Welcome to Royal Wedding Wednesday A History of Wedding Dresses. One of the most closely guarded secrets of the upcoming Royal Wedding is the dress that Meghan Markle will wear. Even who she has selected as her dress designer has remained a closely guarded secret. This is quite smart due to ever resourceful media sleuths. Because the dress should be a surprise to her groom (and the world) until the moment of the first glimpse of the bride. There are so few surprises left in this world and I for one am enjoying the suspense.
One design firm thought to be in the running is Ralph & Russo ran by Australian couple Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo. They are the same designers who created her sheer engagement dress that I shared HERE.
Royal Wedding Wednesday A History of Wedding Dresses
I imagine that Meghan will let Diana continue to hold the record for the longest train worn by a Royal bride.
It measured an amazing 25 feet in length.
Ah, Lady Diana’s dress. It was truly a dress fit for a princess. Diana selected her dress designers, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, based on a pale pink silk blouse she borrowed for her engagement portrait. It was taken by Lord Snowdon and appeared in Vogue.
She gave the Emanuel’s a trial run by wearing an evening gown of their design to her first official appearance after her engagement to Prince Charles. Her famous black taffeta dress had the press stating that she was “Shy Di no more.”
The dress was considered scandalous on several levels. There was the obvious reason that traditionally Royals only would wear black dresses to funerals. Not to mention the glimpse of Royal decolletage that was shown. The dress was sold on June 8, 2010, to a museum in Chile for £192,000 (approximately $276,900).
Lady Diana’s Wedding Gown
The ivory wedding dress took four months to create and was made of pure silk taffeta. The fitted bodice was boned and featured a wide ruffle around the curved neckline. Exquisitely embroidered lace panels were placed on the front bodice and back of the dress.
The voluminous sleeves were gathered at the elbow and held in place by a bow with a lovely flounce of lace underneath.
The plain, full skirt was worn over several layers of a crinoline petticoat made of ivory tulle, It was trimmed at the waist and hem with embroidered lace.
Lady Diana wore a cathedral length veil with a full blusher over her face. Made of silk, the veil required over 100 yards of netting and measured eight meters (26.25 feet).
Lady Diana wore the Spencer tiara as her something borrowed. Her gorgeous diamond earrings were also borrowed from her mother.
Something old was a piece of lace from Queen Mary. The designer’s hand sewed a tiny blue bow into the back of the dress. For additional luck, the designers added a small golden horse-shoe made of 18-carat Welsh gold. It was studded with diamonds, and sewn onto the back of the label on the dress.
Lady Diana’s Wedding Slippers
Diana’s wedding slippers were created by Clive Shilton. They were made of silk Duchesse satin and trimmed with the same lace found on her dress. The shoes had 542 mother-of-pearl sequins on each shoe that were knotted by hand. The fluted heel was made of leather and wood and had the letters of “C” and “D” entwined with a heart. They featured a hand painted sole.
Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip on November 20, 1947, in Westminster Abbey. It was the first bright spot for a nation that had been ravaged by World War II. Like so many other wartime brides Queen Elizabeth saved up ration coupons to acquire the fabric needed for her ivory Duchesse satin gown.
The dress, designed by Norman Hartnell, featured exquisite embroidery. It included flowers representing the four lands of the United Kingdom as well as the countries of the British Commonwealth. They were shamrocks for Ireland, thistles for Scotland, maple leaves for Canada and English Tudor roses.
The train of the bridal gown was 15 feet long.
Because of the shortage of supplies brought on by the war, the 10,000 miniature pearls used to decorate the bodice and train were imported from the United States.
The silk fabric used for the dress was from the Scottish firm of Winterthur near Dunfermline. Problems arose when competitors began a rumor that the Scottish satin was made from ‘enemy silkworms’, either from Italy or possibly Japan. A telephone call to Dunfermline settled the scandal. Mr. Hartnell was assured that the silkworms were from Nationalist China. Sadly, the quality of the silk and the heaviness of the skirt have caused the dress to suffer damage over the years.
The Queen’s Veil and Necklace
The Queen’s silk tulle veil was held in place by the Fringe Tiara that was made for Queen Mary in 1919.
The Queen wore two separate necklaces. One containing forty-six Queen Anne pearls and the other fifty Queen Caroline pearls. They were given to Princess Elizabeth by her parents, the King and Queen, as a wedding present.
