Royal Wedding ~ Wedding Dresses

May 4, 2018

By Tab Byrum

The maker of Meghan Markle’s wedding dress is a well-kept secret, it has been for royal brides since the press were all trying to get photos and information about Lady Diana Spencer’s dress before her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981. Royal weddings dresses are always a keen source of inspiration for designers and brides alike, designers want to create something just as beautiful as what the most recent royal bride has worn and brides want to look just like her. The most recent royal wedding was between William and Kate in 2011 and the designer chose for Kate’s dress was Sarah Burton, creative director for the fashion house, Alexander McQueen. Today we are going to look at several different royal wedding dresses through history, worn by both princesses and commoners who married into the royal family. We are going to go all the way back to 1840 when Victoria married Prince Albert, so join me for a look at royal wedding fashion and Enjoy!!! (above image via) In the post, I’ve referred to the all the ladies by their titles at the time of their marriages. 

Queen Victoria 1840


At the top of the post, you can see a painting portraying the wedding between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 and get a good look of Her Majesty’s whole look. Victoria is credited with starting the trend of brides wearing white, she is said to have chosen white to highlight the lace used on the dress which did help in making British made lace a fashionable item and much sought after. The above picture is of the actual wedding dress that’s on display in Kensington Palace and it’s amazing how tiny Queen Victoria was. Legend says the Queen had the pattern for the dress destroyed so no one could ever recreate it. (via)

Queen Alexandra 1863


This is a photo of the then Princess Alexandra, the Danish princess, who wed the future King Edward VII in 1863 and would become Queen Alexandra in 1901. The princess’s dress was made of white silk satin and was trimmed with orange blossoms, myrtle, tuille, and Honiton lace. This is the first royal wedding dress to be photographed while being worn by the bride, you can still see the trend of large hoop skirts from the 1860’s that Americans are familiar with from movies like Gone With The Wind and Jezebel. (via)

Queen Mary 1893


In 1893 Princess May of Teck married the Duke of York who would become King George VI in 1910, interestingly she had been engaged to George’s brother, Albert Victor, but he died in 1891 during a flu epidemic. The dress was made of white satin and featured three lace flounces that had also been used on her mother’s wedding dress, she also wore her mother’s veil which was fastened to her dress using diamond pins given to her by Queen Victoria, her new husband’s grandmother. Queen Mary is the current Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother. (via)

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon 1923

If there was ever a royal bride who wore a gown that reflected her time it was Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, the future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Her gown was made of silk crepe moire and had a drop waist. The future Queen didn’t top her look with a tiara or flowers but instead wore a lace Juliet cap. Her dress and veil were embroidered with pearls and silver thread. (via)

Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark 1934


She was the daughter of an exiled Greek prince and her mother was a former Russian Grand Duchess and the wedding of Princess Marina to England’s Prince George, Duke of Kent was the event of the season. The design of Princess Marina’s dress was very chic with the dress itself a slender sheath with a cowl neckline and trumpet sleeves. The fabric of the gown was a silver and white brocade with a raised design of English roses in it. She topped her look with a new diamond tiara from the city of London and wore a diamond necklace of 34 stones, a gift from her new father-in-law, King George VI. (via)

Lady Alice Montague Douglas Scott 1935

I’m featuring this gown in color because I wanted you to see its beautiful pink color instead of white. When Lady Alice married Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, she was 34 years old and said she was too old to walk down the aisle in a white gown. Lady Alice was a lady ahead of her time, a Scottish aristocrat who had traveled the world as a young woman. Sadly Lady Alice’s father died a few weeks before her wedding so the grand ceremony that had been planned for Westminster Abbey was scrapped for a smaller service in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace. Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, died in October of 2004 at the age of 102, the longest ever lived member of the British Royal Family. (via)

Princess Elizabeth 1947


The future Queen Elizabeth II married her Prince on November 20, 1947, in a gown that the materials had been purchased with clothing coupons. This royal wedding came only two years after the end of World War II and the United Kingdom was still having to follow strict rationing of food and clothing. Since the wedding was so soon after WWII the gown was made from Chinese silk instead of silk from Japan or Italy. The gown was designed by Norman Hartnell and was inspired by a Botticelli painting, Hartnell also designed the wedding gown for the Queen’s aunt the Duchess of Gloucester 12 years earlier and he would go on to design Queen Elizabeth’s coronation gown 6 years later. 10,000 seed pearls were sewn into the gown and flowers were scatted across the skirt and veil. The wedding gown was most recently on display at Buckingham Palace during the Summer of 2016. (via)

