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Catherine Middleton stepped out in front of Westminster Abbey at 11 a.m. wearing a wedding gown designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.
Middleton’s dress featured an ivory lace bodice with a restrained, high lace collar, long lace sleeves and sweeping ivory satin skirts. Clarence House said Middleton chose the label “for the beauty of its craftsmanship.” “Miss Middleton wished for her dress to combine tradition and modernity with the artistic vision that characterizes Alexander McQueen’s work.”
Clarence House noted that the dress’ design “pays tribute to the Arts and Crafts tradition…Ms. Burton’s design draws on this heritage, giving the cut and the intricate embellishment a distinctive, contemporary and feminine character.”
The dress featured a lace appliquéd bodice and skirt, along with long lace sleeves and a high lace collar. The lace was hand-made at London’s Royal School of Needlework based at Hampton Court Palace.
The design was appliquéd with individual flowers that were hand cut from lace, and then hand engineered onto ivory silk tulle. The bodice and skirt were made from hand-cut English lace and French Chantilly lace, while ivory and white satin gazar was also used in the body of the dress and its skirts. The ivory satin bodice, narrowed at the waist and padded at the hips, drew on the tradition of Victorian corsetry. The train measured eight feet long.
Middleton also wore a full veil, made from layers of soft ivory silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers. The veil was held in place with a Cartier halo tiara, lent to Middleton by Queen Elizabeth. The tiara was made by Cartier in 1936, and was presented to the Queen on her 18th birthday, when she was still Princess Elizabeth.
It was presented to her by her mother, who originally owned the tiara. Middleton wore earrings in the design of diamond-set oak leaves, designed by Robinson Pelham, a gift to Middleton from her parents.
Her shoes were hand-made by the team at Alexander McQueen, in ivory duchesse satin with hand embroidered lace. Middleton’s bouquet, meanwhile, was made up of myrtle, lily of the valley, sweet William and hyacinth.
Discussing the dress, Burton said in a statement that, “It has been the experience of a lifetime to work with Catherine Middleton to create her wedding dress, and I have enjoyed every moment of it. It was such an incredible honor to be asked, and I am so proud of what we and the Alexander McQueen team have created. I am delighted that the dress represents the best of British craftsmanship. Alexander McQueen’s designs are all about bringing contrasts together to create startling and beautiful clothes and I hope that by marrying traditional fabrics and lacework, with a modern structure and design we have created a beautiful dress for Catherine on her wedding day. The last few months have been very exciting and an incredible experience for my team and I as we have worked closely with Catherine to create this dress under conditions of the strictest secrecy.”
And in an attempt to explain why the house of McQueen repeatedly denied over the last few weeks that it had any involvement in the design of the dress, Burton said: “Understandably, Catherine has been very keen to keep the details of her dress a secret, which is every bride’s prerogative, and we gave an undertaking to keep our role confidential until the day of the wedding.”
Burton continued: “Catherine looked absolutely stunning today, and the team at Alexander McQueen are very proud of what we have created. The dress was just one component of a spectacular day, and I do not think it is appropriate to comment any further beyond saying that I personally am very grateful and honoured to have been given the opportunity to work on this project, and I wish TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge every good wish for the future.”
Princess Beatrice wore a design by Valentino haute couture, made up of a blush colored coat dress with a lattice detail at the collar, which she wore with a bold Philip Treacy head-piece in a bow design. Charlene Wittstock, Prince Albert of Monaco’s fiancée, wore a light gray, double faced coat and dress by Akris’ Albert Kriemler. She accessorized with a wide-brimmed light gray hat and crocheted gray gloves. Elie Saab dressed Princess Victoria of Sweden’s outfit of a long sleeved, peach knee-length dress and matching suede platform shoes, from the label’s spring collection. Elie Saab also dressed the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg in a blue stretch crepe dress with a matching jacket, also from its spring collection.
And Milliner Stephen Jones designed hats for a slew of guests at the wedding. Those who wore Stephen Jones hats included Serena, Vicountess Linley, who wore her cream satin head band with a chalk-colored Roland Mouret dress, while Sara Parker Bowles, Camilla’s daughter in law, wore a navy veiled boater with heart-shaped hat pins. She paired the hat with an Osman dress. Jones also designed hats for Lady Sarah Chatto, Fiona, the Marchioness of Lansdowne, Patti Palmer-Tomkinson, Santa Sebag-Montefiore, Tessa Traeger, Candida Lycett Green and Nouneh Sarkissian.
London was in a party mood from early in the morning, with hordes of people congregating along the Mall, in Trafalgar Square, in front of Westminster Abbey and even in Hyde Park, where huge screens had been set up for people to watch the event.
