One of the most watched events this year was the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Although two of the stars of the show were undoubtedly Pippa Middleton and “that hat”, the bride’s wedding dress won acclaim for its elegance and style.
This week, that wedding gown goes on display, and photographs have been released that show the detail of the gown, particularly the hand made lace on the gown and the veil.
The display is set up in the ball room in Buckingham Palace for the annual summer opening – I urge that if you are in London during this summer to go and see this. Not only for the wedding dress, but all of the beautiful things that are in the Palace.
The Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown was designed by Sarah Burton for the fashion house of Alexander McQueen and is made of satin gazaar, incorporating elements of design from both Victorian fashion and the arts and crafts movement.
For embroiderers, however, the interest is in the lace on the gown and on the veil.
The design on the lace comprises the national emblems of the United Kingdom (Rose, Thistle, Shamrock and Daffodil) and is comprised of six different types of lace, including Cluny and Leavers.
It is that which makes this very interesting. It would have been easy to commission lace to be made utilising the design elements – certainly much simpler.
Instead, what Sarah Burton did was to have the elements of the different laces cut from the actual lace so that they could carefully place each element. Once the designs for each panel were completed, they were pinned to lengths of silk tulle and sent to the Royal School of Needlework who hand stitched each piece.
This work was so intricate and painstaking, that (according to one of the members who worked on the lace) the Royal School of Needlework was calling in as many of their members as they could to get the work done.
Once the elements were sewn onto the tulle, they became the new lace. Back at the design studio, the lace was cut away from the tulle and sewn onto the silk gazar by the seamstresses at Alexander McQueen. This work would also, undoubtedly, been done by hand as well.
The end result was that the work is completely symmetrical, so that each fold of the skirt and panel of the train mirrors it’s opposite.
The Veil is made of silk tulle and the lace edges are hand embroidered, again by the Royal School of Needlework, to a design by Sarah Burton.
The folds of the veil are designed to fall between the lace panels on the wedding dress, and the shape reflects the top of the train.
More of the silk gazar covered in the appliquéd lace was used on the shoes, giving a level of detail for the whole outfit that gave it that real touch of chic.
I cannot reproduce the photographs here as they are copyright, but you can see them at the Royal Collection website, where you can also book tickets (if you are lucky enough to be in London).
This is not the first time hand embroidery has been used in a royal wedding gown. Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding gown (and her coronation gown as well) was heavily hand embroidered.
In this modern world, it would have been so easy to use machine embroidery for this, but as you can see from the close-ups of this wedding gown, machine sewing would not have been fine enough or exact enough for the work to be done.
This wedding gown is not only a triumph for the designer, but also for the talented embroiderers of the Royal School of Needlework!
Royal School of Needlework Embroidery Techniques
The Royal School of Needlework - Book Of Needlework and Embroidery
LIFE The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton: Expanded, Commemorative Edition (Life (Life Books))
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© 2011 Megan McConnell