The design detail and craftsmanship behind some of the most famous wedding dresses in history
For many young girls, brought up with stories of princesses and fairy tales, a dream wedding dress holds a special place in their heart. The perfect dress for the perfect day, and don’t forget something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue – as the adage goes. There are some wedding dresses though that are simply iconic and these are royal wedding dresses. Now, as the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle looms in the horizon and the name of the designer of Meghan’s dress is kept under wraps, the only thing we can guess is that it will be made from silk. For further inspiration, we’ve taken a look on royal wedding dresses through the ages to see how they helped shape history and are still influential for millions of people worldwide.
Queen Victoria is often credited for establishing the tradition of carrying myrtle in the royal wedding bouquet and the fashion of white wedding dress. The lace she chose was hand appliqued to a cream-coloured satin silk dress. The fabric was woven in Spitalfields London, while the lace was hand-made in Honiton, Devon. Overall, it was a celebration and a clear support for the English industry.
Lady Elisabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Mother)
Made from deep ivory chiffon silk, her wedding dress featured a drop waist, silver embroidery and pearls. Her silk dress had a watery appearance, called moire, which was ordered to match the lace provided for the train by Queen Mary. It was heavily inspired by the “flapper” dresses that were very fashionable in the roaring 20s. She also set a tradition, when she laid her wedding bouquet at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, in memory of her brother.
Just after WWII, Queen Elisabeth (then Princess Elisabeth) had her wedding dress made from rationing coupons. It included ivory silk, duchess satin, silver threads and 10,000 pearls. Featuring long sleeves and high neckline, the wedding dress is thought to be inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera, to symbolise the British rebirth after the war.
This is a proof that one person can create more than one masterpiece. Norman Hartnell, who designed Queen Elisabeth’s dress, also designed Princess Margaret’s more than a decade later. It was made from silk organza, however the crystal embellishments and beading were kept to the minimum to suit her petite frame.
Her wedding dress was also made from silk and featured a high collar and medieval sleeves. It was described as a Tudor-style dress, reflecting the court dresses from the reign of Elisabeth I. Her silk dress features elegant embroidery, even in the seven foot long train and pleated chiffon cuffs in each sleeve.
Lady Diana (Princess of Wales)
This is maybe one of the most well-known wedding dresses of all time! Made from ivory silk taffeta, her dress featured oversized puff sleeves, a very full skirt and 25 foot train, plus over 10,000 pearls. Back in 1981 and years after, her wedding dress managed to influence a lot of brides and is indicative of the fashion in early 1980s.
Catherine Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge)
For the best part of 2011 there was one dress that got everyone talking – the one hat Kate Middleton wore when she became the Duchess of Cambridge. Her dress, made of silk, featured full lace sleeves and an ivory satin bodice. Floral motifs were cut from machine-made lace and were then appliqued to the bodice and skirt. The whole wedding dress bears a strong resemblance to Grace Kelly’s wedding dress and is a celebration of all things British, as all the fabrics were made by UK companies.
Grace Kelly (Princess of Monaco)
Despite being non-British, this wedding dress is truly iconic! High-necked, with long lace sleeves and lace bodice, it is the definition of fairy-tale princess wedding dress. Made from silk taffeta, it is a masterpiece of duchesse silk and lace.
No-one knows what wedding dress Meghan Markle will wear in a few weeks’ time. A few of the favourites include Ralph and Russo, Erdem, or even Burberry. There are also the “safe” Brit choices like Emilia Wickstead or Jenny Packham and even international wedding favourites, like Vera Wang or Oscar de la Renta. One thing we know for sure though is that it will complement her style; simple, stylish, feminine and modern.
Silk in all its forms, be it chiffon, organza or duchesse, is the true king of wedding fashion. No matter the embellishments, crystals or beading, no one can go wrong with a silk wedding dress. Its lustrous shine and drape are exceptional and are perfect for any kind of wedding dress. A truly luxurious fabric that can make any girl’s dreams come true!