“Kate is a role model for our young girls,” mused a bystander as the tension built up in Trafalgar Square prior to the bride’s arrival. “It’s rare to have someone young and beautiful who dresses so elegantly and demurely — I think it’ll set a new standard.”
And the standard was certainly set with a crowd who’d dressed up to the nines to come and watch the wedding. Flamboyant hats and confections of fascinators bobbed vigorously as bucks fizz was poured and strawberries were passed around, and though the sky was gray the crowd was anything but. Cross dressing queens and painted ladies, groups of girls painting each other’s nails in patriotic colors, and white haired gents sporting golden crowns all jostled together for a view.
Two octegenarians from Minnesota had plundered the souvenir shops and were sporting Will and Kate paraphernalia top to toe, from the ribbons in their blue-rinsed hair to the faux sapphire ring on their fingers. “We got a little carried away,” they confessed, but they planned to buy more sophisticated souvenirs for the folks who stayed at home.
A running commentary on the outfits of each distinguished guest kept the crowd animated in the build up to the main event. Victoria Beckham was deemed to look “a bit trussed up and uncomfortable” by a group of suburban mothers who disproved of her choice to wear black. Prime Minister David Cameron’s wife Samantha caused a stir when she showed up sans chapeau (choosing instead to wear Erdem jewels in her hair). “She’s not doing herself any favors there,” muttered one disparaging spectator.
Carole Middleton hit all the right notes, however, with her sleek ice blue outfit by the studio of the late Catherine Walker — a favorite designer of Princess Diana’s. But of course, the main topic on the tips of thousands of tongues was The Dress. The rampant rumours pointing to Sarah Burton meant most people were hoping to see a McQueen dress. Others were hoping that the honor would be bestowed on a lesser known designer. “Kate has the chance to change somebody’s life with the dress she chooses,” said a visiting student from Philadelphia, who had travelled with friends especially for the event, “so I want to see her wearing a niche English designer that isn’t necessarily well known.” Others thought McQueen might be on the flamboyant side for a princess-in-waiting who has already earned praise for her conservative dress. “It’s never been her style to take risks,” said another onlooker, “so why would she start on her wedding day?”
But whatever people were hoping for, whether conservative or statement, famous or niche, all expectations were fulfilled — and surpassed — the moment the elegant lace decolletage of the bride was first glimpsed in the back of the car taking her to Westminster Abbey from the Goring Hotel. Ripples of approval built up to rapturous applause and even a few high fives from keen fashion followers when the bride stepped out of the car and the designer was announced. A few raised eyebrows from some French spectators about the appropriateness of the virginal veil covering her face, but apart from that the crowd was unanimous in its praise.
“We were watching two young people in love — young people who just happened to be royal,” said Buki Obakin, whose husband is chief executive of Prince William’s charity Centrepoint. “The atmosphere was really warm, which is not surprising because when you meet William, he makes you feel like a friend.”
“It was a joyful ceremony, and very simple really,” said Monica Main, one of Queen Elizabeth’s personal representatives in Scotland. “Catherine’s dress was very plain but wonderful.”
“We had Becks and Posh behind us,” said Natalie Lake, a friend of the bride’s family. “There was an electric atmosphere.” Her friend, Alex Williams, said she was seated near Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimmer and Olympic gold medalist. “There was such warmth! Everyone was chatting before the service and making friends with people they didn’t know.”
“In the beginning, when the guests began to arrive, there was a lot of hustle and bustle, and people moving around or getting up to go to the toilet,” said Sam Williams, a guest of the groom’s. “But when the royals started coming in, everything got very quiet, and then when Catherine came, it was so still you could hear a pin drop. The whole experience was just lovely.”
Following the service, Queen Elizabeth held a lunch-time reception at Buckingham Palace for 650 guests, drawn from the wedding service congregation and representing William and Kate’s official and private lives.
There, guests were served canapés made using U.K.-based ingredients, which included miniature watercress and asparagus tarts, quail eggs with celery salt and miniature Yorkshire puddings with roast fillet of beef. The 10,000 canapés were prepared by a team of 21 chefs led by royal chef Mark Flanagan.
Guests also sipped Pol Roger NV Brut Reserve Champagne, and witnessed the cutting of the cake. The eight-tier wedding cake — which was decorated with cream and white icing, worked into 17 different varieties of iced flowers and leaves — was served at the reception. A chocolate biscuit cake, made at the request of Prince William and using a royal family recipe, was also served.
Following the reception, William and Kate drove from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House in a blue open-top vintage Aston Martin, strewn with balloons and bearing the number plate “JU5T WED” on the back, to cheers from the crowds.