Princess Margaret 1960


The swinging 60’s in London were kicked off on May 6, 1960, when Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, married noted fashion photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in Westminster Abbey. Princess Margaret’s gown was created by designer Norman Hartnell using almost 100 feet of silk organza and turning out a very tailored gown that was light on adornments due to the Princesse’s petite size. The dress itself has often been referred to as simple and sophisticated and one of the most beautiful royal wedding gowns ever. While the gown was gorgeous the true show stopper may have been the Poltimore tiara the princess wore on her bouffant hairdo, she had bought the tiara at auction in 1959 for £5,500, a real steal. (via)

Lady Katharine Worsley 1961


Katharine Worsley is the daughter of a titled English landowner and was married to the Duke of Kent in 1961 in the Cathedral at York Minster. The gown was created from 237 yards of white silk gauze from France, there were also three veils made because you never know what might happen on the big day. The gown is often heralded for its beautiful design with a nipped in waist and wide skirt followed by a 15-foot double train. (via)

Princess Anne 1973


I can remember the TV coverage of Princess Anne’s wedding in 1973 and I’ve always thought the inspiration for her gown must have been taken from a painting of a Tudor princess. The gown was designed with Medieval sleeves that were edged in pearls and featured a high neck in addition to the long sleeves which was perfect for a chilly November wedding. The dress was made of white silk and featured a modest seven-foot train, modest when compared to other royal wedding gowns. Princess Anne also wore the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara, the same tiara worn by her mother at her wedding in 1947. You gotta have something borrowed, right? (via)

Lady Diana Spencer 1981


The world of fashion has always been split when it comes to the wedding dress of then Lady Diana Spencer when she married the Prince of Wales on July 29, 1981. Some have hailed the dress as life-altering others have said, “too much dress, not enough Princess”. The dress was created by the husband and wife team of David and Elizabeth Emanuel and was made of ivory silk and antique lace with a 25-foot train. Lady Diana chose the Emanuels to design the dress because they had designed one her favorite blouses she wore in some photographs. Since Diana’s death, the dress has been on tour with other items that belonged to her in a show that was set up by her brother. Today the dress and all of Diana’s belongings are in the possession of her sons, William and Harry, she had stated in her will that all of her possessions would pass to her sons after they both turned 30. Whatever your opinion on this dress, that July day in 1981 was a magical day. (via)

Five years after the wedding of Charles and Di we had the wedding of Andrew and Fergie. Sarah Ferguson’s dress was made from ivory Duchesse satin and featured an incredible amount of beadwork that was made into images of bees and thistles as well as waves and anchors to acknowledge Prince Andrew’s service in the Royal Navy. The dress also featured a 17-foot train where interlocking initials, A and S, were done in silver beads for the bride and grooms names. One other note of interest, the bride went into Westminster Abbey wearing flowers on her head to hold her veil but after the wedding registry was signed she came out wearing a diamond tiara, a gift from her new royal in-laws. (via)

Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones 1994

Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones is the daughter of Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s sister, and had a much smaller wedding that her cousins. Lady Sarah married artist Daniel Chatto in front of 200 guests in a gown created by designer Jasper Conran and made of white Georgette fabric. The gown is one of the most simple wedding dresses to grace a royal wearer but this was hailed as a triumph. The gown has wonderful movement and fits Lady Sarah to perfection, a fun side note, all of her attendants also wore white dresses. (via)

Sophie Rhys-Jones 1999


In 1999 the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, wed Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, the same venue for the upcoming wedding of Harry and Meghan. Sophie’s dress was made from hand dyed silk organza and hand dyed silk crepe, as you can see in the above photo there was a type of underdress and then a long sleeved full-length jacket over the top of the dress. The outer jacket was beaded with over 325,000 hand cut crystals and beads and the bride wore a tiara from Queen Elizabeth’s collection. I’ve always thought this was a beautiful gown and perfect for the late 90’s. (via)

Kate Middleton 2011


At the end of April in 2011, the wedding we had all been waiting for finally happened between Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton, the Prince we had all watched grow up and the young lady he met at college in Scotland. The maker of Kate’s dress was kept a secret until she was in the limousine with her father and on her way to Westminster Abbey, it was Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen. The base of the dress is an ivory satin bodice onto which lace has been appliqued around the bottom of the skirt and down the train. The top of the dress was made to emulate Victorian corsetry and was also covered with machine-made lace. Many fashionistas remarked on how much the dress hearkened back to the 1950’s and was perfect for the Westminster Abbey venue. (via)

Well, that’s it, a look at some but not nearly ALL of the dresses worn by Royal brides in England. It will be interesting to see who the designer of the Meghan Markle’s dress is and if she tries to combine the trends and fashion of the UK with her American roots. We shall see, have a wonderful weekend and Enjoy!!!

Words are my own.


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