The Duchess of Cambridges wedding dress, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, is on display at Buckingham Palace
as part of the annual Summer Opening (23 July 3 October 2011). The Duchess chose British brand Alexander McQueen for the beauty of its craftsmanship and its respect for traditional workmanship and the technical construction of clothing. Her Royal Highness worked closely with Sarah Burton in formulating the design of her dress.
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 McQueens 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 Duchesss wedding dress reflects the work of skilled craftsmen and craftswomen 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 display also includes The Duchesss wedding shoes, which were hand-made by the team at Alexander McQueen in ivory duchesse satin and lace, and embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework.
The brides 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 and is also on display. 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.
The diamond earrings worn by The Duchess on her wedding day are also on display. Commissioned by the Middleton family as a personal gift to the bride from her parents, they were created by the London-based jewellers Robinson Pelham. The design of stylised oak leaves with a pear-shaped diamond-set drop and a pavé-set diamond acorn suspended in the centre was inspired by the Middleton family's new coat of arms.
A replica of The Duchess of Cambridges bridal bouquet made from artificial flowers has been specially created for the display. The bouquet drew upon the tradition of the language of flowers and included lily-of-the-valley (return to happiness), Sweet William (gallantry), hyacinth (constancy of love), ivy (fidelity, marriage, friendship) and myrtle (marriage, love). Stems from a myrtle planted at Osborne House by Queen Victoria 1845 and a sprig from a bush grown from the myrtle used in The Queens wedding bouquet in 1947 were included in The Duchesss bouquet.
To complement the wedding dress display, The Duke and Duchesss wedding cake created by Leicestershire-based cake designer Fiona Cairns is shown in the State Dining Room. The 8-tiered traditional fruit cake was hand-made using British ingredients and decorated with sugar flowers. The base of the cake bears the first cut made by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The top three tiers have been specially made by the Fiona Cairns bakery for the display the original top two tiers were kept by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as is the tradition, and the third tier was sliced and served to guests.
Three large-scale reproductions of the official wedding photographs showing The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the pages and young bridesmaids, and the royal wedding party are on display in the Throne Room, where they were taken by photographer Hugo Burnand.