The Duchess of Teck earrings which Princess Elizabeth wore at her wedding originally belonged to Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776-1857). They were then bequeathed to her niece Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck. She then bestowed them to her daughter, the future Queen Mary, in 1897. The earrings were given by Queen Mary to her granddaughter Princess Elizabeth on January 31, 1947.
Princess Elizabeth’s high heel shoes were made of ivory Duchesse satin and embellished with silver and pearl buckles.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
The beloved Queen mum, also known as Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, married the Duke of York, Prince Albert on April 26, 1923. The couple, who would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, said their vows in Westminster Abbey. In a break with tradition, it was the first Royal wedding to be a public affair.
Lady Elizabeth’s dress was very much of the flapper fashion. It was created by dressmaker Madame Handley Seymour. At the time of the wedding, it was not expected that the Duke would take the throne. His brother, Prince David, was to be King. Until David abdicated the throne for Wallis Simpson, making the new Duchess of York a queen.
Perhaps because the Duke was second in line to the throne this was the reason that Lady Elizabeth’s gown was not as elaborate as some of the Royal brides before her.
The gown was made of an ivory chiffon moiré. The loose bodice was enhanced with pearls and silver embroidery. It featured a dropped waist, a traditional full-length skirt which also had pearl and embroidery accents, and a court train.
Her lace veil was lent to her by the groom’s mother, Queen Mary. It was held in place by a wreath of myrtle, white roses and white heather on either side. Sadly, the veil has been lost.
Princess Victoria May of Teck
Princess Victoria May (Later Queen Mary) of Teck wed Prince George, Duke of York, on July 6, 1893, in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace. She had previously been engaged to Prince Albert Victor, George’s elder brother. He sadly died in the great influenza epidemic of 1891-92.
The wedding gown was made of white silk satin brocade. It featured a silver threaded design intertwining roses, shamrocks, thistles, lilies of the valley, and orange blossoms. Three tiers of Honiton lace, which had originally been worn by her mother, were arranged at the front of the skirt.
The back of the dress laced up like a corset and the train of the dress was long and unembellished.
She wore her mother’s Honiton lace veil which was held in place by several diamond pins and accented with orange blossoms.
Princess Alexandra of Denmark
Princess Alexandra of Denmark, married Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Edward (later King Edward VII) on March 10, 1863, in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
The gown originally featured several tiers of Honiton lace. It was decorated with swags of artificial orange blossoms and foliage to match the floral wreath upon her head.
Her silver moiré train was so long it had to be carried by eight bridesmaids. Princess Alexandra was quite frugal and recycled the lace on her wedding dress several times which is why it is not shown on the skirt now.
The traditional “white wedding” came into vogue entirely because of one bride: Queen Victoria of England. At the time that she married Prince Albert on February 10, 1840, at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, it was common for brides to wear colorful dresses. The idea of creating a white gown worn for just one day was thought to be very extravagant.
The gown was made of a creamy white Spitalfields silk. The bodice was made up of eight pieces, consisting of a low, wide neckline. The bodice seams were boned. The pointed waist rests on the natural waistline and featured full double puffed sleeves. There was a separate skirt captured in wide pleats.
The dress was trimmed in Honiton lace created in the village of Beer. The cotton net lace which formed the flounce of the dress measured four yards and was three-quarters of a yard in depth. It took more than two hundred persons employed from March until November to create the lace.
The lace pattern was truly lovely and is said to have surpassed anything that had ever been executed either in England or Brussels. The manufacturer, upon completion of the lace, destroyed all the pattern designs so that the Queen would have a unique dress.
The only spots of color on Victoria’s wedding ensemble included a beautiful sapphire brooch Prince Albert had given her as a wedding present. As well as an armlet having the motto of the Order of the Garter: “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” and the star of the Order. As seen in the movie “The Young Victoria”.
Her headpiece consisted of the same lace as her dress. It took six weeks to create and measured a yard and a half square. It was topped by a crown of orange blossoms.
Given the cost of the handmade lace and that Queen Victoria was quite sentimental, she removed most of the lace from her wedding dress. She wore it on state occasions and at the weddings of all but one of her children, Princess Beatrice, who wore the lace herself.
The Queen also wore her wedding lace in several official portraits.
Next Week will be Part II of A History of Royal Wedding Dresses.
Did you wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue?