom. The lace appliqué for the bodice and skirt was hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework, founded in 1872. The lace was produced using the Carrickmacross lace-making technique, which originated in Ireland in the 1820s. Individual flowers were hand-cut from lace and hand-engineered on to ivory silk-tulle to create a design that incorporates the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock. Each lace motif, some as small as a 5-pence piece, was applied with minute stitches every two to three millimetres.'

''The bride’s veil, made of layers of soft, ivory silk-tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers, was also embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. The veil was held in place by the Cartier ‘Halo’ tiara, which was lent to The Duchess by The Queen. The tiara is formed as a band of 16 graduated scrolls set with 739 brilliants and 149 baton diamonds, each scroll being divided by a graduated brilliant with a large brilliant at the centre. The tiara was made in 1936 and purchased by The Duke of York (later King George VI) for The Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) three weeks before he succeeded his brother as King. The tiara was presented to Princess Elizabeth (now The Queen) by her mother on the occasion of her 18th birthday.'

It was fascinating to learn of the extreme effort that went behind the production, and this is so apparent when looking at it close up. I also couldn't quite comprehend how small this dress was. The waist is astonlingsly small, 22 inches to be precise. To put it in some perspective, I'm 27 inches, and Victoria Beckham's famous size zero is 23 you can imagine how this dress looked quite surreal, almost fit for a porcelain doll, rather than an English woman.

Needless to say, the dress was fantastic as it eerily stands behind clear glass, with dim lighting recognised for the preservation of our most treasured and historical garments of years before, rather than a modern design. But thinking about it, this dress is sadly never going to happily live in Kate's wardrobe like most of our traditions, it will always be remembered and admired behind a window.


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